8 September

The Joshua Rockwood Story: A Good Man, A Happy Ending: A Father Of The Army Of Good.

by Jon Katz

Joshua Rockwood is a good person, an honest and decent man, a family man, a lover of farms and animals, and healthy, ethically raised food to sell to local people. Many of you will recognize the name. We helped raise the money so  Joshua  could successfully defend himself against ignorant and unjust accusations of animal neglect and cruelty made by local police and animal rights “activists.”

This is a story that ended happily. Joshua is selling his farm, taking his three children around the country for a year so they could see America and put the stress of these past years behind them.

In a sense, he gave birth to the Army of Good; he was the first serious act of good that we undertook.  We raised tens of thousands of dollars from all over the country, showing me just what a blog can do.

When Joshua was arrested on charges of animal cruelty in 2017, in part because his water tank froze in a bitter stretch of sub-zero weather, a farmer e-mailed me and said a great injustice had been committed; he asked me to write about it, to help a man he knew to be good and decent, fight for his animals, his reputation and his farm. For me, that became a Mission.

I don’t generally write about people or things I don’t know,  but something about the arrest bothered me. All of our water buckers and tanks froze in that water, and so did the pipes of the Glenville City Hall, where the charges against Joshua had been filed.

It seemed wrong to me, just a feeling.

Rockwood, then 28, was arrested in March of 2017 and charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of “failure to provide proper sustenance” after Glenville, N.Y. police raided West Wind Acres. They claimed to find animals in unheated areas without access to unfrozen water.

Three of his horses were confiscated. It was apparent to me and others living with farm animals that no small farm could withstand the overzealous judgment of the police and their animal rights advisors. No small farms I know, including mine, have heated barns. Every farm, including mine, deals with frozen water tanks in the winter, especially when the electricity goes out.

I had also learned some hard lessons about the animal rights movement while writing about the New York Carriage Horses and their fight to fend off similar charges, almost all of which turned out to be true. I was stunned to see how some elements of that movement – including PETA, The SPCA, and the Humane Society were lying and distorting reality to raise money and war against working domestic animals and the people who owned and loved them.

I had never in my life seen nonprofit institutions lie so brazenly and shamelessly to raise money and get away with it.

The day after I learned of the raid and Joshua’s arrest, I drove two hours to Glenville and West Wind Acres farm to meet him.

I was shocked by this young, very open, courteous, and idealistic man. His animals were not abused in any way (one pig appeared to have a frost-bitten ear. He doted on his two dogs, Pyrenees guard dog. None of his animals were dehydrated (the police took his horse away), and he was determined to fight the charges against him, in part to protect other farmers from the police and animal rights raid on his farm.

He had some wobbly fences, but what farmer doesn’t?

Everything about Joshua is open and transparent, including West Wind Acres.

Visitors were and are welcome any time. His mission was to buy and sell local, ethnically raised meats. He wanted people to see the meat they bought and eat and know where it came from. He is a champion of small, sustainable, family farms.

To me, and many others, it seemed a governmental and animal rights overreach; I’d been hearing these horror stories from farmers for some time: police showing up when a cow lies down to take a nap, animal rights “activists” opening up gates at night because someone told them it was abuse for working animals to work. Again and again, farmers told me they were hiding their animals from the road because animal rights vigilantes were patrolling to look for signs of animal cruelty and abuse, even though they knew little about either thing.

Joshua decided to fight the charges all the way; I agreed to try to raise money for his defense. I did not realize this would change the trajectory of my life. I linked to the gofundme support site created by his friends and neighbors to raise money for his legal defense. I was surprised yet again to see that we helped raise $72,000. He was offered deal after deal as local politicians saw the backlash. His lawyer urged him to take more than one. He never wavered, or if he did, I never saw it.

Joshua and I became good friends. His empathy and integrity, and courage were impressive. He trusted me, and I completely trusted him. The winter in question was brutal; not one of his animals was shown or proven to be neglected or harmed. He did everything before and after the arrests to modernize his water system and build secure housing.

He is also guarded and shy. Over the next 10 months, I was one of the few people outside of his family to see the toll this had taken on him. Joshua was committed to raising animals honestly and in the open. He had a great sense of honor, and the accusations against him were devastating. I doubt he will ever completely get over them. It was painful for me to see the psychic damage it can do to a family to be falsely and publicly accused of a crime like that.

Joshua was able to hire a first-rate attorney with the money he raised from the gofundme site. Farmers all over the country wanted to help.

He was offered cushy deals repeatedly by an increasingly rattled district attorney, but he refused to enable what he felt was a rank injustice. I came to admire Joshua; he never lost his temper or determination. I never heard him call anyone a bad name. We became good friends.

Ten months after the arrest, on January 30, all animal-neglect charges against Rockwood were dismissed, ending what was a grueling, frightening, and unjust ordeal for him and his family. Rockwood’s horses were returned to his farm, and to settle, he paid $5,00 for veterinary costs to a horse rescue farm that hat agreed to take care of his animals, even though there were no signs at all that they were ill.

Joshua made one compromise in exchange for the equital; he agreed to plead guilty to one count of animal neglect, expunged from his record in six months.

Joshua moved his farm to nearby Knox, N.Y., and resumed raising cattle and pigs for their meat. I haven’t seen him since he moved.

Last week, Joshua texted me to say he wanted me to know that he and his wife have decided to sell their farm and other assets. “There are lots of reasons,” he explained to me. “It’s time for something new; I want our children to enjoy their childhood a little more; their lives had been full of stress.” I know he was continually harassed by so-called animal rights “activists” who kept driving by his farm, checking to see if he was mistreating his animals.

Once the farm is sold, he said, the family would travel the country for a year or so. He said he would then return to the area as a consultant advising farmers about how to run small farms successfully and do some public speaking.  He is in demand.

If you know Joshua, it’s hard not to believe this journey is a healing journey, for him, for his family. Does anyone ever completely get over that? I don’t know.

As the Albany Times Union reported, “the arrest instantly made Rockwood a folk hero of sorts, to many farmers and others who believed he was a victim of government outreach.”

In a sense, Rockwood is the father of the Army of Good. He showed me that it was possible to use my blog as a force for good, an outlet for people who wanted to do good and embraced empathy and compassion, not hatred and judgment. His farm was special to me in another way. I was walking with him in his pasture to see his cows when my cell phone rang, and I learned of the suicide of my friend Paul Moshimer. The image of Joshua checking on his cows in the way Paul checked on his horses was burned into memory. I think of it still.

Out of Joshua’s struggle came a great deepening of our work with the Mansion, an assisted care facility in Cambridge, N.Y., and Bishop Maginn High School in Albany, N.Y., a haven for refugees from all over the world. We have launched scores of campaigns to help the needy and the vulnerable and perhaps persuaded some law enforcement people and well-meaning people who love animals to be more thoughtful about the things people tell them about animals and abuse.

Small farmers have enough trouble surviving these days without being subjected to unfair persecutions like this and the ugly and unjust assault on the New York Carriage Horses and their drivers.

Joshua did good, more than he knows. He deserves his year off and more. I wish him a wonderful year of exploration and healing.  He and I are planning to meet next week; I want to wish him Godspeed in person. I am happy to share this happy ending for a good and honest man. His suffering was not for nothing. He has cast a long shadow over injustice. I wish you peace and healing.


If you wish,  you can write Joshua through his blog.


9 October

At The Open House: Joshua Rockwood

by Jon Katz
At The Open House: Joshua Rockwood
At The Open House: Joshua Rockwood

Joshua Rockwood and his family came to the Open House Sunday, he got a warm ovation when I introduced him, he talked briefly about his arrest on charges of animal cruelty in the winter of 2014. It was great to see Joshua, he is putting his life back together after an awful arrest that I believe was utterly unjust.

It was an arrest that should never have happened, and it nearly ruined Joshua’s life, he is young and ethical and conscientious farmer caught in the coldest winter in modern history. Farmers and animal lovers and people who care about justice raised more than $70,000 to pay for Joshua’s legal expenses, strengthen his farm infrastructure and keep his business – selling nutritious food – intact.

His was a landmark case, one of the few times on record a farmer fought back successfully against an animal rights movement that often seems to care little or nothing for people or truth.

Joshua is special, and he is principled. He could have settled the case early on, but he resolved not to plead guilty to a single thing that he had not done. A few months ago, every one of the 13 charges against him were dropped,  his record expunged.

It was pure joy to see his smiling face and family, all of whom suffered greatly during his ordeal. He has put his life back together. He has kept his business intact and growing. He has kept his balance, values and dignity. I was proud to see him at the farm.

12 July

Liberation Day: The Joshua Rockwood Case Is Over At Midnight

by Jon Katz
Joshua's Case Is Closed
Joshua’s Case Is Closed: Adjournment In Contemplation Of Dismissal (ACD) Takes Affect Today

At midnight tonight, all of the animal cruelty and neglect charges against Joshua Rockwood will be officially dismissed, per the ACD agreement (Adjournment In Contemplation Of Dissmissal) agreement that ended his long nightmare earlier this year.

This is a big day for Joshua, the Glenville, N.Y., farmer accused of 13 counts of animal cruelty during the brutal winter of 2015. His life was upended when the secret informers of the animal rights movement reported  him to the police for having frozen water tanks and barking dogs.

It is also a big day for the new social awakening, the new communities forming among animal lovers and people who work with animals to keep our way of life, and to keep animals among us.

As of tonight, all of the charges against him will officially be dismissed, but only after a harrowing couple of years in which he paid a fortune in legal fees, had to fight to get his horses back and nearly lost his farm. When he was arrested, the authorities wanted to put him in jail, no one has ever come back to check on the well-being of the animals who were supposedly so neglected.

Joshua will be celebrating his return to life this Saturday at his West Wind Acres Farm Festival. I’ll be there.

SIx months ago, Joshua (reluctantly) agreed to the ACD (called ACOD by non-criminal lawyers) in order to get his life back together. That meant that all of the ludicrous charges against him were dropped, except for one: failure to provide nourishment to a dog.

That was one of several of the bizarre charges lodged against him. Joshua kept the dog’s food at his farmhouse, a mile or so down the road from the barns were the dogs, sheep guard dogs, were kept. I saw the dogs days after his arrest, they were not malnourished in any way. Two vets were willing to testify to their good health.

An ACD is not a plea of guilty, nor is it a conviction, something often misunderstood. It is simply an adjournment and dismissal of the case in six months providing there are no additional charges or concerns raised by the police against the defendant. Prior to the ACD, the prosecutors tried several times to get Joshua to accept a plea deal, he refused. He said he would not plead guilty to anything he didn’t do.

In effect, an ACD is the way a judge can give a defendant the benefit of the doubt and  toss a case out of court without formally throwing the case out of court, something that is embarrassing to prosecutors.

Obviously, if the authorities thought Joshua was starving his dogs or mistreating his other animals they would have returned to check on them.  I saw them a number of times, I saw no signs of any mistreatment, illness or injury. When the police inspected his farm, they removed three of his horses. It took him many months and thousands of dollars to get them back.

Joshua was also charged with having frozen water tanks in -27 temperatures. They could have nailed me and many others for that as well during those awful winter weeks.  Thousands of people, many of them farmers from all over the country, rallied to help Joshua pay his legal fees and build new water tanks and shelters for the farm.

I’m grateful to those many people who helped Joshua survive this ordeal, many people are not so fortunate.

Farmers everywhere report being harassed by the secret informers of the animal world, a kind of Stalinist twist to the animal rights movement.

Joshua is strong and honest and idealistic, I think his Farm Festival is a celebration of endurance and of a bright future for the farm. I’d love to toast his future tonight, he is part of the  awakening spreading through the animal world, a new and truer understanding of animals.

He showed great strength and courage during the many hearings, awful publicity and cruel accusations against him. He has endured, and will thrive, I believe.

We are fighting to preserve a way of life, a way of loving and working with animals, a way of keeping animals in the world.

11 January

(Hopefully) Last Court Hearing For Joshua Rockwood Tomorrow

by Jon Katz
Last Court Hearing
Court Hearing for Joshua Rockwood

As promised, I’ve been checking with the Glenville, N.Y. Town Court and was told this morning that the next and hopefully last court hearing for Joshua Rockwood will be Tuesday, (tomorrow) January 12 at 5 pm. at the Glenville, N.Y., Town Court. I am hopeful that this will be the end of Joshua’s ordeal, and a vindication for him from the animal cruelty charges lodged against him last February during that awful winter cold.

I am not privy to the legal maneuverings but I do believe this injustice is coming to and end and will be rectified, as much as is possible. Our legal system is never cheap and not always rational, but I do believe in it it is the best one we have, or that most people have. Your support of Joshua has been immeasurable and invaluable. He can speak for yourself, but you have done much good, and hopefully you will see some of the fruit of your good will and support this week.

I have no feelings of gloating over this, I believe the prosecutors acted in good faith, given the information and understanding they had, and the complex politics and money that shroud questions relating to animals and their rights. They and the police were caught in a messy middle.  This is a significant case, and it will affect almost everyone who loves animals, farms with them, or lives with them. More about that later.

It seems that Joshua will also get his horses back, and that will be the true ending of this drama for him, and hopefully for his family. Now, the task of rebuilding his life, his reputation,  and his farm. But congratulations are still a bit premature, justice takes its own course and in its own time. I’ll be in Glenville Court tomorrow to see what I believe is the end of this chapter. And to hopefully give Joshua a hug and join with many other good people in cheering him on. I think you did it.

He is threatening to buy me lunch, or I am threatening him about buying me lunch. We’ll see.

8 January

Joshua Rockwood’s Kingdom: At The Gate

by Jon Katz

Joshua's Kingdom: At The GateHunter Rockwood And His Pony. Let’s Bring Them Together Again


I want to thank once more you good people who have, in two days, brought Joshua to the gates of a great victory for love, animals, freedom and truth. In less than two days, you have raised $10,000 for this young farmer, money that will enable him to get his impounded horses back and also negotiate an arrangement that will bring his ordeal to an end. It is unfortunate that he will have to pay so much money for this, or that this nightmare has cost him so much money. it seems unjust to me and so many others, but it is, in fact, a small price to pay to bring his world back together.

If it matters, each of you ought to know he could never have navigated this awful experience without you, every farmer and animal lover now knows there is help for them when their way of life is threatened. I believe in government, but government is supposed to protect honest and law-abiding people, not persecute them.

They have stumbled here.

Joshua needs less than $2,000 to achieve his gofundme goals, which are explained on his funding page. I don’t need to explain them again here.

” I hope you get your horses back, justice for you and your family,” wrote Gail Thompson-Allen, who donated $350 this morning. “I truly admire you for standing up for the true rights of animals and family farms everywhere.”

There are $5, $10 and $20 donations, from all over the country, Joshua has touched a deep nerve in his struggle for his farm, his family, his reputation and livelihood.

I believe he will get what he needs by the end of the day, a remarkable outpouring of love and community. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that people are not good, given the chance. This is our news, they can keep theirs. We don’t act out of hatred or rage, that is the province of others. We act out of community and a love of animals and a respect for the dignity and well-being of people.

Speaking of brothers and sisters, Blue Star Equiculture of Palmer, Mass. has offered to come to New York State and help bring Joshua’s horses back to him, once they are released, in their big trailer with their big and blue truck. A beautiful gesture. Community is much stranger than cruelty and anger.

I am not a religious person, but I can’t help but think, two weeks after Christmas, of my reading about Jesus Christ this year and his notion of the just one, of people who stand at the gates of a new kingdom, a kingdom of love and compassion and truth. I think of this when I think of Joshua, he is no saint and would be horrified at the suggestion, but he is a just one. He is standing up for his truth and his life, and that makes him our brother. Everyone sending him a contribution or supporting him in any other way is a brother or sister to him, as we are to one another.

The animals are calling to us for a new way of saving them and keeping them in our world, in that sense Joshua has become an unwilling and reluctant prophet. He is much admired and much supported. One more day to go, I think, and he will be where he needs to be. Thanks for your help. We are standing at the gates, about to walk through. That’s how it feels to me.

Bedlam Farm