The Ruther family is anxious to show the public what life on a working dairy farm is all about. And at Windy Hill Farm in Duanesburg, the tour begins with the view.
“First of all, what we have here is a beautiful site,” said Bill Ruther, who overtook operation of the family farm from his father in 1962 and retired himself in 1995, leaving his son, Steve, in charge. “You look straight across to the north and you can see the Adirondacks. We’ll show people how the farm operates and all that, but the scenery here is really special.”
Windy Hill Farm is one of the 10 private and public spaces that will open its doors Saturday to help celebrate Schenectady County’s 2008 Farm and Foliage Day. Situated on Harden Road off Duanesburg Churches Road, the Ruther farm has been in the family since Bill’s father moved upstate from New York City in 1942.
’Schenectady County Farm and Foliage Day’
WHERE: 10 sites throughout Schenectady County
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, but times at some sites vary
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 388-4379
“My father owned a luncheonette in Manhattan, but his doctor told him to get off his feet because he had leg problems. So he decided to come up here and farm,” said Ruther. “I don’t know if farming is getting off your feet, but I guess it was the hard floor that was detrimental to my father’s health.”
From big city to the farm
Ruther was 4 in 1942 when his father moved the family north, and while they immediately went into the farming business, his father also had to work other jobs for a while to make ends meet.
“He worked another job driving a Sealtest truck for a while, but then he stopped and worked full time on the farm,” said Ruther. “I think he liked being his own boss, and that’s what I liked about it. There are long days, and it’s long day for my son and his family now, but it’s worth it.”
Ruther still does some occasional work on the farm to help out his son, but the responsibility for the place these days lies with Steve; his wife, Marion; and their five children ranging in age from 17 to 8.
“It’s an enjoyable way of life, and I pretty much figured it was something I would keep doing even when I was younger,” said Steve Ruther. “It’s a struggle, and it’s a struggle to get the kids up in the morning, but that’s a struggle for every parent no matter what you’re doing.”
The Ruthers get up at 6 a.m., check the farm and the animals, and usually begin milking cows by 7:30 a.m. That process usually lasts until 10 a.m. Then it’s more general farm work until a break for lunch, more field work, a break for dinner, and then another round of milking at 7 p.m. that takes up another two or three hours. Then, it’s usually to bed, and the whole process begins again the next day.
The Ruther family was dealt a cruel blow in January 2007 when a fire destroyed their largest barn.
“We saved most of the animals and moved them to a vacant barn or to somebody else’s farm,” said Bill Ruther. “The barn burned down totally, but the community really came together and helped us build it back up again. We had all these volunteers helping us out and we had our cows back in our barn by May.”
The Ruther farm covers around 300 acres and is near the highest point in Schenectady County.
“We’re on the same ridge, but a bit farther north than the highest point in the county,” said Ruther. “I’ve looked at all the topographical maps and I think the highest point is just a little bit east of Duanesburg Churches Road.”
“We can see the Target warehouse in Amsterdam from our house,” said Steve Ruther. “The view to the north and west is really great.”
The other farms on display for Farm and Foliage Day are the Peaceful Acres Horse Farm in Pattersonville and the Indian House Farm in Princetown.
A tractor show at Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam will begin at 9 a.m., and the Upper Union Street Harvest Fest, between Lakewood and Palmer avenues, will begin at 10 a.m.
Also on display for Farm and Foliage Day will be the Central Park Rose Garden, the Horticulture Education Center in Central Park, the Fehr Avenue Neighborhood Garden, the Schenectady County Historical Society and the Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction.
Farm and Foliage Day, now in its third year, is a joint venture of Roots and Wisdom (a self-funded program of Cornell Cooperative Extension) and Schenectady County, with funding from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
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