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Supporters Raise $50,000 For Farmer Facing Animal Cruelty Charges

401(K) 2013, flickr

A Schenectady County farmer has raised more than $50,000 to assist with legal costs as he faces multiple charges of animal endangerment. The story has gone viral and led to heightened emotions by both sides.

Joshua Rockwood, owner of West Wind Acres farm in Glenville, was arrested and charged earlier this month with more than a dozen counts of animal endangerment after police obtained a search warrant for his property and observed animals left out in the cold and without water, apparently due to a frozen water pipe.

Some of Rockwood’s animals have been confiscated.

The news of the arrest carried far beyond the Capital Region over social media and many bloggers have jumped in to support Rockwood.

At a hearing this week, supporters packed into Glenville Town Court.

Court documents reportedly showed several animals without access to food or water and frozen water spoiled by feces. Pigs were also said to have frostbitten ears.

A second hearing has been scheduled for April.  

By Friday afternoon, Rockwood’s online fundraiser on the site gofundme passed its $50,000 goal - in only seven days.  

Jon Katz, an author from Cambridge, New York, has written several blog entries on Rockwood’s case in the past several days and said his site has experienced a surge in visits. Katz attended Rockwood’s hearing week and also met with the farmer at West Wind Acres to see the farm and animals himself.

Katz said in writing about this particular case, he realized that many Americans don’t have an accurate idea of what a farm is like.

“So farms are kind of messy, dirty, stinky places. They’re not like Vermont postcards. And his looked like every other farm. It’d certainly be great if he had the money for a stronger infrastructure, but he didn’t. And I think half the farmers in Northeast have their water pipes freeze…that’s what every one of them told me is, ‘It could have been me. They could have arrested me.’”

Steve Ammerman, a spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, said about only 1 to 2 percent of the American public has any connection to a farm these days. He said the case and the attention it’s receiving is bringing many issues facing farmers across the country to the forefront.

“We have had a very harsh winter. We’ve had a couple winters here in upstate New York, and certainly that poses challenges for farms of every size.”

Ammerman said the support for Rockwood shows an appreciation for those working on farms.

Katz believes social media has given a voice to farmers in what he called an “Orwellian nightmare.”

“These are just things that happen to people all the time, they’re just part of being a farmer in the winter. And it just seemed very extreme that rather than helping him or talking to him, this whole system crashed down on him. They even tried to make him post bail because they thought he was a flight risk. And this is someone with two kids, a farm, and a wife.”

Calls to Rockwood and his attorney were not returned Friday. The Glenville Police Department said it could not share any information regarding an ongoing legal matter.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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