Above: Stewart (left) and Carl Ramsey have a passion for farm life — one they are happy to share. Photos by Lindsay duPhily
Stewart and Carl Ramsey put in long hours to maintain a family farm that dates to the Civil War. They also love giving people ‘a taste of what comes from the soil.’
By Ken Mammarella
Since 1860, the Ramseys have been farming along Ramsey Road in North Wilmington, and over six generations, the farmland and its products have evolved a lot. “Adapt or die,” explains Stewart Ramsey, who now runs Ramsey’s Farm with his son, Carl.
“It’s as much the experience as the product,” says Carl, who at 25 is a veteran of leading many of the experiences that are often called agritourism.
So, it’s no surprise that the farm’s top product is the experience — Scout outings, corporate and group events, birthday parties, educational tours, private evening events, fundraisers, a corn maze, hayrides, the Spookley Trail (named for the misfit pumpkin), barnyard animals, pumpkin painting, fundraisers and a farmyard playground, according to RamseysFarm.com. During an interview from the farm, they also talked about sorghum and hay-bale mazes, for younger kids — plus their Wagyu beef and produce stand.
“We have a passion for teaching where food comes from and what farm life is like,” says Carl, who lives on Ramsey Road.
“We give them a taste of what comes from the soil,” says Stewart, who lives in Cochranville, Pa., on land they also farm. “And maybe they’ll appreciate it and buy more from the stand.”
A few years back, Stewart told the Delaware Farm Bureau that he likes to talk about “the importance of agriculture, our values, and sharing the good story that farmers in our state and nation have in terms of stewardship, sustainability and the environment.”
Stewart, who’s now 58, took over the farm about 1990, just after he earned his first college degree in agriculture, and added pick-your-own pumpkins. A corn maze, hayrides, bonfires and school tours quickly followed. Pick-your-own strawberries and pick-your-own popcorn were tried and dropped. In 2020, they added the farm stand, open Fridays through Sundays with sweetcorn, popcorn and squash from their farm and a cornucopia of other locally sourced produce and products.
Some sweetcorn is donated to the Ministry of Caring, Lutheran Community Services and the Delaware Food Bank.
“I grow it to give back,” Stewart says. As part of his faith? “No, a sense of community. As a farmer, you have to have faith, because Mother Nature controls the show.”
Their most prominent new venture is Wagyu beef, the well-marbled beef associated with Japan.
“They’re the juiciest steaks you’ve ever had in your life,” Carl says. “We’ve had customers say they won’t order steaks out at restaurants anymore because they’ve been spoiled.”
Ramsey’s Farm sells beef at RamseysBeef.com and at the farm stand. They’ve been raising beef for about five years and the premium Wagyu for two. The Wagyu New York strip steak, for instance, is $42 a pound and is one of six cuts sold by waitlist only (meaning it depends when a cow of their herd of 50 or so is butchered).
This year, they added pick-your-own sunflowers, with part of sales benefiting Ukraine, where it’s the national flower. Next year, they’re planning on pick-your-own potatoes (loosened with a mechanical digger) and hoping to add a high tunnel (a low-tech greenhouse). Carl eventually wants to add cut-your-own Christmas trees, an eight-year commitment to let them grow.
They only own 10% of the land that they farm and lease the rest from First State National Historical Park and other landowners. The farm’s main public areas fan out uphill from the produce stand at 440 Ramsey Road: the playground, with a repurposed combine and tractor tires; the corral for feeding, petting and learning about animals; an open-air pavilion; a group of party tents; and a picnic grove with more than a hundred tables. The setup takes full advantage of their pastoral setting, with the lighting powered by generators and the water from tanks.
When Stewart took over the farm, he had a day job to fall back on. Today, he and Carl own the operation and draw full-time salaries from it. They employ one more full-timer and three part-timers.
Full time is relative for the Ramseys, with Carl explaining that his workweeks have hit 120 hours, and Stewart talking about a recent workday that began at 4 a.m. — and ended at 11 p.m.
“We love doing what we do. It’s a passion,” says Carl, who grew up on the farm and earned an agricultural degree from the University of Delaware.
And it’s a catchy passion, he believes.
“People are asking more and more about farming and where their food came from,” he says. “Friends who are stock traders are asking about buying land and growing food. It’s rewarding. Sometimes at the end of a hard day, I wander outside, pause and look. It’s pretty.”