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By Lisa Loomis
A coalition of local organizations and individuals is working to purchase the 22-acre Kingsbury family farm on Route 100 in Warren.
The farm, which has 2300 feet of frontage on the Mad River, a
2800-square-foot house and several outbuildings, has been on the market
since last year. It is currently priced at $495,000, down considerably
from the initial asking price of $1.2 million.
Bob Ferris, director of the Yestermorrow School in Waitsfield, said that the most recent price reduction is what got many local people to take notice.
"When the price fell below a half million, all of this came together. People mobilized for the opportunity and the risk and started to figure out what do we need to do to act," he said.
Ferris, representing Yestermorrow, the Warren Planning Commission, the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition, the Mad River Localvore, the Mad River Valley Planning District, representatives from the Intervale and the Vermont Land Trust all came to a planning meeting to brainstorm ways to keep the farm as an agricultural and community resource.
"We've started the work, but we need to give them some sort of answer about whether we're going forward or not by mid-September. We need to get organized as to what non-profit and government funding commitments we need to get lined up and we're making some progress in that area. We know that there is going to be some chunk of it that we have to raise from the public and we hope to be able to talk to people about buying in, because of what's at risk," he continued.
Ferris said that several things are at risk including the loss of the agricultural resource as well as the aesthetic impact of a working farm on the Route 100 corridor. Opportunities for the project are numerous, he said. In addition to securing public access to a spectacular portion of the Mad River, the property could extend/connection portions of the Mad River Path; could be used for localvore farming or farm housing; the barns could be used for classes and possibly student housing for Yestermorrow; the farmhouse could be redeveloped as affordable or worker housing, etc.
The need for more agricultural land is particularly acute, Ferris said and pointed out that at least two local organic farmers are maxed out in terms of production. He said there is a market for more local produce.
He said the idea to purchase the property and get it into public hands or conservation came from a lot of community members at the same time.
"I think everybody was driving by it and became aware of it as an historical treasure and an important contributor and resource in The Valley. As it remained on the market with the price dropping, I think people began to look at what could replace the farm if it were purchased by someone who developed it," he said.
When the organizers got together, all of them saw the property as a vehicle for providing public good and accomplishing an element of their respective missions. And all were worried that the recent price reduction could very well open the door for the purchase of the property by someone who would greatly alter the use and look of this very visible and iconic Vermont farm.
When the Kingsbury family learned that an offer was being made by a group who wanted the property to be used as a farm and also to be managed and utilized for the public good, they accepted the offer.
MEMBERSHIP BASED LLC
The purchasing group is rapidly putting together a membership-based LLC with membership limited to local nonprofits that might have an interest in using or being involved with the preservation, enhancement and future uses of the 22-acre site and the buildings. Ideas on the table at this point include some sort of farming or agricultural related operation, community education, housing, riverside restoration and buffering, and a venue for occasional events.
A steering committee has been established which includes Ferris, Mad River Valley Planning District director Linda Lloyd, Tara Hamilton from the local conservation commission, Localvore organizer Robin McDermott, Kinny Perot, and Liza Walker from the Vermont Land Trust.