SPENCERTOWN—Despite freezing rain, snow and slippery road conditions the audience filled the meeting room last week for a public hearing before the Austerlitz Planning Board on a project called Farm & Field.
As described at the hearing, the project would be a farm, learning center facility and a campground where campers stay in modified shipping containers. The owners are seeking a special use permit from the Planning Board before the project can proceed.
The February 6 hearing began with a presentation by Jill Duffy, co-owner with her husband, Jason, of the approximately 210-acre farm in Spencertown. Reading from notes, she said she and her husband feel a connection to the land and farming and created Farm & Field last spring as a means of stewardship and maintenance of small scale agriculture, which she said is disappearing across the country and here in Columbia County.
The couple foresees sharing the experiences associated with a working Punsit Valley farm growing vegetables, herbs, and continuing to hay existing hayfields.
The couple plan to make the farm sustainable and available for education and as a campground consisting of six recycled shipping containers, 8’ wide x 8’ tall x 20’ long, modified to be comfortable living spaces and placed as portable campsites for farm visitors. The plan is to cluster the structures in woodland, mostly hidden from the road and neighbors. Income from visitors learning about farming and agriculture is what the couple believes will make the farm viable and a contributing member of the Austerlitz community.
Anthony Didio of Taconic Engineering, an engineer working on the project, told the hearing that the temporary “cabins” would not impact agricultural use of the land. Additional project features include: 18 parking spaces, a shared septic system not connected to the cabins and minimal motion sensitive egress lighting for campers who expect more than traditional camping amenities and instead are looking for glamorous camping, or “glamping.”
Farm & Field staffer Lucy Marston, who said she has more than 15 years’ experience educating on the connection between food and the land where food is grown said preservation through innovation could save the property as a viable farming enterprise for years into the future.
Residents spoke for and against the proposal, while some sought clarification on questions like whether weddings were anticipated at the site, the use of campfires, impact on wetlands and flooding.
At the end of the hearing, the Planning Board voted to close the public hearing and to take action on the proposal at the board’s next regular meeting Thursday, March 5 at 7 p.m.