For my family, a tradition was started on Black Friday, but it was not to fight the crowds at Walmart. It was to go to the Ramsay Tree Farm to select a Christmas tree for the house. We have always purchased our Christmas trees from there and even in my younger years I remember going there and getting a tree cut down out in the field, the worker throwing it on the 4-wheeler, and then throwing it in the back of the truck. It really is a fun time walking down the rows of trees, taking pictures, and enjoying a beautiful day on the farm. That all got me to thinking, how did this all start, when did this start, and what is some of the history of the farm. Autumn Bowden was gracious to answer some of those questions for me.
1. Autumn, when did the Ramsay tree farm begin operations and what are some of the first memories you have on the farm?
The first trees were planted in 1978 by her father John Ramsay and the very first memory I have is stopping by the farm on our way home from church one Sunday, I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, and it had been raining a lot. To get to the trees you had to go through a low spot. It was flooded, so my dad told me to get in the bucket of the front end loader. So being an obedient child, I climbed in the bucket, in my dress & he took me to the field! When we first started choose and cut, the fields were on the west side of Ramsay Rd, south of I-10. Customers parked their cars from the field to along side the interstate. I remember being in awe of all of the cars parked and how many people flocked in. They would go out, cut their tree, carry it back to the office, and stand in a long line with their families holding their trees.
A part that is truly one of my best memories are the amazing help we have had over the years. My dad contacted a local gentleman, Dub Ladnier, to come help my mom with the operation process when he first started. Mr. Dub ran a tight shift. To this day I can hear him saying “grab that tree”, “don’t let me see those brake lights before you get that tree”. He had two daughters, Cecil and Myrtle, and a son, John Milton. He called them to come help out one day and to this day, Cecil & Myrtle are still there every season. I am not sure I could do it without them. Through the years their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews have all worked at the farm.
John Cutts, a local pilot who was dad’s friend, would fly over the farm in his helicopter (crop duster) & drop candy, then his “elves/helpers” would parachute & land at the farm. Mr. Cutts would land the helicopter (dressed in his Santa suit) and come visit with this kids. My Uncle Kenny Kirchoff experimented with colored flocked trees. The customers asked for it, so he tried it, but not much interest was shown.
We continue to love seeing our return customers year after year as well. It is like a reunion. I have some who still tell me they remember when I was my daughters age, passing out price lists. We have the absolute best customers, and we look forward to seeing them each year. We have laughed and cried with many of them as they share stories and losses of loved ones,gaining new son-in-law’s, daughter-in-law’s and grandchildren. Many have kept up the tradition, some going on their 3rd and 4th generation.
2. What was your first job and how have the kids today joined into the business
It was the early 80’s before the trees were ready to harvest, so I was old enough to be involved in greeting customers, handing out flyers & directing them to the fields. I do remember struggling when we were busy and shorthanded having to cut down a tree or two. Now, many cousins, nieces, nephews and now my own children have all worked at the farm. We try to keep it operating with as many family members as possible. My daughter is on her 4th year of greeting customers. My son is anxious to cut, but right now, we keep him busy around the front office. He still needs one more year before My husband and I think he is ready to cut.
3. What is the largest tree you remember selling on the farm?
25 feet at least. That was just a few years ago and it took a tractor, an army of workers and lots of sweat to get it cut & loaded. I still wonder how that family got it in their house and standing.
4. After the selling season is over, what goes into getting prepared for the next season?
My husband and I only work during the operating/harvesting season (Thanksgiving Day-Christmas). Mr. Tommy Ellett has been the year-round farm manager since day one. He and his crew plant 1,000 plus seedlings in January every year. They trim them twice a year (spring & fall), keep the fields maintained, grass mowed, as well as so much more year round. They work hard to have everything ready for us to start selling trees on Thanksgiving Day.
Autumn expressed a huge thankfulness to not just her immediate family but also her church family that has worked the farm over the years as well as her husband who jumped right in. The Ramsay Tree farm will be open Thanksgiving Day at 9:00 a.m.