Standing beside people waving American flags and flags that read “Don’t Tread On Me,” Sarah Fish stood outside the Glenville Municipal Center holding two signs with more specific messages — “TAKE YOUR AGENDA TO A FACTORY FARM” and “SUPPORT FAMILY FARMS.”
The Troy woman and others were there Tuesday evening to support Joshua Rockwood, who was in Town Court answering to charges that he abused animals on his West Glenville Road farm.
“I’m here to support small local family farms, small business owners, safe farming practices and the humane treatment of farm animals, and I know that Josh Rockwood isn’t abusing his animals,” said Fish, who isn’t a farmer but is a chef who only cooks with local and pasture-raised meat.
“He’s a farmer and he’s doing the best he can, and an attack on him is an attack on the American dream and all of our personal freedoms.”
Fish was rooting for Rockwood outside the courtroom because there wasn’t enough time to get all the supporters — about 125, according to a Glenville police officer — through security.
Rockwood’s court appearance was adjourned to 5:30 p.m. April 21. He and his attorney were handed a revised version of the 13 class A misdemeanor charges stating that he failed to provide proper sustenance to the animals on his farm.
Rockwood, 36, then left the courtroom briskly along with his attorney, Andrew Safranko, family and friends to applause and loud cheers from his supporters. Rockwood declined to comment, but Safranko said Rockwood’s animals are fed and given water regularly.
“They passed hydration tests. Two independent vets have been to the farm and they have declared that all the animals there are well. So now it’s a point of the normal criminal process taking place,” he said.
Glenville police took two horses and a pony from Rockwood’s farm, West Wind Acres, on March 14 after inspecting it this month and last and observing what they called animal neglect. All three animals, which police said showed signs of illness and injury, are staying at Peaceful Acres Horses in Rotterdam Junction.
Safranko said the charges are “very upsetting” for Rockwood “because this is his livelihood.”
“His goal is to be a farmer and to raise animals, and to take care of the animals,” he said. “The last thing he wants to do is harm the animals and it’s our position that he hasn’t.”
Farmers across the region have spoken out against the allegations, which include that Rockwood kept the two horses and pony, 30 cows and 10 pigs in a fenced-in area with a natural spring that had frozen with feces in it. He was also accused of not feeding many of the animals and keeping animals in unheated barns with frozen water.
A Go Fund Me page started by Rockwood called West Wind Acres Legal Defense Fund had raised about $28,000 as of Tuesday night after being started over the weekend. “Without your kind help the farm would undoubtably have to close,” Rockwood wrote on the website.
“Obviously there’s an outpouring of support for the farm, and his record with people is that he’s completely legit, kind to animals and everything else,” said Jason Ambrosino, who also stood outside the municipal center and owns a hobby farm in West Glenville about a mile down the road from Rockwood’s farm. “So the idea that there’s some kind of gross animal abuse is a fading idea — it doesn’t seem to hold water.”
Safranko said Tuesday night’s crowd shows that the farming community in the Northeast is “a very tightknit group.”
“And they’re here to support Josh, and they believe that this could be them at any given moment instead of him,” he said. “Obviously he’s thankful for the support.”
Reach Gazette reporter Ned Campbell at 395-3134, [email protected] or @nedcampbell on Twitter.