It was the best of weeks and the worst of weeks at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS) in Saugerties, a haven for horses and farm animals rescued from cruelty and neglect conditions.
As the nine-year-old, not-for-profit farm animal sanctuary began gearing up for its annual Shindig – a free community event featuring hayrides, cooking demos, face-painting, live music and a silent auction this Saturday, June 9 from noon to 5 p.m. at the property at 316 Old Stage Road – it also said goodbye to a beloved 17-year-old ram who had become part of the Sanctuary’s ethos and was a favorite of visitors.
Rambo, a once-very-angry ram who, on his own, had become the Sanctuary’s guardian and ended up teaching the CAS staff a thing or two, died on Saturday, May 26. One of the first animals rescued by the organization while it was still in its formative stages at a temporary site in Accord in 2001, Rambo knew that CAS founder and director Kathy Stevens was the person in charge, and whenever something went wrong at the property, he would head straight for her. Several months ago, and already barely able to walk, he hobbled to her house at 6 a.m. one morning because the entire herd of cows had gotten out of their pasture.
Rambo’s passing appears to close one chapter and open another at the Sanctuary as the farm makes a huge leap to its next phase. CAS launched “Compassionate Cuisine” on June 2, a series of 15 approximately two-and-a-half-hour cooking classes and vegan food events intended to help the public better understand a plant-based diet. Taught by vegan chef Linda Soper-Kolton, a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in Manhattan and the former owner of a vegan catering company in Connecticut, the program will tackle topics like “Meatless Makeovers” and “Where Will I Get My Protein?” to vegan baking techniques and various ethnic cuisines such as Mexican, Moroccan and Indian. The cooking classes cost $45 each; the food events such as a “Farm to Table Day” on November 13 and a “Vegan Thanksgiving” meal the following week are somewhat extra. Classes are limited to 14 individuals and participants can register online for one or more classes at the CAS website, www.casanctuary.org.
“In the last several years I have seen a real shift in consciousness on the part of the public,” says Stevens. “There’s an acknowledgment now by most people who come on our [Sanctuary] tours that they would like to begin the journey toward a more plant-based diet. We didn’t see that just a few years ago.”
The cooking classes will be taught in the Sanctuary’s fully renovated Revolutionary War-era farmhouse, whose demonstration kitchen has been designed for such programs, according to Stevens. CAS acquired the historic building, known as the Homestead, several years ago in order to expand its education efforts. Built by one of the signers of the document that declared war on the British, the 2,800-square-foot building now has a full apartment and three guest rooms available for rental.
CAS is expanding in other ways as well. Last December, it acquired an additional 32 acres on Route 32, bringing the total size of the farm to 110 acres. The new parcel has three dilapidated barns that will eventually be refurbished as part of a “huge capital campaign” that the sanctuary is planning, according to Stevens. Meanwhile, some 15 acres of the addition have been cleared and fenced and will be ready to hold some of the Sanctuary’s rescues as soon as one of the barns is shored up. A 3,300-square-foot house on the new parcel will also enable the organization to expand its educational programs after it has been renovated as well, she says.
Beyond that, there are still several openings in the Sanctuary’s summer day camp session for 8-to-10-year-olds, and farm tours are always available in season on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at $10 for adults and $5 for children.