By LEE J. KAHRS
PITTSFORD — The Pittsford Village Farm is poised for its next phase of transformation to becoming Pittsford’s community hub. Now all organizers need is the money to bring the old Forrest farmhouse up to code.
“It’s going to mean a lot for the town if we can pull this off, “ said board member Lorrie Byrom. “Once we get the house renovated, we’ll have programming that will serve multi-age groups and interests.”
In an effort to keep the Pittsford Village Farm in the public eye and pursue the mission of community, the group held a Harvest gathering on Sunday. The event featured music by Kim and Steve Spensley, with a pop-up book sale on site by the Maclure Library. Masks and social distancing were required.
Donations were gratefully accepted with the proceeds going to Pittsford First Reponse. Byrom said $280 was raised, and Pittsford First Response gave back $50 to the Village Farm.
“It was a lovely circle of funds by two groups who really appreciate each other,” Byrom said.
WORK TO BE DONE
There are big plans for 20-acre property in the center of town, including an early childhood education center, but the 200 year-old farmhouse is in need of more updating before it can be used the way organizers have planned.
Located on Elm Street adjacent to Kamuda’s Market and the Post Office, the property was bought in 2017 with the express goal of created a community destination for Pittsford residents. A nonprofit was formed and public comment sought on just how residents would like to see the property used. The results boiled it down to a strategic plan focused on promoting three areas: community center, retail and agriculture.
Right now, the focus is on community and bringing the farmhouse up to code, continuing renovations that will establish an early childcare center on the ground floor of the house. Organizers have already put in a new furnace, painted the house, replaced the roof and gutted the upstairs, which will be used as flex space for gatherings or after school programming.
The downstairs will also be used for meetings and other events, and houses artists working in their mediums.
Board member Baird Morgan said now they discovered nothing but old pilings holding up part of the house, which have to be replaced. In addition, the electrical and plumbing in the house has to be brought up to code. Right now, the Village Farm group is pursuing grants between $350,000-$500,000 to complete the renovation of the house.
FILLING A NEED
Byrom said the early childhood center would provide childcare and education for children from infants to three years. The preschool would use both indoor and outdoor space at the Village Farm, and the group plans to partner with Lothrop Elementary School and Otter Valley to provide afterschool programming at the farm as well.
The plan has the support of Let’s Grow Kids, a nonprofit in Burlington focused on expanding and supporting Vermont’s early childhood education and childcare system through outreach, policy change, grants and public awareness.
In fact, Let’s Grow Kids awarded the Pittsford Village Farm a $60,000 grant in support of the preschool plan, Byrom said. Once the deficiencies in the farmhouse were identified, however, the Pittsford Village Farm returned the grant money when it was clear more time was needed for renovation. That said, the money will most likely be there when Village Farm is ready to accept it.
“We had to return the funds because it wasn’t going to meet our needs right now,” she said. “ But we’re pretty much guaranteed to get the grant again when we’re ready.”
The nonprofit is in the process of hiring a grant writer to pursue the larger state and federal grants they hope will help pay for most of the work to be done. The grant writer will be paid through a $5,000 grant the group has already received, Byrom said.
Always listening, with town support
Byrom and two other members of the Pittsford Village Farm board appeared before the Pittsford Select Board last spring and asked for town support in pursuing grants and other funding for the Village Farm project.
“The board indicated its full support in writing grants and added their signatures to the project,” she said.
The community outreach portion of the Pittsford Village Farm’s strategic plan will continue, Byrom said, as the property offers so much opportunity.
“We have a reach greater than Pittsford,” she said. “We want to make sure the towns are involved in what’s happening at the community center. I think the board is highly energized to reach out to all sectors of the town.”
For more information on The Pittsford Village Farm, visit www.pittsfordvillagefarm.org