By Katie Petronis
When Pitney Meadows Community Farm, Inc. last December completed the purchase of the 166-acre property we call our home, we celebrated the beginning of a great new adventure.
Our immediate goals: To introduce the Pitney Farm and our new organization to the community, and to start building the long-term relationships necessary to develop Pitney Meadows into a regional hub for sustainable and community farming, education in agriculture, and the training of a new generation of farmers.
Our main message: This is your community farm.
In our first year as stewards of this remarkable property, we embarked on several major initiatives to engage our community and help us understand how it can best be used. Through this process, we learned just how important this farm is to you. Your enthusiasm has helped us to greatly expand our network of friends and supporters.
- In March, we hosted a public forum at which more than 150 people gave us their best thinking on developing educational programs for children and adults, building a network of trails, and establishing creative connections between agriculture and the arts (among other initiatives).
- In June, we launched our Community Gardens, building the first 50 of 200 beds that we'll ultimately make available to the community, and launched a series of garden-focused events for adults and children.
- In August, we celebrated the completion of our new High Tunnel with a "Fire Feast on the Farm" that that was attended by more than 300 people and, with the help of many community partners, enabled us to raise more than $50,000 to support a range of initiatives.
While the weather is still warm, we'll host several more events with the aim of making new friends, including our Pitney Meadows Art Exhibit and Founding Patrons Celebration. We'll then focus on strategic planning, undertaking an in-depth examination of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and formulating a sound, achievable plan to carry Pitney Meadows into the future.
The Board has named a nine-member Strategic Planning Committee to oversee this process. This group will guide the development of a plan that:
- defines Pitney Meadows' role as a "community farm" in our agriculture, recreation and social community
- explores the financial viability of new initiatives
- outlines necessary component plans
Among the main areas on which we'll focus:
- understanding our community and its needs
- best use of the entirety of the farm's 120 tillable acres
- best use of existing buildings and need for new construction
- educational programming for children and adults
- optimal use of the property in hosting events
- development of the farm's recreational opportunities
- plans for marketing, fundraising, and staffing
With a property that offers the community so many opportunities, we recognize the importance of prioritizing our initiatives and optimizing our resources. We regard this process as a further means by which to engage and educate our volunteers and stakeholders. We'll keep you posted as we go.
Named Pitney Meadows' Board Chair and President in June, Katie Petronis has worked for many years in open space preservation and farmland conservation. Living with her family in Saratoga Springs, she serves as Northern Program Director for the Open Space Institute with responsibility for open space preservation throughout New York State.