BRATTLEBORO — The Retreat Farm recently unveiled a multi-year plan that calls for collaboration between organizations across different industries.
“We hope ultimately as a result of our work that Brattleboro will have full benefit of iconic and beautiful new gathering event and conference spaces and facilities,” Arthur “Buzz” Schmidt, Retreat Farm executive director, told the Development Review Board on Monday. “It’ll have one of the top children’s nature/farm education programs in the country. It will have a collection of synergistic, primarily land-based, enterprises that complement Brattleboro’s Main Street experience and further the area’s leadership among sustainable communities and food systems.”
The hope is to get more families to spend time in Brattleboro and establish a new model for preserving historic structures in Vermont. Retreat Farm is planning to have local individuals and organizations hold events and run businesses on the Linden Street property.
The Development Review Board gave conditional use approval for the project that’s expected to take about 15 years to complete. Buildings will be renovated and used for educational purposes, food services, conferences, recreation, performance, storage and manufacturing. The construction of cabins and a lodge on an upper terrace of the property is also being considered by the organization.
The non-profit Retreat Farm LTD was formed 18 months ago “to restore and preserve the nine-barn farmstead, and 500 acres of forested and agricultural lands of the historic Retreat Farm,” Schmidt said.
“We’re also adapting these structures and lands, and establishing a platform to support the emergence — we hope — of dozens of community events and farm and food and education and processing and recreational and cultural resident enterprises, all led by local individuals and organizations,” he said. “Additionally, we ourselves will operate four of those residential programs: Our children’s farm and forest program, which is the outgrowth of the petting farm that has been on the property for the past 25 years; a Retreat Farm events program; the recreation platform, primarily of trails; and what we are calling the Rockwell Hill platform for farm enterprises on one of the large farm parcels [on Upper Dummerston Road] that’s not subject to this hearing and is not in the farmstead area.”
Retreat Farm is seeking Act 250 approval from the state. The state permitting process will take into account stormwater, wetlands, wastewater and more.
Right now, it’s difficult to tell just what or who will occupy space on the property.
“As you can appreciate, restoring and sustaining this historic Retreat Farm is a difficult proposition,” Schmidt said. “The cost of restoring and re-purposing many historic structures is immense. The economic climate for new enterprises is uncertain, and all rural locations in the country and Vermont are in included in that. Achieving the vision implicit in this…