A historic farm-turned-community-center in Rutland County is receiving $400,000 in congressional funding to make renovations as well as set up a child care center.

Pittsford Village Farm, a 20-acre property in the town of Pittsford, plans to renovate its 18th-century farmhouse to expand the areas available for public use. The work will include converting part of the building into an early childhood education center that can accommodate 26 infants and toddlers.

These plans go back to 2018, when Pittsford residents identified the need for a community center after the new farm owners sought input on how they could best use the property. Its historic features include a 19th-century barn.

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Afterward, the nonprofit organization created to manage the property decided that offering high-quality child care could help the farm acquire state funding while also addressing a pressing need in Vermont. Its child care center would serve the residents of Rutland County.

“It would be day care for people that were looking for a spot, so they could both be working and so on,” said Lorrie Byrom, chair of Pittsford Village Farm’s board of directors. “We are confident that we will be able to fill the center immediately once we announce that it’s opening.”

Vermont currently lacks regulated child care for an estimated 8,750 infants, toddlers and preschoolers, children between 6 weeks and 4 years old, according to a February report from the nonprofit organization Let’s Grow Kids. The Vermont-based group’s work includes providing grants and technical assistance to child care programs throughout the state in an effort to increase their availability and quality.

Among high-quality regulated programs — those described as four- or five-star facilities according to a state rating system — the need is even more stark. The report shows Vermont doesn’t have enough high-quality centers for 13,000 infants, toddlers and children.

In Rutland County, Let’s Grow Kids said about 1,870 children are likely to need care, yet there are not enough slots for 800 children.

Pittsford Village Farm hopes to open its child care center in 2024 or 2025. Renovations would begin this year.

Right now, the farm’s focus is to raise $1.2 million for the renovation work — to augment the $400,000 earmarked by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in this year’s federal budget bill. Byrom said Let’s Grow Kids also provided a $50,000 grant for the project.

“This is a good use of taxpayer funds because it restores a farm in the center of a rural village that is on the National Historic Register,” according to information from Sanders’ office, “and because it provides a child care center that is needed for the community to flourish.”

Pittsford Village Farm’s management said the property has been serving as a community center since 2019. It features a community garden, a children’s outdoor play area and space for a summer concert series. A portion of the land is also connected to the Pittsford Trail Network.

Public events are currently concentrated outdoors, but Byrom said the renovation work would create indoor space for meetings, lectures and social activities such as bingo games and film showings.

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