Rodney Ingalls, November 10, 2012

Title

Rodney Ingalls, November 10, 2012

Subject

Hartwick Seminary
Cooperstown Dreams Park
dairy farming
You-Pick Strawberries
Milk Peddling
You-Pick Blueberries
Cornell University
World War II

Description

Rodney Ingalls and his family have been farming in Hartwick Seminary for almost a century. Mr. Ingalls was born in 1919 on Christian Hill and moved with his father and mother to Hartwick Seminary in 1922 when he was three years old. Mr. Ingall's father began peddling milk in the village of Cooperstown soon after and thus started his successful dairy business. After Mr. Ingalls had graduated from college and served in the Navy during World War II, he took over the family dairy business. After his father died, he sold off his dairy business and started to grow gladiolas, sweet corn, melons and "you-pick" strawberries. After growing strawberries became too costly, Mr. Ingalls and his sons started to grow "you-pick" blueberries, which they still grow on his farm today. Mr. Ingalls sold most of his land for the Cooperstown Dreams Park, and he and his family rent out their houses on their property to Dream Park guests.
Mr. Ingalls’s interview covers life on a dairy farm in Hartwick Seminary, the changes in the region with the decline of the dairy industry after World War II, and the challenges associated with farming in upstate New York. Anyone interested in farming, the history of Hartwick Seminary, and the details of the Dream Park's construction would be interested in this interview. Mr. Ingalls also spends a while talking about the problems of pollution both for people and bees.
When editing this transcript I tried to take out some of his repetitive words, but I have retained them when he used them for emphasis or meaning. Researchers are encouraged to consult the audio recording.

Creator

Jillian Reese

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program

Date

2012-11-10

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

image/jpeg

720 x 960 pixels
image/jpeg
960 x 720
image/jpeg
720 x 960 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Image

Identifier

12-016

Coverage

4639 State Hwy 28, Cooperstown, New York
1919-2012

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Jillian Reese

Interviewee

Rodney Ingalls

Location

4639 State Hwy 28
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2012

RI = Rodney Ingalls
JR = Jillian Reese

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

JR:
Today is November 10, 2012. This is Jillian Reese. I'm here with Mr. Rodney Ingalls. We are at 4639 State Hwy 28 in Cooperstown, NY, and we are recording this for the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Mr. Ingalls, can you tell me about the place that you were born?
RI:
It was called Christian Hill, and it is not too far from the village of Hartwick, about three miles from Harwick Seminary. It was a farm that was settled by my great-grandfather, I believe. Oh, do you want to know where he came from?
JR:
Sure.
RI:
Oh really. Well, the Ingalls family came from Lincolnshire, England. That’s on the western side of Britain. Following history back they said they probably came from Scandinavian pirates or something like that. We couldn't go any farther than that, but we are in the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder. That’s the most famous one. They were among the founders of Lynn, Massachusetts. Our particular branch of the family came out of Lynn and then moved over to Andover [Massachusetts] for a while. Then from Andover then moved over to Panford, Connecticut. From Panford, Connecticut they came over here to the place where my great-grandfather, I believe, settled up on Christian Hill. I was born in the same house that my father was born in and they had all been on this particular farm up there. When I was three years old, my father moved down to Hartwick Seminary and bought the farm down here. It was bought through the bank because the Swornoff family lost it somehow.
JR:
How old were you, or what year was it, I’m sorry?
RI:
I was three years old. That was 1922.
JR:
Who was in your family at the time?
RI:
That would have been my father and my mother.
JR:
What were their names?
RI:
Harry and Thressa Ingalls. Her name was Chapman. I believe the Chapman family was Johnny Appleseed, wasn't it?
JR:
I don’t know.
RI:
I think the name was Chapman.
JR:
Oh wow.
RI:
That's reaching quite a ways isn't it?
JR:
Yeah. Do you have brothers and sisters?
RI:
No.
JR:
Just you?
RI:
My father was in a family of seven. My mother was in a family of seven. They really had families. When they got married, you now what they did?
JR:
What?
RI:
Poo. They had just one.
JR:
Did you enjoy growing up as an only child?
RI:
No.
JR:
No?
RI:
I guess I always wished I had a sister. It would have been better I think to grow up in a family, you know? But we’ve made up for it because now my wife has twenty-some grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
JR:
Yeah. Do you know why your parents didn’t have any more children?
RI:
My mother was sick quite a bit of the time. Probably a psychologist would figure out something, problems at why people have nervous breakdowns and so forth. But that was very bothersome in her life.
JR:
You must have had a lot of chores to do living on a farm with only one child. Usually you would want lots of kids.
RI:
My father always hired a man or two on the farm because there was more than enough for one person to do here.
JR:
Where did he get the hired hand from? The worker?
RI:
Well, either they might be somebody who was living in the area or somebody who was in some family that you knew around. When we had hired help they seemed to stay with us quite a few years, and they’d became part of the community. It was nice.
JR:
Did your mother cook for them, did you have to cook for them?
RI:
No.
JR:
They lived on their own?
RI:
We usually furnished a house for them.
JR:
And were there seasonal workers, like migrant workers here at that time?
RI:
No. People came and stayed on the farm with us for four, five years, something like that. It was a good relationship. I think that it was a good situation. I saw my father, who managed the farm, I never saw him misuse a horse or cow or hired man or his son. My father was someone whom I had always admired. When I went to bed at night I said the Lord's Prayer and said to God, “Make me a farmer, as good as my father.” He was quite an example for me, and he was honest and [had] integrity. We worked as a unit on the farm. There might have been two or three of us on the farm, but nobody went home at night until the chores were done. We usually found men who were interested in the farm, they took a responsibility in their workmanship. To me, it seems like quite a few years ago we developed a certain streak in which men didn’t put in an hours work for an hours pay. I thought that was the beginning of our breakdown in our nation. Oh, you didn’t want to know that did you?
JR:
No, that’s very interesting.
RI:
That’s my opinion.
JR:
So you think that the work ethic when you were younger is different than today?
RI:
I don’t think it’s as good now as it used to be. Well, when my father hired a man the man worked for him for four, five, six years, something like that. They lived in the area. I knew their kids. It was a good situation.
JR:
Do you think that had to do with the fact [that] it was during the Depression?
RI:
This was before the Depression. This was before that time. I think probably we were more stable then, and the community was a nice community here because we had the seminary here. The three story building and a Lutheran theological seminary here. Our neighbors were professors of theology. It was an area of respectable people. I don’t think hardly I ever heard of divorce in the family. Also, the families in the community, the ones across the road had seven children, down a little farther was a family that had eight children, and all in all those were brothers and sisters so to speak.
JR:
You had a lot of friends in the neighborhood growing up that you could hang and play with?
RI:
Yep.
JR:
Did they ever come and help out at your farm at all, other people in the neighborhood?
RI:
You mean the kids? They were always around the farm. We used to play in the barn. I appreciated them very much.
JR:
Going back to the farm, what were your specific chores? What did you do on the farm when you were a child growing up?
RI:
Well, calves to feed.
JR:
What kind of calves did you raise?
RI:
We had black and white cows when we came here, but later we switched to Guernseys. My father said I’m going to pay off this farm, going to pay off the mortgage and so on, so he started peddling milk in Cooperstown and he switched to Guernsey milk which is five point.
JR:
Five point?
RI:
The butterfat.
JR:
Okay.
RI:
Richer milk. The nice about that was, we had glass bottles and you could see the cream line on it. People would look at it, and if the cream line looked like it was getting thinner they would complain about it. That was nice.
JR:
Can you talk about the process back then of getting the milk from the cow into the bottle? Did you do all of that?
RI:
Yes, oh yes. We had nearly eighty head of cow, Guernseys. Rich milk. My father started peddling milk by bringing up one or two quarts of milk up to his cousin up in Cooperstown. That was the beginning and from then on he got more customers until he had the biggest milk route in Cooperstown, wholesale and retail. He was a good businessman. He worked hard. He was honest, had a good relationship with the customers. I grew up [and] when the fellow who peddled milk around Cooperstown had a week’s vacation or something every year, I usually ended up peddling milk in Cooperstown. We got to know all the people there. I got to know where to put the bottles and sometimes we'd drive around back of their house and put them in the refrigerator for them. It was a good relationship. The milk was a good quality. I appreciated the people we were working with.
JR:
Did you milk the cows by hand, or you had a machine?
RI:
No, we had milking machines.
JR:
Did you help to keep those up or was that your father’s job?
RI:
When I was a little fellow I didn’t run the milking machines and so on. It wasn’t too long before you were a teenager and you’d be helping out with the milking and the chores and there was hay to do. There was silage to be put in you know. All the farms, whatever a dairy farm would have. The cows, they fed them hay, fed them silage. Of course there were chores everyday.
JR:
And you bottled the milk, correct, here?
RI:
Right here.
JR:
Was that automated also?
RI:
Well, they had a milk room on the side of the barn in which they bottled all the milk. Pretty soon pasteurization came in and homogenization, you know. Then pasteurized milk was the way to do it.
JR:
When did you start pasteurizing milk here?
RI:
I was three years old when we came here. We started peddling milk soon after we came here. It wasn’t too many years after we came here. We started getting rid of our black and white cows because [their] butterfat [wasn’t] as rich.
JR:
When you say getting rid of them did sell them off for meat or to sell them to other farmers to milk?
RI:
We would sell them to give to the auction or they would die off, and we'd replace them with Guernsey cows. When the butterfat is up around five percent that’s a lot different than 3.2 of a black and white cow. That was everything for our business, because the people who were peddling milk locally around here, every community seems like would have a farmer right near by and he kept his cows and pasteurized [and] peddled milk.
JR:
Did you sell to grocery stores or individuals?
RI:
Both.
JR:
Both? How many grocery stores were in Cooperstown at that time?
RI:
There weren’t as many chain stores; there were small individual stores. Sometimes in Cooperstown there might be a store in the community down on the corner here or down on the corner there. It was hometown. Good relationship.
JR:
Do you remember some of the names of the stores that you would sell to?
RI:
Oh yeah. Leo's. They were family grocery stores. Saxtons. They’d take telephones orders and they might deliver around town for people. Everybody knew everybody. It was a nice relationship. Cooperstown was a good town.
JR:
What else did you grow? You raised cows here for the dairy. Did you grow any crops at all?
RI:
No. Back then my father was a cow farmer. It wasn’t until later years that we started branching out. I got interested, and we started raising vegetables and so forth.
JR:
What was school like?
RI:
Pardon?
JR:
What was school like when you were younger? School?
RI:
School?
JR:
Talk about school.
RI:
I always said we had a two-room schoolhouse, you know.
JR:
Did you go to school in Cooperstown or by the seminary?
RI:
Just up the road here a little ways. Eight years I went up there. You know what a two-room schoolhouse is, don’t you?
JR:
No. What do you mean by that?
RI:
Well, we had a classroom and we had an outhouse. So when people say it was a one-room schoolhouse, I say no, it was a two-room schoolhouse. I was there for eight years before they incorporated and took the little rural schoolhouse and put us into the Cooperstown school system.
JR:
What were the students like? Were they mostly students that were living on farms in this area?
RI:
A lot of them were. At least there were certainly rural. The seminary—that had been a place where they could get a high school education at the seminary here. I don’t know how they incorporated that into theological seminary, but I believe that’s the old history of it all. It was a place where they could get a little more education.
JR:
Did the fact that it was a rural school affect how the school was run?
RI:
It would be eight years that would all be one teacher, you know. One teacher taking care of it all.
JR:
Did you have shorter days, or did you get out of school early when it was time to start working?
RI:
It wasn’t too far out so I could walk to school everyday. All the kids up and down community would go up to the little school house there.
JR:
Were there students that couldn’t come to school because they lived to far?
RI:
No. There would be country schools across the river here. Cooperstown had gone through that. There’d be country school[s] within a mile of each other. Lots of them around.
JR:
In this area that’s how it was?
RI:
Yep.
JR:
And they would all be one room, one teacher?
RI:
Two rooms.
JR:
Right two rooms, excuse me. Did the school provide you books?
RI:
We would have books for each class, but one teacher would take a whole classroom, you know. Pretty good sized school, and they were good people. Family people, you know? Things changed a little bit when we went to Cooperstown. That was a union school, I guess you might say. The difference was it was a big building with three floors on it. You went from one room to the other. It had a gymnasium on it. We were growing up then. I had a little trouble trying to find all the classrooms, but I finally found a guy that had the same classes I did. So I followed him all day long, you see [laughs]. Then, of course with Cooperstown, a union school, it was a bigger school. We had more athletics, you know, football, basketball, baseball and all like that. I’m thankful. We had a good time.
JR:
Other than the size, did you find the other school more challenging? Going to Cooperstown’s school did you have any other problems? Did you like it better than your one room schoolhouse?
RI:
Well, it is a matter of going from thirty kids to three hundred, something like that, you know. We had a gymnasium on the building. They had football teams and basketball teams and all like that. They had sports between all the little towns around, had their own baseball teams, and things.
JR:
Did you play any sports?
RI:
Football, basketball, baseball.
JR:
Oh wow. Did that interfere with working on the farm?
RI:
My father was very good about that. We had to stay after school for basketball practice and stuff like that. He always let me do those things.
JR:
Can you describe the families that had farms also around Hartwick Seminary?
RI:
Actually from Cooperstown to Milford there were lots of farms, dairy farms. It was quite a process with the milk. In the old days lots of times milk went to a cheese factory, but then we had farms that were producing milk and they would take the milk and put them in bottles and peddle it in town.
JR:
Is that how all the farms around here, the dairy farms, worked? They all would bottle themselves and peddle?
RI:
No. There were those who peddled milk, and there were those who might be taking it to a cheese factory or some other sources. Well actually a lot of it went to the city you know. They had to depend upon all these little farms. They had trolley cars and they could move it by trolley cars, and then later the pickup trucks came along and refrigerated tractor trailers, that [were] was taking [it] into big plants near a city like Borden's or something like that was down in Binghamton you know. Then of course a lot of it went to New York City too.
JR:
Most of the farmers just around Hartwick seminary, they were raising dairy cows?
RI:
Yeah, dairy cows. In the earlier times there had been more sheep in the area, but the sheep went out and in came the dairy cows. The dairy cows were adept to that pastures on the hills. Farm after farm the dairy cows. They may not have too many cows, but that was typical of the area. It is very sad for me to see now the barns going down. Where there used to be a farm and there is no farm anymore. It is very sad. You can see what happened to our farm. We sold it out to a baseball park. There had been sometimes when they had raised up in Pierstown up in that area there is a lot of cauliflower. Stamford over that way.
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
Some of the farms went to cauliflower over there. It was spotty. Come and go.
JR:
So if everyone was raising cows where did you fruits—well maybe not fruits—where did you buy vegetables?
RI:
Where did I buy vegetables?
JR:
When you were younger.
RI:
Well I think probably everybody had a vegetable garden. My father always said my grandfather always had something to sell. He made maple syrup sometimes. They sold wood. The seminary here that was place that they had to buy milk, vegetables, all like that at the seminary.
JR:
Let's talk about the seminary. Do you know the story behind the seminary? Why it was open? The history of it?
RI:
Christopher Hartwick's intent was to be a missionary to the Indians, I believe something like that. Then it was incorporated into the Lutheran denomination as a place to train the students who went into the ministry, lots of them. Then the railroad came along, and the railroad came right down through here. The little place where they could get off the railroad [and] walk up the lane to the school. They could live in great distances around but they could come here and get their seminary training.
JR:
Many of the seminarians, did they live in this area?
RI:
Oh no, they would go quite great distances, you see, with the railroad bringing them here.
JR:
So most of them were from out of town, you think?
RI:
Oh yeah. They would come here and there was a three-story building down here, the big building down here. People had rooms [there were] classrooms in it.
JR:
How did the seminarians interact with people around town? You know, your farm or your neighbors.
RI:
We were all neighbors. We got acquainted with a lot of them. They were all our friends, very nice situation. Very nice. Well behaved. It was a good group. Of course, they were basic for the church over here, kids in the [seminary], they made up the choir, you know. They had their church, they had their theological seminary. It [was] a nice situation. My neighbors were all doctors of theology.
JR:
Did you take any classes there?
RI:
No, as a matter of fact the theological department was moved to Brooklyn, and then the seminary was kind of a prep school you might say. They started to build Hartwick College. They would have built it out here on the flat, but they couldn't get the support and the money backing that they could by building it in Oneonta. That would be a more lucrative place to put the seminary. It went to prep school and then went out under the NYA to become a government situation, but they didn’t last long.
JR:
When did they build the church across the street?
RI:
1849, or something like that.
JR:
Okay. And you always went to church there?
RI:
Yes.
JR:
At the Evangelical Lutheran Church?
RI:
Yeah. When we moved down from the hill, there used to be a church on Christian Hill. I guess it was a Methodist church or something like that. When we moved down here we were right in the community and of course we went to church. Very nice situation. Nice community. Rural but friendly, and the neighbors were teachers at the school.
JR:
Did most of your neighbors go to that church also?
RI:
Oh yeah, a lot of the neighbors, yeah.
JR:
What was your Sunday like when you were a child?
RI:
We always went to Sunday school and church regularly. There wasn’t any beer parties here. Of course that’s another thing that came in. Then there was a time in this area which we raised hops, you know. That’s another phase, because this was a place that produced good quality hops up in this part of New York State. They were almost famous for quality hops. As far as I can figure out they never raised any hops on this farm here. I think they went to church. There was a little difference between the hops growers and the church people were a little separated. The hops growers up north of us here and different areas had a lot of hops raised around this area at one time. Then the blue mold came in. That was more than they could take care of medicinally. So the hops went out.
JR:
Were they still growing hops when you were?
RI:
Not when I was here.
JR:
That would have been Prohibition when you were young?
RI:
Yeah. I can remember on the plane down through here. There was a hops kiln down through there, because I can remember seeing the old hops kiln, the old stove was in there, the dryer there, in my day. But it wasn’t used then. It’d been put into machinery shed or something like that.
JR:
You told me before that you went to Cornell [University]. How did you decide that you wanted to go to college?
RI:
Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to go to Cornell. [laughs]
JR:
Did your father encourage you to go?
RI:
Oh yeah, he and I always got along well. So, I went ag [agriculture] school and came back here. The war came along and that was 1941. I graduated Cornell in 1941 and I enlisted. I went flying in the Navy for three years, and back to the farm again.
JR:
What did you study at Cornell?
RI:
Agriculture. I took the four-year course and took a little bit of everything. I enjoyed it a lot. Sports and everything. Also I learned to fly. I got my license out there.
JR:
Was that part of school or for fun?
RI:
No that was part CPT. [Comprehensive Pilot Training?] It was a program subsidized by the government. I actually took the course [and] then we signed the papers saying that in case of war we would enlist.
JR:
Wow. That was a requirement for taking the course? Did you have to [sign]?
RI:
Yes. It wasn’t any hard-nosed thing really, but I did. I enlisted. Went flying in the Navy from here to the Wall of China.
JR:
Did you enjoy being in military?
RI:
I loved it. I love flying. I enjoyed it.
JR:
What battles were you in?
RI:
We were out in the Philippines and later we went to the Wall of China even over through those areas there. Some of the countries, they made a mess of those places. They bombed the dickens out of them. I was only in there three years and I came back to the farm again. I was married by that time.
JR:
Was it hard for you being a Christian, having to fight in the military?
RI:
No. Most of the kids that graduated high school my age they were the soldiers in one aspect or another. What is the decision in the case of war? If you’re attacked by the Japanese people at Pearl Harbor. Look what happened then. We had to defend ourselves. I guess I had the feeling that I was a conscientious objector at heart, but when the time came that we were attacked all my kids in school they were all going in the service. I felt that was reason enough to fight.
JR:
How did your father feel about you being in the military?
RI:
That’s another side, good and bad. I was on the farm, so I was exempt. I didn’t have to go. I enlisted anyway. He didn’t say very much about it. I thought later he probably was very nervous about it and felt badly about it because I could have stayed here on the farm and gotten out of it. Two or three years later I remember, one day he was talking to me and says, "you know I think you did the right thing." That was my father. That meant a lot that his only son [there was] nobody else in the family. He did tell me a couple times that I was all he had because my mother had been sick a lot, there was nobody else in the family so everything was depending on me in a way. [Unclear] Later the romance of it all was I got interested in raising gladiolas. I raised gladiolas and then finally I kind of had my eye on raising sweet corn and a lot of things. The time came after 1940 I talked to my father and said, "You aren’t making anything on the cows." The dairy business was going out. I felt that way. He died then and everything so he didn’t see the cows go off of the farm, when I sold the cows off the farm.
JR:
When did he pass away?
RI:
When did he pass away?
JR:
Was it after the war?
RI:
Yeah. It was after the war. I’d come back on the farm and taken over the farm, and we sold out the milk business, too. We were left with the cows here. They weren't paying. It’s true because from Richfield Springs to Binghamton, the farms were going out. Very sad. I could never have believed or foretold that this is what would happen to the country, but farm after farm just went out of business.
JR:
Were they like your farm where you switched to growing other products, or did they just close 100%?
RI:
They closed out. We went to industrial farms, the bigger farms. Guys that went to Cornell and had their training and so on might take over farms that were a thousand cows or something up in northern New York. Still, we have a place up there that has a thousand cows or so instead of the little herds of forty or fifty or so that we had in the past. And the sheep had all gone out. No more sheep around here.
JR:
When you suggested for him to sell off his dairy business, did he follow your...?
RI:
He had died by that time, so it was me that got interested in the cash cropping and then my sons were coming along. Pretty soon we had ten, twenty acres of you-pick strawberries and lots of sweet corn. We raised melons and tomatoes. We went into a vegetable farm. The old barn we put into a store.
JR:
The barn across the street?
RI:
Yep.
JR:
When did you meet your first wife? Did you meet her at Cornell?
RI:
I met her in Christian endeavor, in church. She came up to Binghamton. She went to Oneonta State College to be a teacher. I met her and we had youth groups and so on like that. It was a good connection. Next thing I know she wanted to pray with me. Our Christian life began then. Well I’d been growing up over here and school taught me the Lord's Prayer. That was every night. All those things, it was a very good influence. So I met Christian friends and nice girls. My wife died after sixty years or so, but this was her roommate in college. I remarried her roommate. We had always gone on vacation together, and we always knew each other. Her husband died, and so I married her. So we kept on going and brought her to the farm.
JR:
To be a farm girl.
RI:
As our kids grew up they had varied experiences because they had all the experiences of growing all kinds of vegetables along with the farming.
JR:
Let’s talk about your farm when you were raising your family here. How many children did you have?
RI:
Four. Three boys and a girl. We lost a little boy.
JR:
Did they work with you here?
RI:
Oh yeah. They grew up on the farm and then when we got into the vegetable business I used to hire. This is exciting do you want me to tell you?
JR:
Yes.
RI:
I used to hire kids from around here, you know, doing everything. They started out pulling weeds. So we hired a lot of help, kids. We had a good time. I started raising gladiolas. I used to have an acre or two of gladiolas. I sold them from the house. I peddled them to florists’ shops, you know like that. We said we wanted to build a house so we started putting so much in the bank every year. After twenty years or so I had enough in the bank to put some thousand dollars my father and I built the house.
JR:
When did you build the house with your father?
RI:
My father and I built it, yeah.
JR:
When did you build it, what year?
RI:
Back in the 1950s.
JR:
Where did your children go to school?
RI:
Well, Cooperstown first then one boy went to Vietnam, got his purple heart there, and then went to college afterwards. The other went to King's College. The daughter went to King's College also. And we built the house because we saved for fifteen, I don’t know how many years we saved. We bought this house. The old house here we bought at auction one day, two-family house, tore it down and built this one.
JR:
Where did you live before this house was built?
RI:
I lived up the road here. The next house is where I grew up—the big house there. And the next house, a [teacher] was there. Then the following house over that when I came back from the service, my father and I went to work and cleaned that house all up, repapered it and fixed it all up and built a kitchen in it and everything like that. That’s where I started my family, three houses up.
JR:
Other than the students did you hire anyone else to work on the farm?
RI:
No, about that time had the boys were working here. Well, we made milk for a while and then shipped that to a plant in Cooperstown and [Sheffield] plant, a big milk producer. Then we finally sold out the cows and turned it all into vegetables. Exciting? But that was one way out, and the boys they liked that. They’ve always been doing something. My son [runs] you-pick blueberries now.
JR:
When did you start your you-pick strawberries? What year was that do you remember?
RI:
Do you have to know the exact year?
JR:
Well around, you know? The 1970s or earlier?
RI:
Yeah, it probably was.
JR:
Where did you get the idea for that?
RI:
There was some being grown around. How did we get interested in that? We raised a small quantity and we could see that people liked strawberries. We could see that you-pick was becoming popular. That was about the time that my oldest son was getting into it. He went to work with me and had maybe twenty acres or so of you-pick strawberries down here. The river was right over the ridge there and we took water from the river up there and put in irrigation. We could irrigate, frost protection, and everything like that. The sweet corn we got raised that too. We used to peddle that around Cooperstown to the stores and restaurants and all like that and got quite carried away with it all.
JR:
Were there a lot of farms around here doing the you-pick strawberries or were you the only one?
RI:
We were the biggest one right around here. A lot of that was coming in over Cobleskill way and over in that valley down through there as you-pick. It was getting quite popular. We did have raspberries one time too. [Unclear] acres of raspberries, strawberries.
JR:
Was it a lot of tourists like it is now, or more local people?
RI:
Local people with freezers. Right now my second son I guess his mother took him you-picking over in the valley over there. He really quite liked that. The next thing I know he came back and put some blueberries in one of the pieces of our pasture. By then we had sold the cows. He’s got eight acres up there now, and at the end of this year they will be organic.
JR:
Yes. You were saying that before.
RI:
We had three cases of cancer in our family, kids. One had lymphoma when he was a little fellow, the other had bone cancer when he was in his twenties, one died. Where did it come from? Well, we're finding that the seeds that we buy are all treated with chemicals before we buy the seed. You plant the seed, the plant comes
[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]
up, the chemicals that were on the seed [are] absorbed into the plant. We had the corn, we sprayed it all. We thought we were great farmers. We sprayed it all and killed all the weeds. Beautiful crops we had like that, but what did I do to my children, you know? You think about that, you know? What phase of farming are we into now, you know? Right now we put in [drip] irrigation this year, and they sold over ten ton of you-pick blueberries here. I'm enthusiastic about it. Now, at the end of this year we will be registered organically.
JR:
What was the process of being registered organically?
RI:
You want to know all of our secrets, don’t you?
JR:
Yes, please.
RI:
I'm only kidding. The thing of it is you register with this group, and they will come and check your crops and talk with you and insist that you do not use any herbicides, fungicides, or anything like that on all your crops. Then they can also come through and test your soil, and they can decipher if any chemicals had been used. Now you have to go that way for three years, I believe. At least three years. At the end of this year, we will be a registered organically.
JR:
Was there a lot of cost associated with doing that?
RI:
I don't know. There must be some. My son’s taking care of that, because it is after my day so to speak.
JR:
So your son helps you? He runs the you-pick blueberries?
RI:
To make a short story long, he put in quite a crop. He got really carried away. He put in about eight acres of blueberries up here on the hill and a piece of pasture land after we sold out the cows. They grow really slowly. He said he wanted to get out of it. It wasn’t fast. It took quite a few years to get them into production. I said well alright. He wanted to get rid of them, so I took them over. I got some guys in there and we trimmed [unclear] and keep on working on them. Now, it’s been 35 years, I guess, since we first planted blueberries. Now we've got it coming good, and he's interested again so he's back in the business again.
JR:
Did any of your other children, other than your son who helps you with the blueberries, become farmers?
RI:
Yeah. My other son is still raising sweet corn and sells it out front.
JR:
Out front here?
RI:
Yeah. He's got a stand right out here.
JR:
Oh okay. He lives in the area?
RI:
Yeah. Three of us in a row here. Two sons and me. These three houses.
JR:
So you get to see them often?
RI:
Oh yeah, all the time.
JR:
That’s very nice.
RI:
Son number two he went to King's College, and he graduated from there. He was working as a youth pastor down in Florida for a few years. They all like the farm back up here, and he came back. He went back and took a few more years of college, and went back to school as a guidance counselor in the schools. Pretty soon farming went out, farming went out, farm families went out, and they had to squeeze back into the budget. Then he lost his job. He was one of the last ones hired, and he lost his job. And then he had a job in Oneonta and worked in the schools down there. Pretty soon they had to cut their budget back. Farms gone out and stuff like that. He lost that job too. Now he's got his blueberries.
JR:
And your daughter, what did she..?
RI:
She up and got married. I heard the story, I think it was yesterday in the sermon. The girl went to a fortune teller, and asked the fortune teller if she was ever going to have anybody propose to them. He said, "Oh yes. Yes, as a matter of fact, I can see you are going to have three different men propose to you." She says, "Stop right there. Stop right there. I'm taking the first one."
JR:
Where does she live now?
RI:
She went to King's College too and got a degree in teaching. Went down to Baltimore. Got a job teaching at a church school down there, and met this fellow down there. She married him and he's a CPA with his own income tax business. That's another thing I did later too when I sold my cows up. I started doing income taxes.
JR:
Oh wow.
RI:
I would do that [until] April 15, [and then] I could go back on the farm. I worked with [H&R] Block for a few years, and finally they were petering out and selling out up here so I just opened my own office right in here. I worked quite a few years doing income tax.
JR:
Did you do anything else other than income tax?
RI:
In the summertime I had my farming.
JR:
Right. Anything else though?
RI:
That kept me busy.
JR:
You had plenty to do.
RI:
Yep. We really did.
JR:
So you said that the strawberries were irrigated by? There's a river?
RI:
The Susquehanna is right over the ridge there with all the water you could want.
JR:
Okay. Did you drink out of that also?
RI:
No, we have springs up on the hill. Beautiful springs up there with all the water we want.
JR:
Were you ever worried about when you spraying the strawberries or corn with pesticides did you know maybe that…?
RI:
I wasn’t worried about that. We went ahead and fumigated the soil. That was quite a process to fumigate the soil, cover it with plastic, you know. Of course that got rid of all the insects and weeds and everything like that. How did we know? We had rains come on, and if the rains persisted after the berries started to ripen then they would spot. Then they would start to spoil. Then as they start to spoil or spot like that nobody's going to be doing a good job picking because they would just have to sort then. So we lost money right then because it cost so much to fumigate, spray and everything like that.
JR:
So they would spot because of the fumigation?
RI:
No, because of the persistent rainfall. If they had too much water then you would get spotting. Then they had to sort. That hurt the business. We put all that money into the fumigation and seed and everything like that and then we had these bad years.
JR:
What did you do when things like that would happen financially?
RI:
We lost money.
JR:
You were stable enough to weather it?
RI:
Beg your pardon?
JR:
Was your farm stable enough that if you had a bad year it didn’t bankrupt you?
RI:
Yeah. We could have carried on, but you have to have some guarantee that you have a crop that will be profitable every year. It’s just not smart to get into something like that. It just happened so much that we got out of that and then we went into blueberries.
JR:
You still get your water from the spring up on the hill?
RI:
Yeah. This last year we drilled a well down a couple of hundred feet and put in drip irrigation on the blueberries. So they're getting irrigation now. This year we'll be licensed organically.
JR:
I wanted to talk about the [Cooperstown Dreams Park]. Is that alright?
RI:
I beg your pardon?
JR:
I wanted to talk about the [Dreams Park]. The [Dreams Park] across the street. The baseball field. When did you decide to sell the field to them?
RI:
How many years ago was that? That was six or eight years ago or something like that. At about that time my son was back. He was back from Vietnam. He'd been back raising lots of sweet corn and everything. It makes my head spin to go through all the things we've been through. He got this plan of selling out. This company took over and they made it very successful here. Be surprised how many houses up and down this road here, they are all rented because they have teams coming from all over the United States for little league baseball here. The thing is the family usually comes too. I mean a lot of the kids are coming to play baseball while the families come out for a vacation for a week too. Watch their kids play, spend that time with the kids. I must say that they have had a good handle on this. We've had no trouble with the kids, they have been no problem. They are well supervised, and become very popular. But I never could see all the changes in the dairy business, all like that. Now I’m asking what else is going to happen in this cycle. Can you tell me?
jR:
I do not know unfortunately.
RI:
Things change. From a seminary to a you-pick. Our strawberries were famous through here. We had so many acres of strawberries, you-pick strawberries. Then we incorporated the raspberries in there one time for a few years, and the sweet corn, on and on. I can’t foretell. You tell me, what's going to happen next?
JR:
I do not know. I wish I did, but I do not.
RI:
We've come along ways from the time they had sheep years ago, years ago that was.
JR:
How do you feel that the Dreams Park has affected Cooperstown, this area?
RI:
Nothing but good because as I say the kids are well supervised, the coaches come with them. If the coaches don’t behave, keep the kids straight in line, they are asked to leave. They've done a beautiful job. We don’t have any trouble with kids here. They've got building after building to stay in. The only racket we hear is on Friday night, they have fireworks. That's the last night of the week that they are going to be there. They have fireworks and they go back. They come from as far as California. Teams come out. They look forward to bringing their teams out, competing with kids of other...have you been to Cooperstown?
JR:
Yes.
RI:
The houses are kept all in good shape aren't they?
JR:
For the most part, yes.
RI:
Now Pioneer Street, there is a house down there, it’s painted with twelve different colors of paint. You ought to drive by it someday.
JR:
So most of the houses here now are rentals?
RI:
A large percentage of them. My son that has the raspberries, he built a house up on the hill. He goes up there and lives and rents his house down here for $800 or $900 dollars a week or something like that. And Paul, his house over there too, he took my machine shop and put that into apartments and his house he has families in there. They are doing well with those things. The kids all are well behaved. Of course, we don’t have anything commercially down through here like theaters or soup kitchens or salad bars or something like that here. Otherwise people love it. This is a beautiful valley. Have you noticed it? I flew down to Scranton one day, they had to take somebody down there. I flew down and I was just amazed. I looked at the landscape around here, around the edge of the Catskills and so on. The tops of all these hills around here are all about the same. The glacier swept up though and put grooves up and down, north to south, but the tops are all about the same height. It's amazing.
JR:
How does it make you feel when you look across the street, though, and see a baseball field instead of dairy farms?
RI:
No. I’m up on the hill. I hear those kids down there hollering. Well as they say, their families are here with them. They are well behaved. Well we don’t have any places for bars up and down the road here. I think it’s good for the kids. One house up here it was rented this year and I was talking with them. They came from California. They said, "Well we came out from California, our kids play baseball." One guy said, "My grandson is playing baseball up here so I came to spend a week. Now we've been out here for a week we are going to go back to California. Take a weeks vacation on our trip back." Did you get the answer to that question? How do I feel about it all? The people we worked with, the guys we worked with, they paid cash. Our barn, they fixed that all up and repainted that. Nice shape. I don’t know what they are going to do with that. I heard that they might be putting in antiques or something like that over there. That would be a good sideline and people would see the buildings all kept in good shape here. They fixed up the fence all up and down here, and have a good relationship with the church. They give the church parking space, you know. It sounds good. I don’t know how long this is going to keep on. If Major League baseball should go on serious strikes of some sort, how that would affect, I don’t know. I didn’t know that this was going to happen to our dairy business once upon a time, you know. My son, he won a contest out at Cornell. He was in one of the countries over there with a mission one time, and learned their language and everything. He came back here and he took some courses at Cornell. They put him on their staff. I can't keep it all straight. He made surveys of the river up and down here. He interviewed farmers from Binghamton about the farming, made a survey of it. When he was done he asked what do you think about farming? I told him what I thought about farming, especially the dairy farm comes and goes like that. Now he's back [in] Laos. He has a stipend. Enough to support him. He and his family are there and, and he can work for a doctor's degree now. He is working in that country and supervising their waterways. I can't keep it all straight. Not really a missionary work, but yet it's in cooperation with the government. Even when you are cooperating with those countries you still have to abide by what the communists think sometimes.
JR:
Where is he at?
RI:
Laos. He was at Laos much earlier and he had an office and worked there with agriculture, helping them with that but he still had a communist working with him. Supervising him.
JR:
Wow.
RI:
So what's next, huh?
JR:
Well I wanted to ask you about how you feel about farmers leasing their land for resource extraction.
RI:
About what?
JR:
About what you feel about farmers leasing their land for resource extraction, or fracking?
RI:
My feeling is this way. These hills up here are beautiful places for windmills. My goodness sakes why not put those fans up on the hill? That's the cheapest source of electricity, is that right? I think I’m in favor of it.
JR:
The wind turbines?
RI:
Yeah. I think that’s good. But some of the Amish people say it scares their horses. The other people say, "Oh it upsets our view." They don’t like that. Some of them, might think it was a little noisy. I'm in favor of that and also as I understand it in this area two or three times now geophysicists feel that there is the anticlines and syclines in our structure. They have gone around and paid us so much an acre to lease our land on the condition they would be allowed to drill in there because they feel that this structure here we've got stone solid down this hill here. They feel that underneath here drilled at the right place at the right time, there are supplies of gas, possibly oil and things like that are available. This also off-shore drilling that they have been having some trouble with. It’s our own fault, I guess. The wells that have been drilled on the Caribbean and so on, the oil is there, and I think that they should be allowed to go off shore and drill. The talk about the new methods of drilling. They have places where they can drill in one spot and they drill at different angles to tap supplies of gas or oil or whatnot. I don’t see why we shouldn't. If it’s right down there why not drill it out. It would certainly reduce the cost of fuel, and that's heating fuel, gasoline, and all types of heat fuels.
JR:
Would you ever lease your land so you could drill?
RI:
Sure. I don’t know why not. They put nice lawns around them. I was in the service once and I was traveling to Oklahoma City or something and some kids from the University of Oklahoma were coming home from college for the holidays, Thanksgiving. So I met this girl there and rode quite a while on the train with her and talked with her, and she came from Oklahoma. They had beef on their farms out there. I was quite interested in agriculture and all that. I talked to her about the beef and I asked her what kind of cows did you have? She said, "Oh I don’t know." I said, "Are they black?" “No. No.” “Were they red with a white face, or something like that?” "I think that’s what they were," she said. "I don’t go out there at all," she says, "there are too many oil wells out there." What a girl to know [laughs]. So, it wouldn't have bothered me either, if my orchard was full of oil wells [laughs].
JR:
You said earlier you were interested in pollution. You want things to be organic, you want your blueberries to be organic. You’re worried about food quality.
RI:
Keep coming, ask me.
JR:
Can you talk more about that, you're feelings about pollution?
RI:
Well I started talking about that when I said that three kids in our family had cancer. One little boy died from that. I’ve almost got to think about it,
[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]
and right now end of this year we will be licensed organically. There’s another subject. You’ve heard about the problem with the bees?
JR:
Yes but why don’t you describe the problem a little bit.
RI:
I've had bees ever since I was in high school. Sometimes I had a swarm of bees, they would make a hundred pounds of honey. I built it up so I had ten to twenty swarms of bees. I said we want this because with blueberries we want good pollination. So we built it up and we had lots of bees and all of a sudden we started losing our bees so did everybody else. Then they couldn't figure out why we were losing our bees. Do you know why it was?
JR:
Why?
RI:
Oh you want to hear that whole story? Some scientist, I forgot what his name was, said if it wasn’t for the bees pollinating plants and so on the world would go down the drain so to speak. Well we started losing bees, and they started trying to figure out why. We planted lots of locusts out on our hill because when they bloom they make good honey. The northeastern United States produces a good quality of honey, good flavors and stuff like that. But what was happening was our field corn was treated with insecticides on the seeds before it was planted. It goes into the soil, right. The plant takes it up to the stem, into the corn, up to the tassel, pollen drops off of that and goes down to the silk. That’s the way the corn develops, but they have used the insecticide on the seed before it was planted so that when the plant comes up it produces the pollen at the top of the plant. The bees come into pollinate, they walk all through it. They come flying back joyfully to their hive and they’ll have little patties on their hips here that's the pollen that they pick up. They bring it back to the hive. And what happens, the poison that was on that seed before they planted it is on that pollen. Then the bees come and pick up the pollen, right, they forget where their hive is. When the bee goes out and finds the source of honey they come back to the hive and have a little dance there. You've heard of this have you? Then the bees can tell by the dance and everything like that what direction and what distance the source of honey is. Well, when the bees came back and had this pollen that had the insecticides and so on it, they lost their [unclear] to find out where their hive was, and they couldn't get back to find their hive. That's what the lost swarms were. Do you believe that?
JR:
No.
RI:
They've been working on this for years. Now, I was just reading an article the other day from a lady in University of Wisconsin. She’s got kind of a Russian name. She feels that she has a strain of bees that could be controlled by the queen. She thinks she has a strain of bees who are of the nature that when the bees go through the hive they can detect the presence of insecticides or poisons on the pupa or the immature bees. They can detect that insect with the poisonous condition and they will take it out of the cell and throw it out of the hive. Can you imagine that?
JR:
That is a pretty smart bee.
RI:
If that is true, and we start working on that in no time we can reproduce queens. Get a queen in a hive and she's the only female there and she lays all these eggs. We’ve got kind of a strain of bees that perceptive. They can tell when there are poisons. What’s the other type that the insect is being developed from an egg?
JR:
Like a larva?
RI:
That's it. The larva or the pupa. If they are there they can detect that that one in those different cells are poisoned they will take and throw them out of the hive. They will control this. Do you believe it? Aren't you interested to see how it could be done? Wouldn’t you like to find out something like that?
JR:
Yeah. Bees are very important.
RI:
This lady has tried to go working with bee people like that. You can reduce queens quite fluently. When we were working on ours, my grandson and I were working on them, we could find the queen's cell in the hive frames. We could take that frame with that queen cell out and move it over to another hive that didn’t have any queen. That queen would hatch in that sterile cell and of course she starts laying eggs all over the place. In no time she replenishes that hive with the other strain of insects. If they can develop this strain, they can control that, we could be back in that one hundred pounds of honey again. It’s very interesting. What would you think?
JR:
What do I think? I think that sounds great, I love honey. We have a similar problem in Michigan with the bees.
RI:
This has developed, and it’s been so long before they’ve been able to decipher some of these things. I love the bees myself. My father got me a swarm of bees when I was a teenager. I had quite a few of them. I would go out there, roll up my sleeves, rub honey on my bare arms, and sit out there next to the beehive. Would you do that?
JR:
No.
RI:
I haven't had a volunteer yet. But do you know what the bees did? They came out and licked all the honey off my arm and put it back in the beehive.
JR:
How long did that take?
RI:
They didn’t sting me. Well, I don’t know I didn’t stay out there all day. I just wanted to see what they were doing. Can you imagine it? It’s fun catching swarms of bees. We would catch a swarm of bees and take a walk and drop them if they were on a stick or something like that and drop it down in front of a hive, and they will start crawling right in the hive. In no time you have a swarm of bees and have honey. That’s so important to our blueberry plants. If we don’t have them we wont get the pollination. Actually, do you know what a bumble bee is? They are bigger aren’t they? They are very good pollinators, the best pollinators. You need the insect. So what David has done, he's found a bee man a little farther south, and that guy brings in I don’t know how many swarms of bees and pollinates them up here and puts them in his blueberry field. But that costs near $1000 to have that guy put in I don’t know how many swarms he brings in. If he didn’t do that we wouldn't have blueberries. Now what do you think about that?
JR:
It's an extra cost that you have to.
RI:
It’s an extra cost. That’s why I’ve been watching this lady to see how well that’s accepted and taken off. They could be surprised at how fast they could re-queen the hive. Especially when they are throwing diseased pupa larva out of the hive. Isn’t that something?
JR:
It's great. It's the magic of nature.
RI:
I’m not telling you the good Lord works these things out. How do you stand with the good Lord?
JR:
I think I’m okay. I think I’m alright.
RI:
Do you believe? I’m very happy; we go to bed at night and say the Lord's Prayer together. I really enjoy that. My kids believe in the good Lord.
JR:
Well, is there anything else you would like to share before we finish?
RI:
One aspect I always brag about Laura Ingalls Wilder being in the family. When people can't spell my name they say "Ingalls is that spelled with an 'E'?". And I said, "No, if you spell it with an 'E' you make me a German." She was English. I am thankful for the Little House on the Prairie. That has so many reruns. You know that? You know how many times that rerun?
JR:
Yeah.
RI:
That's the best. It’s a heartfelt problem, is Christian homes. Our kids believe in the Lord. My little granddaughter is working with child evangelism. They work with children's programs, church programs, and so on like that. You want to go into politics do you? I think that a lot of our politicians are not as good as they used to be earlier in the century. When I hear about some of these programs where government officials have call girls and so on like that, abortions, same-sex marriage, and all those things. That's ungodly. You’re listening to me now are you? You're hearing me now are you? Thank you for listening. I just think that the greatest thing is to have Christian kids who believe in the good Lord, you know that. What do you think?
JR:
I think that's very good.
RI:
I'm so glad that our kids believe in the good Lord. Maybe we could take a different attitude towards things that happen, you know.
JR:
Alright Mr. Ingalls. Thank you so much for talking to me today.
RI:
Thank you for listening [laughs].
JR:
I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you very much.

Duration

30:00
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16:32

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

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Citation

Jillian Reese, “Rodney Ingalls, November 10, 2012,” CGP Community Stories, accessed December 8, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/140.