Hoosick Falls celebrates past, present and future agricultural industry
Sixth annual Walter A. Wood Tractor and Agriculture Show held Saturday
HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. —For a few hours, the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company factory whistle blew in downtown Hoosick Falls once again.
The sound, similar to a winding up fire siren, used to mark the beginning, middle and end of the day for agricultural equipment factory workers at some point during the company's tenure from 1865 to 1924.
On Saturday, the whistle signaled the noontime start of the Burton H. Luke Memorial Tractor Parade as close to 50 tractors rolled down Main Street for the Walter A. Wood Tractor and Agriculture Show.
Among those who brought tractors over the weekend was Greg Luke, Burton Luke's son. Before Burton Luke died in 2017 and before the tractor parade became an official part of the event later that same year, Greg Luke said his father had the family drive close to half a dozen tractors to the Walter A. Wood Tractor and Agriculture Show.
"That's why they called it a parade," Luke said.
Even though he hasn't been around to see the organized tractor parade the last couple years, Luke thought his father would approve of local men and women gathering with their old tractors for Hoosick Falls' one agricultural event of the year.
"Just like car shows, you kind of reminisce," Luke said. "There aren't too many farming anymore like they used to be." His family's operation, Hy-Acres Farm, stopped shipping milk in the 1990's. New co-owners Sam Cottrell and Eric Ziehm recently bought the farm and now run an organic dairy operation there called High Meadows of Hoosick.
Luke said High Meadows of Hoosick is the last of six farms left in the neighborhood. "Everybody had 20, 25 cows - now that's all gone by. "
Remembering Hoosick Falls' agricultural history is why lifelong resident Kevin O'Malley, 59, has organized the Walter A. Wood Tractor and Agriculture Show for the past six years.
"We wanted to bring out all the equipment to see what built Hoosick Falls," O'Malley said. Gesturing to the various mowing machines painted in faded primary colors and scattered across Wood Park on Saturday, he added, "We wanted to keep the history alive."
O'Malley partnered with the Louis Miller Museum this year to create an even greater emphasis on the agricultural industry Walter A. Wood brought to Hoosick Falls. The museum set out an entire room Saturday to display the company's history in photos, letters and other artifacts.
Joyce Brewer, the museum's director and another lifelong resident of Hoosick Falls, stood beneath a painted portrait of Walter A. Wood as she explained how the Wood was the first person to conceive of things like replacement parts and instruction manuals for machinery.
"He sold his equipment worldwide - there's a lot of countries where his equipment is still being used," Brewer said. She added it's not uncommon to see the machinery still in use in Amish country, too.
"I wish some of that was still here," Brewer said. "I wish we still had some of that industry."
Through events like the one held Saturday, however, Brewer said it was important to promote the agriculture still thriving in Hoosick Falls, even if the machinery factory - and many of the smaller farms it serviced - was now long gone.
Attendees at the Walter A. Wood Tractor and Agriculture Show, for instance, could sample products from Stonyfield Farm and Cabot Creamery, which both partner with local dairy farms. People could also visit the tent for Cornell's Farm Stand and buy fresh produce on Saturday.
"All those companies are working to promote the small farms," Brewer said. "It's been a boost to our area."
Hoosick Falls dairy farmer Eric Sheffer said his family's partnership with Stonyfield Farm is how they managed to make the "extremely expensive" transition from the conventional milk market to the organic one in 2014.
Sheffer said he and his family made the decision in order to keep the farm, which dates back to 1774, viable.
"I guess it's always kind of our goal to preserve a farm for the kids that they want to come back to," Sheffer said. "We're certainly business people if agriculture needs to change, that's fine. As long as it's still here."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.