A fixture of the Brattleboro landscape for 180 years, Retreat Farm encompasses more than 550 acres of conserved forest and farmland, trails and waterways, and the familiar seven-barn farmstead on Route 30. In August 2016, after two years of study and analysis, the Windham Foundation granted the farm to Retreat Farm, Ltd., a new nonprofit organization formed to
(1) restore and preserve the historic lands and barns in accordance with historic preservation, environmental, and land use standards,
(2) educate Vermonters and visitors about the natural and cultural history of the land, and
(3) establish a platform to buoy the economic health of the region by supporting community-advancing activities and enterprises of local partners.
By June 2017, Retreat Farm, Ltd. will:
- Complete restoration of the Farmhouse for Retreat Farm offices and meeting space
- Commence a second year of soils restoration on 200 acres of farmland
- Transform historic Farmhouse Square into a lovely public space for outdoor events and casual gatherings
- Open the Children’s Farm and Forest
In the near term, we are focused on establishing the Children’s Farm and Forest. Based in the newly renovated Calf Barn, the program seeks to foster a love of the land in a rising generation of young people, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and passion to help tackle the challenges of the 21st century. Growing from and honoring the traditions of the community’s beloved Petting Farm, the Children’s Farm and Forest will feature a hands-on farming experience with a variety of animals. New this year, the program will operate a small-scale farm with three acres of pastures and gardens; maintain a seven-acre nature preserve featuring a 1.2 mile interpretive woodland trail built by the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps; and offer an expanded farm, nature and land-use curriculum in its new dedicated classroom.
Over the long term, Retreat Farm will offer a robust platform upon which activities and enterprises initiated and led by other local groups and entrepreneurs will grow and thrive. Pending Act 250 and other approvals, our master plan anticipates the following potential uses: a farm-to-table café, a market, a museum, event and conference facilities, eco-friendly lodging, multiple farming enterprises, distributional services for local food producers, food processing, land and water recreation enterprises, crafts workshops and makers’ spaces, and office accommodations for like-minded nonprofits.
This distinctive combination of historic preservation and contemporary opportunity sets the stage for Retreat Farm to become a significant regional destination for local residents and visiting travelers alike, demonstrating in real time Vermonters’ special and sustainable relationship with the land.