By Keith Whitcomb as seen in the Rutland Herald:

PITTSFORD — Despite the pandemic slowing the world down, the Pittsford Village Farm has been plugging away on its redevelopment over the summer. All it needs now is about $1.4 million.

The 20-acre farm is at 42 Elm St. It was bought by Baird Morgan and Betsy Morgan in 2017 to be preserved. It features an 18th-century farmhouse and a 19th-century barn. Pittsford Village Farm later incorporated as a 501©(3) nonprofit and has been working to turn the place into a multifaceted community center. To date, the farm has hosted a community garden, entertainment events, artists and other activities.

Baird Morgan, an honorary member of the farm board of directors, said Wednesday the group planned to move things forward this year and hold events, however, the COVID-19 pandemic created numerous obstacles. Tuesday concerts, for instance, were largely canceled. A concert was held Sunday in accordance with COVID-19 health guidelines and raised about $300 for Pittsford Village Rescue, but larger endeavors have been put on hold.

Late last year, some work was done to the farmhouse, allowing for two tenants, both artists, to move their shop in. Morgan said one recently moved out, but another is lined up. The house once served as an apartment building, and work was done to remove some of the interior partitions so the farm group could get a sense of what space is available.

Some of the bigger developments have been on paper. Morgan said in August the Pittsford Village Farm completed its strategic plan, a document needed to secure the grant funds it will need later.

Part of the document lays out a number of strategic goals for the farm. Creating a vibrant community gathering place, boosting local business and retail, and serving as an agricultural hub are among them, as is creating an early childhood education center.

The plan was created with the help of Gisela Keller, an international fundraising consultant and strategic planner. Keller said Friday she began volunteering with the farm earlier this year and used community feedback from meetings organized with the help of the Vermont Council on Rural Development in 2018 to create the strategic plan.

“It’s an important stepping stone for us because we needed to define the future focus and uses of the house, and without that we couldn’t do any grant writing, we could do nothing,” she said.

Also, she helped write a grant that was awarded to the farm to pay for another grant writer. Keller said grant writing is time consuming, complex and there are specialties within the profession. The farm is now looking for a grant writer with knowledge of Vermont’s programs, as well as those of the federal government. They also need to know how to secure construction and architectural funding.

The farm has engaged the services of Duncan Wisniewski Architecture of Burlington. Morgan said some conceptual drawings should be complete soon, and it’s based on Wisniewski’s rough estimates that the $1.4 million is thought to be needed.

“We haven’t raised a penny,” said Morgan. “What we’re doing now is, we’ve researched some of the larger grant possibilities and most of them are federal.”

Keller said $1.4 million sounds daunting, but similar projects have happened and cost as much as $4 million, so this is doable. Conversations with state agencies earlier this year were also encouraging.

One of the challenges is that it will likely have to be done all at once. According to Morgan, the farm could install an early childhood education center relatively quickly, but once it’s operating nothing else renovations-wise could take place.

The goal of the childhood center would be to not only improve the education of children produced by the community, but to attract new people as well. Morgan said it will help working parents who need a safe place to leave their kids while they earn a living.

“It probably appears to the public and the people of Pittsford that there’s nothing going on when, in fact, there’s a whole lot going on you just don’t see” Morgan said. “We’ve got a lot of exciting things.”