The Rural We: Suzanne Werner
A recent appointment to the board of Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon in New Lebanon, New York is in sync with Suzanne Heggie Werner’s mission of building a life that keeps her involved in community. She’s also on the board of Shakespeare & Company. A former securities and corporate lawyer, Werner practiced law before joining the CIA in 2001. She worked first in the Office of General Counsel and later served as the chief of the Chinese language branch of the East Asia Division in the Directorate of Operations. Now, she and her husband, Bob Werner, live on Green River Hollow Farm, raise alpacas and own Fluff, an alpaca wool store in Hudson. She tells us how she got from there to here.
We were living in Connecticut when I was practicing law, but we didn’t expect to be living that life. So we decided to apply all around the world to see what we could do. I applied and was accepted to the CIA. We arrived in DC just before 9/11, which changed (all) our lives. We were there for 10 years. I had studied Chinese in college, so I worked for the National Clandestine Service, running their Chinese translation program. My husband is an expert in money laundering and financial crimes. He headed up a couple of agencies in the Treasury Department, and then went into the private sector.
We moved to New York City in 2010, where my kids finished high school. We also had a house in West Stockbridge. After the kids left for college, we wanted to move up here, but didn’t know what we were going to do. We had thoughts of The Bob Newhart Show, where he owns an inn in Vermont, but that wasn’t for us. I’m a big knitter and had gone to the Dutchess County Sheep and Wool Festival, and was entranced. I thought: how about livestock?
We found this spot in Hillsdale, an old dairy farm, and committed ourselves to doing an animal thing. We first got chickens — they’re often a gateway animal — and got a view into a world we’d never seen. We loved it. I started to do research on sheep and alpaca; I wanted to make my own yarn. We met Steve McCarthy, who owned Spruce Ridge Farm in Old Chatham with his husband, Jeff Lick, who guided us. Within a few months, alpacas arrived, along with a guardian donkey and his best friend, who’s a llama. In line at the UPS store, I got to talking with a woman who asked me to take her old Icelandic horses. So now we have 13 alpacas, chickens, two old horses, a donkey and a llama. We shear the alpacas every April and have their fleece made into yarn.
This is our third winter with animals. It’s tough; things don’t always go our way. We just had another electric waterer break. You really have to commit to it, and go out and learn. It’s physically demanding, but that’s why they invented tools. I like being physically active; I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in many years. It’s so nice to be out and doing something different, really challenging and rewarding.
We got into retail when Jeff and Steve planned to close down their store, Spruce Ridge Alpaca, on Warren Street. We bought it from them in April and rebranded it as Fluff Alpaca. Our kids, niece and cousin have helped us with it. It’s fun — Hudson is a very cool town with so many interesting people.
I met Lacy Schutz, the executive director of Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon and got into a conversation. She asked me to be on the board, and I’m thrilled. Lacy is a dynamo and has a wonderful vision for the museum.
Moving here, I wanted to build a life that would keep us involved in community and keep us young, and I’m doing that. The only thing is, I’m really busy!
Support Rural Intelligence
We have always kept Rural Intelligence free for all our readers but the reality is that we do need the support of readers like you. Did you like what you just read? Do you value the unique content Rural Intelligence provides? Please consider making a donation to support us. Even a small donation helps secure our future!Support Now