Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Rusch Farms is a honey of a diversified farm

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 02/05/2013 4:19 PM

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HUTCHINSON, Minn. — When Hutchinson farmer Wayne Rusch proposed to his wife, Cindy, she said yes — with a stipulation: Cindy, a beekeeper, wanted to relocate her hives located near Cambridge to Wayne's farm.

After the couple married two years ago, they quickly noticed the benefits Cindy's bees provide. The bees are great pollinators of crops and vegetables and they provide honey and beeswax for candles the couple makes and sells at farmers markets.

Wayne, a third generation farmer, got an early start selling direct to customers. One of his FFA projects while attending Hutchinson High school was vegetable production. Wayne and his friend, Russ Rickeman, started the Hutchinson Farmers Market. In its infancy, the market had 10 to 12 vendors, he said. After a few years, the city of Hutchinson stepped in to handle the market and its organization.

Wayne worked for Goebel Fixtures in Hutchinson and earned money to purchase his first farm in 1982. The land, 80 acres, was located across the road from his home farm. He purchased the family farm in 1998 and retired from his town job to farm full-time. The farm had an additional 114 tillable acres. He raises corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

Wayne also milks Guernseys. The operation, however, suffered a setback several years ago when Johnnes disease was discovered. He is slowly rebuilding his herd. He has 20 cows and room for 46, he said.

His parents, Hugo and Lois, have, at one point, raised close to two acres of vegetables with Wayne. That part of the operation is now closer to one acre, he said. With Cindy, the family raises a wide variety of vegetables, although Wayne says they strive to have lower labor vegetables in the garden.

Cucumbers, potatoes, heirloom pumpkins, dill, tomatoes and onions are a few of the vegetables raised on Rusch Farms. They also raise five to six rows of garlic they sell at the Garlic Festival held at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. The event drew 4,000 visitors last year, he said.

They once raised sweet corn when local grocery stores purchased it, but have cut back while other local growers have focused on it.

The Ruschs do field customer requests. When a buyer requested 200 pounds of cabbage, they quickly turned to Babe's Blossoms of Cosmos for the plants they needed for their garden.

"We bought 75 plants from them," Cindy said. "We wiped them out of everything they had just to fill our order."

They've filled other large vegetable orders.

And their orders haven't been just for vegetables. Lois has baked fresh bread and sweet breads from scratch and has sold loaves at the markets.

With the addition of Cindy's bees, the Ruschs have been able to offer more products. The couple purchased a pre-fab garage and placed it in the farmyard. They insulated the garage and installed electricity so the building can be heated. They extract honey and bottle it in the building. It's sold as raw honey either in liquid form or as cutcomb honey. The honey is also sold at local shops and a winery.

Cindy uses the beeswax, after melting and straining it, to make candles. The molds include Christmas trees, pine cone shapes and tapered and other candle designs. She also has chips to color the wax.

Cindy had eight hives when she moved to the farm. She had 20 hives within the first year and expanded it to 35 hives in 2012. They hope to increase the numbers again next year to 100. The hives will be within a 15- to 20-mile radius of their farm, she said.

She grew up beekeeping with her family who raised bees for a hobby. They had up to 80 hives at one time, but now run around 20 hives, she said.

Her bees do not move to warmer climates for the winter, she said. They live in the state year round. A wax cardboard box is placed over the hive to keep the bees warm throughout the winter.

The couple also sells beef by the quarter, half or whole. It is custom processed at a local locker plant.

The couple is making plans for spring planting. The seed catalogs have arrived, they said. They are also building their inventory of bee products to sell.

The farmers markets start in June and end in late October.

For more information, check out the farm's website at ruschfarms.us.