Located by the Saratoga Spa State Park, the 166-acre Pitney Farm in Saratoga Springs is viewed by many as an important piece of the city’s so-called greenbelt that needs protection from development.
Farm co-owner Kathy Pitney explains the family wants to preserve the farm for agricultural use in a city that has experienced tremendous growth in the last several years.
“We feel it’s pretty important to grow food locally and train farmers as far as how to operate, and they will have that opportunity if the vision materializes, which we feel strongly it will,” said Pitney.
The city has drafted a conservation easement for the property to protect the land in perpetuity.
The farm also had a prospective buyer. Conservation organization Saratoga PLAN launched a $3.1 million fundraising campaign last year to purchase the farm, but recently backed away from its plans.
Saratoga PLAN Executive Director Maria Trabka said her organization disagreed with some of the restrictions on the land sought by the owners and included in the city’s conservation easement. She said Saratoga PLAN and the Pitney Family mutually agreed to go their separate ways.
“They’re not ready to sell it without a lot of restrictions attached to it, and Saratoga PLAN was not ready to purchase it so many restrictions that we felt future farmers would be hampered by,” said Trabka.
Trabka says Saratoga PLAN, along with the other parties involved in the conservation, still believes in the importance of preserving the land and establishing a community farm. She said the organization, which conducted environmental and structural reviews of the property, would remain supportive.
“Because we’re not the buyer at this time, it doesn’t mean that we’re not supportive and that we don’t want to help. We don’t need to be the buyer for that to happen and that has become obvious in the last year,” said Trabka.
Trabka said money raised for the farm’s purchase would be refunded to donors.
Now, a new group is considering purchasing the land. A coalition called Pitney Meadows Community Farm is led by Argyle farmers Paul and Sandy Arnold and partner Michael Kilpatrick. The group has expressed interest in preserving the land for agricultural use for the last several years.
Sandy Arnold says she expects the new non-profit will be able to start raising funds to purchase the land by mid-May.
“We’re hoping the community supports us. It should be a really great project. Everybody wants to see that land conserved,” said Arnold.
The City of Saratoga Springs has been granted approval to bond $1.2 million to buy the development rights to the 166 acres off West Avenue.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen says as of now, the conservation easement remains in its original form. She remains confident that an agreement will be reached and the land will be preserved.
“I feel very comfortable with the new arrangement. I feel very comfortable that the Pitneys are very positive and want to continue their relationship with the city, and that’s what’s so important because at the end, there’s 166 acres that’s going to be preserved, it’s going to be conserved, and it’s going to be used for agriculture and a community farm,” said Yepsen.
Yepsen says she will sit down with the involved parties on May 10th to discuss the steps moving forward.