Rapid Progress in Bringing Farm Back to Life

By Sandy and Paul Arnold

  Among major improvements made to the farm's infrastructure this summer was the laying of pipe to deliver city water. 

Among major improvements made to the farm's infrastructure this summer was the laying of pipe to deliver city water. 

As we demonstrated with our Fire Feast on the Farm, Pitney Meadows now offers the community a remarkable new space that can accommodate as many as 300 people for events of all kinds in the spring, summer and fall. High tunnels typically are used to grow produce year-round, and in the not-too-distant future we'll use ours for that purpose as well.  When we're able to fund and build the permanent event space called for by our site plan, we'll reassemble the high tunnel in a new location and use it to teach young farmers how to be successful winter growers.

For now, we have a 6000-square- foot space that enables us to host meetings, classes, meals, and other events. It's here that we'll host our farm-to-table buffet dinner for Founding Patrons on Sunday, Sept. 24. We'll use it again for our Family Fun Day on Sunday, October 8. (Save the date!)

We can call this structure a "greenhouse," but it functions much differently than the hot, humid, glass-enclosed greenhouses you may associate with that word. We have great latitude in controlling interior temperatures both by opening and closing a vent in the ceiling and by rolling its polyurethane walls up and down. For the Fire Feast, we rolled up the sides and created the sense of being in a massive open-air tent, a space that gives one the sense of simultaneously being indoors and out. We also left open the high tunnel's western end to provide our guests the same great view of the sunset they enjoy when driving on West Avenue.

The Pitney Farm came to us with 11 older buildings, some dating to the mid 1800's. All need to be renovated and repurposed for our mission as a community farm, a process that will take several years. Among our top priorities at the outset was the installation of electricity, and that has now been achieved. The farmhouse, most of the barns and sheds, and the high tunnel are now equipped with a 400 amp electrical system, but they still need to be wired for lighting and other services. 

Water is essential to the operation of any farm, and we've made major progress on two fronts here. First, we've connected the farmhouse, barns and high tunnel to the city water system, making possible the installation of plumbing. Even more importantly, we have a new well and irrigation system that serves the Community Gardens and fields on which we're now growing our own produce, including sweet potatoes that we'll harvest, cure, and use for our fall events and other produce that we're contributing to Saratoga PLAN for their Feast of the Fields.

Renovations of the farmhouse and the property's many barns will continue. The farmhouse is a particular priority because it will serve as the residence for our first farm manager. Our newly named Strategic Planning Committee will develop a long-term plan for our buildings and grounds. In the near-term, key initiatives include construction of our Children's Greenhouse and Gardens, which already is substantially funded with a grant from the Alfred Z. Solomon Trust, and the installation of a sewer system and solar power.

Volunteers have been key in all aspects of the upgrades we're making. Such companies as The LA Group and Brookside Nursery have made major contributions, and we can't say enough about the hundreds of volunteers who have made possible the extraordinary progress we have achieved thus far.

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Nationally respected in the sustainable farming community for methods they have pioneered at Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, Sandy and Paul Arnold have been driving forces in developing Pitney Meadows Community Farm. Sandy served as the organization's first president and chair of the board of directors, of which she remains a member. Also a board member, Paul chairs the Building and Grounds Committee.