Mark Ramsay, Founder and Executive Director
Hello, my name is Mark Ramsay. I am the 7th generation of the Lewis family to have continuously farmed our land in Southington, CT since the 1700s. Born at Bradley Memorial Hospital in Southington in the 60's, I am the second of three sons to Stewart and Sylvia Ramsay. I was raised in the small white farm house located on the Flanders Road farm where my great grandfather J.B. Lewis and Grandfather Frances Douglas Lewis were born. Growing up on the farm was a great experience. We were always outside playing and exploring. Whether it was catching a snake near the trout pond or looking for quartz on the ridge above the orchards there was always something new and interesting to do each day.
I have been working on the farm for as long as I can remember. One of my first jobs was to pick up bushels of wind-fall cider apples from the ground. The boxes were heavy, and when they were full I would drag them to the drive row. I didn't weigh much more than the box I was dragging. We were paid .10 cents a box and if we picked more than 30 boxes in a day we were paid .15 cents per box or $4.50 a day. This was my first memory that hard work has its rewards. I think my least favorite job that I had to do as a teenager was thinning peaches. The thinning of peaches means you pick off the extra peaches when they are the size of a quarter, spacing them every 6 to 8 inches on all the branches of the peach tree. We raised approximately 10 acres of peaches during this time and thinning was done in the beginning of summer. It was hot, boring and very itchy. Because of the number of peaches that needed to be thinned off and the itchiness of the peach fuzz, it seemed like we would never finish. This job taught me if you keep working steadily and look towards a goal you will feel a sense of accomplishment when the job is finished. My brothers and I were luckier than most kids. Our dad let us start driving the trucks and tractors on the farm as soon as our feet could reach the clutch and breaks. We might have run over a few things, and possibly we were the reason the trucks broke down some times, but no one ever got hurt. We eventually told our father about what we had done, even though it may have been 20 years after the fact. One of the nicest parts of growing up on the family farm was having the chance to work alongside my great grandfather, grandparents, parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. For a while on the farm there were four generations working side by side. They taught me so much about farming and even more importantly about life.
I am proud to say that I am a product of the Southington school system. I started in kindergarten the first year that Flanders Elementary School was open, then attended Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School, and graduated from Southington High School in 1979. We have a great school system in our town and a lot of well respected educators. I may not have gone to college, but my education continued while working on the farm with my father and siblings. I once said to my father that the mistakes that I had made while working might have cost less if I had gone to college. His reply to me was, "when you make a mistake and it comes out of your pocket, you'll tend to never forget that. Learn from your mistakes and remember them and they won't have cost you as much as you think". He was right. In farming you are always learning; and ongoing education is very important, farming is ever evolving and you need to be focused and at the same time open minded. The constant learning is just one of the reasons farming is so rewarding to me.
I had the good fortune in my early twenties to meet the pretty college girl named Maria who lived in the house at the end the corn field. I asked her out and five years later we were married. Together we built a house in the corn field on the family farm across from where she had grown up. Years later, we were blessed with two beautiful, intelligent, caring girls, Meghan and Morgan. Farming has given me the freedom to be there for my girls during the important times, available to go to their school for functions, sports, clubs or any other activity that may be going on in their lives. My older daughter Meghan became involved with the special needs programs at Southington High School in her freshman year. I didn't know it then, but she would teach me the real meaning of a the word "INCLUSION". She made it her passion, and now my passion to work with kids who may be a little different in one way or another. We are all different from each other, and we all have something to offer to each other. The reward is in seeing the joy and growth you have shared with someone else. My daughter Morgan, who is eight years younger than Meghan, has gone to all the functions that Meghan has been involved with. She has learned from her sister's example about the importance of inclusion as well. Morgan is a caring, giving young lady who always worries about others. I am very proud of my girls and know they will both be successful in whatever they do. I am sure that they will always keep the concept of inclusion close to their hearts and always give something to back to their community. I feel that I am truly blessed to have the family that I have.
I have worked full time on the family farm since 1979. The farm as well as the agricultural industry has gone through a lot of changes during my years of farming. We have always believed in diversification in our agricultural production. If it could be grown in Connecticut, then at some point my ancestors or I have probably either raised it or grown it on our farm. Some more recent changes in agriculture have been a move to sustainable farming, the locovore movement (this means eating food that has been grown in your community), the Southington Farmers Market and our CSA (community supported agriculture). These changes have added to my passion for working with the public as well as educating them about what I have learned during my years in farming. I love working with the public and find this to be one of the most rewarding aspects of farming.
This year (2014), has brought another change in the direction of the Lewis Family Farm. We will still be producing the high quality produce that the Lewis name has been know for, for over 230 years. With the help of some good forward thinking people in Southington, and myself, we have formed the L.E.A.F. (the Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm). The L.E.A.F. is indeed a place of inclusion where everyone has something to offer and where experiences connect us to each other and to the land that sustains us. I look forward to the future, and the rewarding experiences and relationships that will be formed by all of those who are involved with the L.E.A.F.in the years to come
Farm Manager and
Founder of the Lewis Educational Agriculture Farm