Dade County Farm Bureau will honor Rutzke at 41st Annual Barbecue and “Fun” Raiser on Saturday, April 27
Barney Rutzke is a third generation farmer. He was born October 1947 in Homestead, Florida. His parents, Frederick H. and Emma B. Rutzke, raised five children. Barney had four siblings, Richard, Amelia, David, and Frederick Jr.
The Rutzke’s built their home on 248th street (Coconut Palm), just west of Krome Ave. The two story brick home still stands today and is somewhat of a landmark. Today they utilize the house and property for the family business, Railroad Nursery.
In 1902 Herman Rutzke, a German immigrant settled in Utah, where he worked as a coal miner. After losing his wife and two daughters in a tragic coal car accident, he and his seven year old son "Fritz", Barney's father, headed for South Florida. He had heard there was land open for homesteading in South Dade County.
He began farming tomatoes in the red soil pockets. In those days, Herman was using a mule and a plow to plant tomatoes. Things have changed
dramatically in the farming industry, but to this day, over 100 years later, the packing and shipping facility for the family business, Railroad Nursery, is located on the same parcel of land Herman had homesteaded.
I guess it could be said; the Rutzke family is "deeply rooted in Redland Soil".
Growing up in a farming family was educational; especially when you are 20 years younger than your oldest brother. Growing tomatoes and pole beans; everyone worked. There were no white collar jobs in agriculture in those years.
After school and weekends Barney would work alongside his mother in the bean fields doing what he could. His duties included giving out tickets, closing, weighing and stacking hampers (crates). Emma not only worked in the fields and the home, she handled the paperwork, as well.
Farming shut down during the summer months, it was too hot and wet. The Rutzkes didn't go off to far away places for vacations. They would head to the nearby Florida Keys to fish. As he grew older, the youngest of the Rutzke brothers would quail hunt the Dade County Pine stands and deer hunt in the Everglades.
Barney was born, raised and educated in Homestead, Florida where he attended Redland Elementary and Junior High School.
In the years prior to graduating from South Dade High School, he was in the agricultural class and a member of Future Farmers of America, (FFA). After graduating, Barney served his country in the National Guard.
In 1967 the farming family formed a corporation, F. H. Rutzke and Sons, Inc. In early adulthood, he pondered other ways to spend his life, as young men tend to do. It didn't take long for his father to talk him out of that notion.
The Rutzkes farmed 2,000 acres of tomatoes and pole beans on leased land. During profitable years, they would pool their money and purchase land to plant tree crops, avocados, limes, mangoes and carambolas.
By 1987 Fritz Jr. and Barney changed the company name to Rutzke Brothers, Inc. Row crops were going out, transitioning to tropical fruits was the plan. Fritz Jr. passed away in 1990, after which the corporation changed names to Barney W. Rutzke, Inc.
Currently, Barney and his son Barney Jr., own and operate a container plant nursery in the Redlands, Railroad Nursery, Inc. They started this venture in 2001. Specializing in growing finished, salable, flowering plants and foliage, Railroad Nursery represents the bulk of the family business. They ship heavily during the months of March, April and May. In addition the Rutzkes sell avocados harvested from family groves.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew decimated the Homestead farming community. Farms and business created through a lifetime of work were destroyed in hours. Navigating the next seven years was a challenge for the entire area, the Rutzkes were no exception. While buildings and property can be rebuilt relatively quickly, restoring fruit producing trees takes five to seven years. Barney and his family have adapted and persevered through many life changing events. His dedication to the farming lifestyle is the reason the Rutzke farming legacy continues in Homestead today.
The future looks bright for the family. Barney's son, Barney Jr., is leading Railroad Nursery, Inc. into the future utilizing the skills and lessons learned from his father and past generations of the Rutzke clan.
Barney Sr. has served the local farming community on a Farm Bureau Board and the Lime and Avocado Committee.
Barney and wife Sharon, raised two children, Barney Wayne and Dawn Deana in the Redland area. They both attended Redland Elementary and Junior High School, graduating from South Dade High School.
The Rutzke's are proud to have four grandchildren: Reava, Julian, Layla and Rory. Their great-granddaughter Cheyenne is the latest addition to the family.
When asked to summarize his life, Barney says "I feel blessed to have had the good health and opportunity to work hard my entire life. I believe a good life is attained through hard work and perseverance."