SPACE on Ryder Farm is a nonprofit residency program and organic farm located on the grounds of a 224-year-old family homestead in Putnam County, New York, just an hour north of New York City. SPACE’s mission is to create an environment singular in its ability to invigorate artists and innovators and their work, and to contribute to the sustainability and resourceful preservation of one of the oldest organic family farms on the East Coast.
A Singular Destination
SPACE was founded for artists by artists, with a simple philosophy: artists and innovators need time and space to do what they do best—create. With its roots in the theatre community, SPACE has grown into a destination where artists of all disciplines, as well as nonprofit organizations, activists and community organizers come to do their most important work. Each year, SPACE welcomes nearly 150 residents to Ryder Farm for fully-subsidized residencies of one to five weeks. There are only three requirements of residents’ time: to attend three communal farm-fresh meals daily, to give back some of their time in residence to Ryder Farm, and to share what they’ve developed on the farm with their fellow residents at the culmination of their residency.
Through unique residency programs spanning playwriting, filmmaking, family residency opportunities, and symposiums for social change, SPACE has served over 1,300 residents since its founding in 2011, nurtured more than 60 young professionals through its internship program and developed a national reputation as one of the most sought-after residency programs in the country. SPACE is proud to count among its many alumni Academy Award winners, Tony Award nominees and winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Guggenheim fellows, Obie Award winners and MacArthur "Genius" Fellows.
Steeped in History
The land that is now Ryder Farm was first home to indigenous peoples known as the Wappingers, whose first settlements in Putnam County date back more than 2,000 years. The Wappingers farmed in the valleys, hunted in the forests and swamps, and gathered shellfish in the river.
In 1691, the land came under Dutch control, and was subsequently sold to Adolph Philipse, a merchant whose property included much of current-day Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties. Loyalists during the Revolution, Philipse’s family fled after the war, and their land was confiscated by the New York Legislature and sold to immigrant farming families. Eleazer Ryder first began farming the land as a tenant, before ultimately purchasing the property now known as Ryder Farm in 1795.
Ryder Farm is one of the oldest continuously held family farms on the East Coast. The Ryder family’s farming tradition was reinvigorated by Hall Gibson in the 1970s, and continued by Betsey and John Ryder. Under the stewardship of these family members, the farm became an early adopter in America's organic farming movement, and was one of the founding farms in the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City.
From Preservation to an Expansive SPACE
In 2009, Emily Simoness, a 7th generation Ryder, became involved with Ryder Farm upon recognizing that her own artistic community could both benefit from and contribute to the long-standing but aging family farm. In 2011, she co-founded SPACE on Ryder Farm with the two-fold mission of providing time and space for artists and innovators to develop new work, while contributing to the sustainability and resourceful preservation of Ryder Farm. With the help of an army of inspired artists, volunteers, friends and family, SPACE was born.
Since its founding, SPACE has helped to breathe new life into Ryder Farm through the thoughtful restoration and management of many of the farm’s historic buildings, while supporting the organic farming operation with residents’ give back time, sourcing for the communal meals prepared by its kitchen, and inviting both the local and New York City communities to the farm throughout the season for farm-to-table dinners and performance events.
At the end of the 2018 growing season, Betsey Ryder retired after 40 years of growing vegetables, flowers and herbs at Ryder Farm. SPACE took on the agricultural operations at Ryder Farm at the beginning of 2019, and is proud to follow in the footsteps of the Ryder Family members and indigenous farmers who have tended the land in years past. As stewards of the farm, SPACE will ensure the viability and continued growth of the creative residency programs, as well as the legacy and agricultural contribution of Ryder Farm for generations to come. A holistic model for reciprocity between the arts and agriculture, SPACE on Ryder Farm is a living testament to the power of craft and hard work.