The Port Commission and Rainbow Farms have yet to reach an agreement that properly supports the funding the Farms need to operate in a safe and fully restored manner.
A new port is being built in Vicksburg and in order to reach its full potential, it requires the use of land located off of Highway 61 South. The Port Commission has asked some properties to relocate for this purpose, including the local Equine Therapy facility, Rainbow Farms, which has operated for many years as one of the only centers in the state that specializes in therapeutic riding.
Cassie Brunson, director for the MS State University Equine Therapy, states Rainbow Farms is the only facility that offers equine therapy in this part of the state.
“Rainbow Farms is one of the very few centers that does what it does. I get calls all the time and refer people to her (Leigh Ann Nosser.) It’s so important that we have these services throughout the state. People that desperately need these services are no longer going to get them. It is detrimental that the Farms are able to operate or it will have a very negative impact on the people who rely on these services,” Brunson stated.
Leigh Ann Nosser, owner and operator of the Farms, has claimed that the Commission initially offered for her to relocate. Nosser was happy with the land being offered but claims the government is not going to fund her adequately enough to rebuild her business to what it is now.
If the business can’t be completely restored, it could cause people like Sharon Kay Sharp to be negatively affected. Sharp, an occupational therapist for Rainbow Farms, has been with Nosser since 1991.
“I will lose income. Right now I need that income (from the Farms) because I’m recently widowed. I don’t have that income (from her husband) anymore. But, the worst is losing contact with my ‘family’ and seeing a child’s life change; the loss of seeing those smiles.” Sharp stated. “That’s what it’s all about, seeing the impact it has on the kids being on the back of a horse. The main impact is the loss to the community. This is a viable part of the community that needs to stay.”
In lieu of relocation, Nosser was asked to remain where she is currently located. However, she will be forced to box off part of her land to continue her business amidst the building of the port. Because she works with handicapped children and children who are on the spectrum or may have sensitivities. Remaining where she is will become a safety concern for her clients.
Erica Durst has two children on the spectrum who have been impacted by Rainbow farms. “My children (15 and 11) have been working at the farm since my oldest was 8 or nine. At that point, we were seeking therapy because she has autism. We were working with Sharon Holmberg and Leigh Ann in therapy, individual and riding and they are currently taking lessons.” Durst began to cry as she said, “It would be literally a catastrophe for me and my family to not have that. We have relied on that farm for many years. To not have it would be heartbreaking. If feels heartless of the city after everything she does for the community. For it to just be taken without the city understanding what it means to people seems cruel.”
Pablo Diaz of the Port Commission claims that Nosser has been offered adequate funding for her business. Although a number has not been disclosed, Nosser’s appraisers have estimated that it will cost upwards of 1.6 million dollars for her to be made whole and for her business to continue operating at the level it does now. Nosser says they have only offered her “a few thousands of dollars.”
Diaz stated Rainbow Farms is the only business being asked to relocate and the Commission has been in constant communication with the Farms, exploring alternatives to ensure its continued operation.
“All parties will receive fair, just compensation. That is what this process ensures. It has always been, and remains, our goal to see to it that fair value is established and paid. Specifically, with respect to Rainbow Farms, it has always been and remains a priority that its operations continue and its mission continues to be fulfilled,” stated Diaz.
There is no doubt that the port will be beneficial to Vicksburg. Both Diaz and Nosser agree that this is a necessary expansion on behalf of this small river city. However, the fate of the Farms is still up in the air when it comes to whether or not they will receive what is needed in order to prosper and whether the Commission will negotiate a plan that works for Nosser and her business.
Several other people from across the state have reached out to testify on behalf of the Farms to address the concerns of the public,
Diaz assured, “We (will) continue open discussions with all affected parties and are committed to a process that assures they are fairly compensated.”See a typo? Report it here.