BY Lorri Wickenhauser, The Western JournalJune 20, 2023
1 year ago
 | June 20, 2023
1 year ago

'Chemical Attack' Leaves Farmer Devastated: 'This Is Not Just My Livelihood We're Talking About'

The growing season is in high gear.

Normally, Michael Ruzycki would be busy harvesting bushels of vegetables from his two-acre farm in Jones, Oklahoma, which feeds more than 100 local families each week.

But on June 13, Ruzycki woke up to find nearly everything on the farm was dead or dying.

He told KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City it appears to have been some sort of chemical attack.

"Michael Ruzycki says someone sprayed something on his crops, something he says he believes could cost him his entire business," the station's David Chasanov reported from the scene of the devastation. 

The news video showed row after row of tomatoes, peppers, squash and other plants wilted and sprawled on the ground rather than strong and upright.

Ruzycki appeared shaken in the news interview.

"My spirits are crushed," he told the reporter.

"I'm devastated right now, because everything that I've worked for, for the last several months, 16-20 hour days, everything -- I've given up everything, all my freedoms for this farm," Ruzycki said.

That first day, after witnessing the widespread damage, which he estimated at $80,000 to $100,000, he expressed doubt about the future.

"I feel like I could've lost the trust of all my customers for the future," Ruzycki worried aloud. "So whether I can salvage this season or not, I'm just not certain ... [about] my position as a farmer, and my career choice is going to be in question at this point."

He was upset, not just for himself but also for the customers of his small business.

"Messing with me is one thing," Ruzycki said. "Messing with my customers, who happen to be my friends, I take it very personally, and it's more than wrong -- it's disgraceful."

But after the word spread via the news report and social media posts, Ruzycki's spirits rallied as the community stepped up to support him, KOKH reported in a follow-up story June 14.

Customers have been showing up to support the farm by buying cut flowers in jars as well as the few other crops that were not destroyed by the attack, including potatoes and ornamental grasses.

Two GoFundMe campaigns -- each set up without the other's knowledge -- were launched to help the farm get growing again. One effort set up by fellow farmer Allysia Scherer was close to its $5,000 goal Tuesday, and another organized by a friend, Elizabeth England, had raised nearly $2,000 of the $15,000 goal.

"How do you even describe it into words? There are no words," England told the news station. "Seeing his pain, I cried, having to watch a friend go through that."

In a June 14 Facebook post, Ruzycki expressed thanks to all who helped.

"We are overwhelmed with gratitude this morning," he wrote.

"We were beyond filled with love and support by so MANY wonderful humans in the great State of Oklahoma and beyond.

"We have received really wonderful advice that we will be absolutely be following. All authorities are on the case and we feel confident that there will be resolution."

The attached image read, "When life gets hectic and you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to focus on the people and things you are most grateful for."

There were no more doubts expressed about Ruzycki's future in farming.

"I want to make it very clear that we are NOT giving up," he said in the Facebook post. "Our farm is our life and livelihood. We will do whatever it takes to rebuild and thrive not only for us but for our shareholders/customers."

He reaffirmed that resolve in the follow-up report on KOKH.

"The outpouring of support is everything to us," Ruzycki said. "It's the reason we're going to keep going."

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Lorri Wickenhauser, The Western Journal



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