From NYC to Noah’s Park

Chris Vives came home, helped create a tranquil retreat and now shares his love of animals with people young and old.

By Marilyn Cummins

From morning to night, seven days a week, Chris Vives takes care of his rather unusual family on their 7-acre farm at Goshen, in upstate New York. Just feeding them can take all day, given their individual dietary needs, not to mention cleaning up after them and coaxing runaways like Henry back home with marshmallows.

Then there’s taking them to schools and senior centers, and even driving Sweet Pea into Manhattan for a Delta Air Lines video shoot with New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis earlier this year. Did we mention Sweet Pea is a rescue ferret? And escape-artist Henry is a marmoset monkey?

Vives, 38, an only child (and single), grew up surrounded by the animals his mother kept at their grooming and boarding facility. He went away to college, and worked in Manhattan at Enterprise Rent-A-Car and in pharmaceutical sales, but moved home in 2010 when he was laid off and his mother needed help. Vives helped convert the business into an educational not-for-profit to care for the menagerie of animals he considers family. He’s been there ever since.

Today, Noah’s Park Retreat is home to some 30 farm and exotic animals. Ambassadors like Henry, Bootleg the alpaca, Decibel the kookaburra, Ginger the fennec fox and Monty the kinkajou make off-farm visits in a colorful cargo van, while they and others, like Arabella the armadillo, are on display at the retreat for visitors to meet, learn about and even hold during the personal tours Vives gives by appointment only.

It was a scout-troop visit last year that brought Vives and his first-ever tractor together. One of the dads was Vives’ childhood classmate Ray Sosler III, third generation on “The Ray Team” at Sosler’s Garden & Farm Equipment in New Hampton, New York. Sosler helped Vives pick out a Massey Ferguson GC1715 sub-compact tractor with front loader and rotary mower attachments.

“Ray had to school me on the ways of the tractor,” Vives says, which he found easy to handle and a big improvement over hauling feed, shoveling manure by hand, and paying others to mow pastures and plow snow. “It’s great.”

For more info, see noahsparkretreat.org.