Ruetenik Farms

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History of Ruetenik Farms

Elfrieda Ruetenik had roots in the small historic village of Zoar. Following the end of World War II she wanted to live there full-time, so her husband, Bernard Ruetenik, looked around for something to occupy his time after his upcoming retirement as a mechanical engineer. He and his son Gustave, still an engineering student at Cornell, settled on forestry and timber production, and they purchased an 80 acre tract outside of Zoar in 1947.

Tree seedlings and lots of other items were unavailable after the war, so they obtained spruce and fir seeds – “floor sweepings” – and grew their own seedlings behind the log cabin and on land near the local brewery. These were then transplanted to the new property to grow into standing timber.

Around this time Bernie was hired for an engineering project starting up in Brazil and Paris, and was out of the country for over two years. During his absence Gus grew to realize that growing lumber was not going to be profitable, and he migrated the operation to Christmas tree production. They harvested their first Christmas trees in 1953 after six years of growth.

Gus had a full-time job as an engineer for Ohio Bell Telephone, and lived and worked in the Cleveland area. On Friday nights, he and his wife Tish and their four children made the two hour drive to Zoar. They worked all weekend planting, shearing, mowing, and tending to the farm, then drove home Sunday night to start a new week.

In the early years all trees were sold wholesale to tree lot operators, but this proved to be unprofitable. Gus began retail sales in the mid-1960s, and had discontinued wholesale by the late 1970s. In 1981 he retired from Ohio Bell and moved to the farm full time, 35 years after his mother’s initial suggestion.

Retail sales was more work – keeping the fields neatly mowed and setting up for customer self-service – but ultimately more rewarding. He says, “This has really been a hobby that I work awfully hard at. It keeps me busy and it is always something different, and I like talking to people.” Gus sells an average of 1,000 trees each season with the help of several local high school students and his grown children and their families.


Christmas In Zoar

Christmas comes alive in this annual event of the Zoar Community Association. Carolers, crafters, and cooks bring back memories of Christmases of the 1850s village decorated for the holidays.  The town hosts a variety of artisans, craftsmen, and antique vendors. There's also tours of the village by horse-drawn wagon, caroling in the streets, traditional refreshments, and house tours. This event is a good place to start Christmas Shopping and enjoy the culinary treats of the season.

For information call 330-874-3011 or 800-874-4336. (Zoar Community Association,


Zoar Village

Zoar was a communal society founded by German religious dissenters in 1817. The Separatists, or Zoarites, emigrated from the kingdom of Württemberg in southwestern Germany due to religious oppression. The leader of the society was named Joseph Bimeler (also known as Joseph Bäumler or Bäumeler), a pipemaker from Ulm. His charismatic leadership carried the village through a number of crises.

An early event critical to the success of the colony was the digging of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The Zoarites had purchased 5,000 acres (20 km²) of land sight unseen and borrowed money from the Quakers in Philadelphia to pay for it. The loans were to be paid off by 1830. The Society struggled for many years to determine what products and services they could produce in their village to pay off the loans. The state of Ohio required some of the Zoarite land to be used as a right of way and offered the Zoarites an opportunity to assist in digging the canals for money. The state gave them a choice of digging it themselves for pay or having the state pay others to dig the canal. The Zoarites then spent several years in the 1820s digging the canal and thus were able to pay off their loans on time with much money to spare.

Bimeler's death in the 1850s led to a slow decline in the cohesion of the village. By 1898, the village voted to disband the communal society and the property was divided among the remaining residents

There are presently ten restored buildings in Zoar. A central flower garden is based on the Book of Revelation with a towering tree in the middle representing Christ and other elements surrounding it representing other allegorical elements.  (Wikipedia,,_Ohio)

Local Hero

Ruetenik Farms was in the news recently when Gus’ “wonder weiner" dog Forest helped return a lost ring to its owner.

·         The original story

·         The outcome




Last updated 8/21/2011