Ev Rau says ‘Most jobs make you a living but farming makes you a life’

ALTAMONT — An enriching evening spent in the Altamont Community Room on Monday, June 23, presented Everett Rau, a long-time Altamont resident, billed as “An American Farmer, Rich in Spirit.” He was interviewed by Laura Shore, a volunteer worker at the Altamont Museum Archives.

This historian has known Everett for many years, and his historic wisdom on the success and benefits of early farming and his great knowledge about historic barns is documented.

Everett, born in the year 1919, has lived his whole childhood and adult years on his grandfather’s farm, Pleasant View Farm on Lainhart Road.  His grandfather was Peter John Ogsbury, a Civil War veteran.

Everett spoke of the many aspects of early farming.  Using a Farmall tractor was a big step forward for American farms.  Up until that tractor, he said with a chuckle, “We made hay the old-fashioned way.”  The attentive audience seemed to know what the “old way” was.

Everett also described his family’s activities in tough times. “In 1929, our country was just entering the Great Depression,” he said. “Through that time, as farmers, they worked hard raising 300 laying hens, made our own butter and cheese, and grew fruits and vegetables.”

The Raus preserved enough food to feed their families and neighbors and to donate food to others in need. “We never went hungry.  Our root cellar was never bare,” said Everett.

In addition, Everett’s mother took in summer boarders for $22 a week.  That sum included three meals a day and room!

“Neighbors all helped each other then,” said Everett. The names of Altamont families that farmed included Lainhart, Pangburn and Ogsbury. They shared farming equipment, labor, and knowledge.

Oxen were used in early farming days, and Everett said, “I still have the original ox yoke hanging up in the house.”

Everything was grown from heirloom seeds, Everett told the group.  Food was grown naturally, without pesticides. “If we saw a bug or a small green worm on an ear of corn or fruit,” Everett said, “we just picked it off!”

Then he advised how to get rid of leaf insects or worms: “Very simply.”

When World War II broke out, Everett Rau went to work at the General Electric Company in Schenectady on a secret armament project.  When engineers couldn’t fix a particular problem, they turned to Everett.  He took it home and did fix it.

Everett still worked the farm while at G.E. and he sold green vegetables, chickens, and homemade sausages to the G.E. workers. He told the audience, “Most jobs make you a living but farming makes you a life.”

Everett Rau married Peggy Vedder in 1943 and, he said, “We set about making a family.”

Today, Everett and Peg have four children, 17 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.  Everett consulted his lovely wife, Peg, sitting in the front row,  to get the correct figures: They’ve been married 71 years!

After the war, the Rau family began raising turkeys — 3,000 of them.  In 1951, they opened a store called Turkeyland in Schenectady.   Six ovens would roast stuffed turkeys that sold to long lines of waiting customers.  It was a grand success until 1961 when a new highway bypassed Turkeyland and detoured traffic away from Ev’s store.

In the 1960s and ’70s, the Raus’ farm continued general farming and they also raised sheep. A field hay bailer was purchased and successful harvests followed.  Hay was donated to the state of Georgia when it suffered a really bad drought.

The Raus also raised wheat to donate feed to the Altamont fairground for the animals there, and they raised a special crop of rye straw for roof thatching needed for the Shakespeare Theatre in Lenox, Massachusetts.

At the end of the interview, Everett strongly urged everyone to grow and eat more “fresh” food.  “Start a garden, even a small garden,” he said. “If I have encouraged even one person to start a small garden or have chickens — if allowed — or at least decide to eat more fresh food because it is good for you, then tomorrow will be another precious day for everyone.”

The standing audience clapped and clapped for a very long time.  OK, Everett, I’m watching my first tomatoes and my first two cucumbers grow on the vine!

Historian’s Note: This event was the first in a series for a film being made about Pleasant View Farm. The filming will take place through the summer and early fall, according to Marijo Dougherty, curator at the Altamont Museum Archives.  It is an educational project planned for the  District Educational System.  We will all be looking forward to viewing that.