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Pittsford cuts Village Farm proposals to 3

2018-02-08

By Susan Smallheer, as seen in the Rutland Herald: https://www.rutlandherald.com/articles/pittsford-cuts-village-farm-propo...

PITTSFORD — A community center and gathering place, community gardens and agricultural hub, and a commercial and retail location were chosen Thursday night by residents as their top priorities for the Village Farm, a former dairy farm that its new owners have offered to the community.

Residents voted in two rounds, winnowing down a list of 12 goals or projects for the farm, which includes an 18th-century house, a 19-century barn, two silos and 18 acres of fields.

The Village Farm Working Group has been working with Betsy and Baird Morgan, a local couple who bought the former Forrest farm last year with the goal of giving it to the community for a community-determined project.

About 100 people turned out Thursday night for the meeting at the Lothrop School gymnasium to talk about what Pittsford needed and wanted, as well as what would be the best use for the farm, while recognizing its history and the beauty of the land.

The Village Farm is located across Elm Street from Kamuda’s Country Store, which is located at a sharp curve on Route 7.

People immediately warmed to the idea of community gardens as a quick jump-start for more ambitious projects. And the idea of building a multi-generational community center, in a new building or in one of the two existing buildings, also met with strong support.

But several residents said the project should have a practical side and developing a commercial and retail location — which could be used for small businesses such as a bank, laundromat, post office, café or bakery — also garnered strong support.

The three top ideas were not ranked by popularity, but described as the top three of the 12 finalist topics which also included expanding outdoor recreation and trails, enhancing tourism and promoting community health and wellness.

Other ideas included developing multi-family housing; creating a hub for nature, science and wildlife education for people of all ages; and boosting Pittsford’s community arts and culture.

Jenna Koloski of the Vermont Council on Rural Development moderated the meeting, and she said afterward the top ideas were “the wisdom of the group.”

The Village Farm Working Group made an appeal for more townspeople to join the effort to plan the farm’s future.

“This is just the beginning of a lot of work,” Koloski said, adding that her nonpartisan organization helped towns all over the state on similar issues.

The Village Farm project is unique, she said, adding she didn’t know of another town getting a gift of a farm.

“Communities all over the state are getting this work done,” she said. “Montpelier is not going to do it for us. The Working Group would love to have your help.”

Betsy Morgan said the task force would now tackle the practicalities of the proposals, and whether state or federal funding was available for the project’s development.