Rainbeau Ridge founder Lisa Schwartz has announced that the public will have limited access this year to her farm, which has grown to become a gateway for many residents to sustainable living and locally produced foods.
State and federal regulations, administered by the Westchester County Department of Health, require the installation of a water purification and monitoring system on properties with a public presence exceeding 25 people per day for more than 60 days, according to Schwartz—and Rainbeau Ridge has reached the threshold.
The financial burden of the implementing and monitoring the water system—costing in the tens and thousands of dollars—led Schwartz to cancel the summer session of the children's education classes, the overnight camp-out on the farm, the Community Agriculture Program and the open-access Saturdays at the farm.
Schwartz has no plans to scale back her cheesemaking operation, and will continue to offer spring and fall children's programs and adult cooking classes.
Ironically, it is the farm's very success that led to the downsizing, says Schwartz. "It's because we've been successful and grown our programs that we have to scale back. It's the hand we've been dealt, but we will keep as much as possible moving forward."
Since purchasing her first two goats in 2002, the 35-acre farm rapidly expanded to include a , a vegetable garden yielding "several tons of produce" last year distributed through a fully-subscribed CAP, , cooking classes for adults, and more animals: sheep, llamas, chickens, turkeys, cows and a peacock.
Schwartz's profile has risen in multiple arenas—from publishing her 2009 memoir Over the Rainbeau: Living the Dream of Sustainable Farming, to winning top prizes at the American Cheese Society's competition, to being recognized by media outlets as one of Westchester's Most Influential residents—she has garnered praise from her peers for her stewardship of sustainable practices.
Schwartz hopes to leverage that reputation and the expertise of her team of four employees and a handful of interns toward the development of new partnerships that will keep the mission of the farm alive and well.
"Our goal is to inspire people to connect with local food sources, and we will continue to garden and grow food, and encourage the community to grow along with us," she said.
She said the temporary setback has encouraged her to think more broadly about how to spread their message.
"We may work with museums, schools, parks or other organizations whose missions are compatible with ours," she said. "We'll happily work with an arena of farmers and others who welcome our expertise, and have facilities to do what Rainbeau Ridge can't."
To read the Rainbeau Ridge statement on changes in 2011, click here.