SPACE at Ryder Farm to suspend operations

Sheep on Ryder Farm in Brewster

BRAWSTER- Summer is an especially busy season for SPACE on Ryder Farm, a nonprofit program that uniquely combines artist residencies and organic farming.

Ryder Farm is one of the oldest family farms on the East Coast and was established in 1795 on the land of the ancestors of the Wappinger people, on a 227-year-old family farm on the Putnam-Westchester County line. He was also one of the first supporters of organic farming.

In 2011, eighth-generation Ryder founded SPACE to give artists time and space to work while protecting the family farm.

Since its inception, SPACE at Ryder Farm has had over 1,400 residents.

During their stay, residents are free to explore the numerous workspaces, fields and gardens throughout the property. There is also a lake with kayaks and paddleboards.

Each resident is asked to donate something to the farm during their stay. For many, this means spending time working in the garden. For others, it was as simple as reading a poem or tarot.

Sadly, after 13 years, the artistic and agricultural paradise has announced that the current writers’ residence, Working Farm, will be its last for the foreseeable future.

The organization’s agricultural operations will continue through the end of 2024, under an agreement with Putnam County Cornell Cooperative Extension to donate 50,000 pounds of fresh produce to food providers throughout New York, in addition to local farm members. The organization will then suspend operations, but will not dissolve, while the board explores options for SPACE’s future sustainability.

Ryder Farm SPACE co-chair Janet Olshansky was saddened. “We have worked tirelessly to keep this extraordinary organization alive, but the challenges of the last four years, including the pandemic and the loss of major funding sources, have become insurmountable. We are incredibly proud of the work done and created here and endlessly grateful to everyone who has supported it. And although this chapter of SPACE has come to an end, we hope that over time SPACE will grow again,” she said.

The nonprofit organization’s co-chairman, Lee Seymour, added: “Over the past few years, we have witnessed the closure and curtailment of hundreds of arts organizations, from residencies to major producing theaters. It’s terrible to be confronted with this, but SPACE is not alone and we did not make this decision lightly or quickly. We have spent months crunching the numbers and considering all possible options, but the simple truth is that we are not immune to the same financial drought that is crippling the broader arts sector. And while management and staff worked tirelessly to fill this gap, we simply were unable to generate sufficient funds to support operations throughout the summer. In any case, I hope SPACE can inspire others to rethink the way America supports its arts and cultural institutions and make them more sustainable.”