FILER — Much has happened in the past 100 years, including the Great Depression, world wars and farming depressions.
But through it all, Ramseyer Farms has survived and thrived, and is now recognized by the Idaho State Historical Society and Idaho State Department of Agriculture as a “Century Farm.”
Reaching century status takes a lot of hard work and a lot of luck, said Dave Ramseyer, the third generation to farm the land.
“It’s really difficult to maintain a farming operation from generation to generation to generation when you have multiple heirs and multiple families,” he said.
The family wasn’t even thinking about century status until a couple of years ago. Dave’s father, Duane Ramseyer, was looking at the farm deeds and realized it had nearly been 100 years since Dave’s grandfather, Homer Ramseyer, bought 160 acres on Sucker Flats north of Filer from Tom Costello for $27,000.
Qualifying for Century Farm and Ranch status takes some time; there are a few hoops to jump through, Duane said. You have to prove that at least 40 acres has been owned by the same family continuously for 100 years and still be in agricultural production — difficult if the family hasn’t held on to records or old deeds.
The line of ownership from the original settler or buyer may be through children, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces, including marriage or adoption. The present owners must live on the farm or ranch, or actively manage the land and activities.
Homer Ramseyer came to southern Idaho in 1913 as a bachelor from Ohio. He sewed grain sacks and slept in barns and hay stacks, Duane recalled.
Homer began working for Costello and eventually began farming some of the land on his own. In 1917, Costello — who was more of an investor than a farmer — sold the farm to Homer.
Afterward, Homer returned to Ohio during the winter of 1917 and married Viola Maye Steiner. Homer was always an entrepreneur, and recognized that he could earn a premium for selling early potatoes. The family dug potatoes at the end of August or early September, then loaded onto train cars in Filer.
When crop prices were low in the 1920s, Homer saw opportunities to add value to his operation by putting his crops through livestock. He would feed pigs — Duane remembers they had 750 pigs one summer — and sell them at the hog pool in Buhl every other week.
Starting in the 1930s, Homer bought 50-pound feeder lambs and brought them by rail to Rogerson in the fall. Duane and his brother, Don, would help jump the lambs out of double-decker train cars and then herd the lambs to the home farm where they would be fattened and sold the following spring.
But despite the family’s hard work, Homer almost lost the farm during the Great Depression. The bank in Twin Falls had threatened to foreclose on the Ramseyers when Homer called Tom Costello, by then a banker in northern California. Costello called Ramseyer’s bank to tell them Homer was good for the money — and the family kept the farm.
In 1957, Homer and his sons bought Antelope Springs Ranch near the Nevada border and expanded their cattle operation. The ranch was sold in the mid-1980s. Over the years, the family has raised alfalfa, wheat, barley, oats, ear corn, contract garden beans, potatoes and sugar beets.
Duane believes other farms in the Magic Valley are eligible for the recognition and he hopes they will look into the process. According to the ISHS, over 400 farms and ranches have been recognized since the program began in 1990.
The Ramseyers are looking forward to many more years on the farm. Dave’s son, Matt, has begun farming making him the fourth generation. And Dave hopes there will be a fifth generation of Ramseyers on Sucker Flats.
“It’s really difficult to maintain a farming operation from generation to generation to generation when you have multiple heirs and multiple families.” Dave Ramseyer, third generation farmer on Sucker Flats