On Tuesday, June 19, our Greater Together Listening Tour 2018 stopped at the Carriage Barn at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington. Approximately 30 residents and nonprofit organization representatives joined Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams and Foundation staff for a wide-ranging community conversation. After a short introduction, the floor opened to give those in attendance the opportunity to share what they love about living in Farmington as well as some of the challenges facing their community.
Here are a few things we learned throughout the course of the evening:
- As one of the oldest towns in New England, Farmington is blessed with historic properties, museums, and a number of organizations dedicated to supporting the preservation of the town’s history. Residents also enjoy forests, the Farmington River and Farmington Heritage Trails, which provide miles of trails for hikes and biking. Residents in attendance were incredibly enthusiastic about their town, which also boasts modest property taxes and a high-quality public school system. However, like other suburban communities, Farmington is challenged by balancing the need to expand its grand list without harming the historic and rural charm of their community. How can the town strike this delicate balance between keeping property taxes low and maintain the qualities that make Farmington special?
- While there are a variety of small, passionate, volunteer-based organizations in Farmington focused on historic preservation, a question was raised about how these groups can work more effectively to collaborate and maximize their impact.
- The group has some specific questions about the Foundation itself, including the Foundation's governance structure (the Board of Directors currently has nine members with five appointed by long-serving community institutions and the remaining four appointed by the Board). Another question was posed about how the Foundation's 29-town service area was selected – Staff was a little stumped! In digging back into our history, we learned that as of 1955, Farmington was among the original group of 17 towns served by the Foundation. As assets increased and needs were identified, the number of towns expanded to 22 in the early 1970s. In 1980, seven additional towns were added to bring us to our current total of 29.
- Many potential donors and volunteers want to see examples of nonprofits’ impact. How can the Hartford Foundation provide ways to share the good works and successes of local nonprofits to increase fundraising and volunteer support? How can the Foundation share best practices, data and research it has collected to allow communities and residents to come up with better-informed solutions?
- Collaboration was a continuing theme throughout the evening. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations working on the same issues tend to operate in silos. How could the lines of communication be opened to allow for better coordination of efforts to make the most of scarce public and charitable dollars?
- While residents clearly enjoy all the benefits of living in a community with so much to offer, the City of Hartford remains the economic and cultural hub for the entire region. As Hartford continues to struggle with ongoing fiscal, education, housing and public safety challenges, how can we mobilize the surrounding communities to recognize that everyone benefits from a thriving Capital City? How can coordination and communication be enhanced among towns in the region to ensure that municipal decisions benefit the entire region?
Thank you to everyone who attended our Farmington Listening Tour event! If there are any additional ideas you would like share, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you! Our next stop for residents of Rocky Hill is on July 10 at the Webb Barn at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield. Visit greatertogether2018.org for more information on how to register!