Classes Begin at Tilly Foster Educational Institute in Carmel

Real Estate In-Depth | October 24, 2016

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell (center) and Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES District Superintendent James M. Ryan, Ed.D. host the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the new Tilly Foster Educational Institute.

CARMEL—On Tuesday, September 13th, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and Dr. James M. Ryan, District Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer, Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES, officially opened the new Tilly Foster Educational Institute with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Attendees of the event were taken on a tour of the facility’s state of the art test kitchen and classrooms, where they were greeted by BOCES students enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program.

“The reopening of Tilly Foster as the County’s first public institute for career education offers a diversity of benefits by putting an under-used county asset to work,” said County Executive Odell. “Rental income from BOCES will serve to offset the costs of maintaining and preserving this beautiful historical property and BOCES’ Culinary Arts program, as well as future programs, including environmental science and veterinary science, give our children greater educational and career options right here in Putnam.”

“Everyone is tremendously impressed with all that has been accomplished,” said Cathy Balestrieri, BOCES Tech Center Director. “All of the efforts and hard work put forth by Putnam County in readying the facility for Tech Center students this month was clearly evident. The attention to detail, the marrying of function and aesthetics, were impressive and went beyond expectations. The Tech Center culinary program at Tilly Foster Educational Institute is now in session—in a state of the art facility. Putnam County is to be recognized and congratulated in moving forward this exciting, new collaboration.”

The county anticipates expanded services and educational opportunities at Tilly Foster Educational Institute, such as early intervention pre-K and adult continuing education classes, as well as support from other private partners, including Cornell Cooperative Extension, county officials noted.

The state of the art kitchen at the Tilly Foster Educational Institute
The state of the art kitchen at the Tilly Foster Educational Institute

Tilly Foster Educational Institute was designed as a destination for tourists and residents of Putnam County. When BOCES is not in-session, use of the state-of-the-art teaching kitchen and classrooms will be open to Putnam County veterans, libraries, schools, seniors and non-profits. Putnam County officials added that the county hopes to kickoff Putnam’s version of “Top Chef,” which will incorporate the county’s culinary talents, local farms and eating establishments, as well as dovetailing with BOCES internship opportunities for students.

In 2002, the county acquired 199-acre Tilly Foster Farm with $3.9 million from East of Hudson Water Quality Funds. The property was purchased to save it from development and to protect the county’s water quality. The county took over management of the property in January 2014 and embarked on the challenge to save the historical icon of Putnam’s farming heritage, while making it an economically viable county asset.

After extensive public meetings with Putnam residents, it was determined that Tilly Foster would best serve the community by opening its gates again and offering an educational component, as well as maintaining the site’s farm and agricultural heritage as a way of sustaining itself. In order to bring Tilly Foster back to life, extensive rehabilitation was required to achieve code compliance, general safety and usability, including infrastructure enhancements/replacement associated with the water and power supplies and septic system.

In the last few years, the county spent an additional $2.4 million to renovate various facilities on the property, including approximately $1.1 million was used to completely replace the failing water supply, power supply and septic system for the entire site. In addition, the lodge was renovated and structurally made safe for public access including, bringing all utilities and amenities up to today’s building code requirements. The remaining funds were used to complete extensive site work, including walls, roads, parking and drainage, and to upgrade and repair buildings 2, 4 and 9, also known as, the cottage, office/classroom space, and the barn, respectively.

To complement the BOCES’ Culinary Arts program, Tilly’s Table, set to open on April 1, 2017, will offer the Hudson Valley region a uniquely enjoyable and educational farm-to-table dining experience, utilizing produce sourced from local farms.

The management of Tilly Foster Farm was expected to go out to bid recently. Upon completion in spring 2017, the new Tilly Foster will feature a farm and lodge, the aforementioned classrooms, teaching kitchen and farm to table venue, as well as a conference room. Plans also include a general store and visitor information center located in the main barn.