The concept for the farm was initially enthusiastically shared across the community by PLAN, the sellers, the City of Saratoga Springs, generous donors, local agricultural and food interests, and other partners working together on the project. Visions diverged, however, as the details from the respective parties materialized over the course of negotiations over the past year. The partners were unable to find a balance between permanent land protection and adequate flexibility for future farmers with which all parties felt comfortable.
Community Farm activities and future agricultural options for the land were too limited by the proposed perpetual restrictions for PLAN to proceed with purchasing the farm. The transaction terms would have inhibited the type of inviting community resource and financially viable educational program the organization wanted to cultivate on the land. Therefore, in spite of significant investments made by PLAN over the past two years, the Board has decided, due to a lack of progress in negotiations in several months, that it must exercise its fiduciary responsibility to the organization and its donors by suspending further investments in the project.
Although PLAN will not be acquiring the land directly, the organization remains eager to provide resources and services to ensure that this land remains a working farm. Everyone is still committed to keep the land a working farm and protect it in perpetuity, even though PLAN will not be purchasing it at this time. It is still very likely that this beloved place will be protected and may even evolve into a community farm. PLAN encourages the owners to move forward with selling a conservation easement to the City of Saratoga Springs, which has authorized use of open space bonds for this purpose. Saratoga PLAN will provide technical assistance to help facilitate this process, and will continue to focus on strengthening local agriculture through its many other local farmland conservation projects.
Thanks to an enthusiastic outpouring of public support, the capital campaign for the Community Farm project has been PLAN’s most successful fundraising initiative to date. Despite suspending fundraising efforts for the project last winter, PLAN raised 87% of the $3.1M needed to purchase the land in six months, which included a pledge of $1.16 million from the City of Saratoga Springs to purchase a conservation easement on the farm. PLAN will offer options to each person who made a contribution to the project; details on this process will be communicated to supporters of the project in the coming days. Donors can help cover the costs incurred to date, repurpose their gift for other important conservation initiatives, including over a dozen farmland conservation projects in the works, or request a refund of their donation.