Meet a Farmer: Todd Ramos of Ramos Farms
Todd Ramos comes from a family of extraordinary farmers. His grandfather took a leap of faith at age 12. He traveled by himself from Spain to Cuba, then Mexico and finally California, by ship, train and foot in the early 1900s. He worked in various orchards in Winters, California and eventually met and married a young lady whose family also emigrated from Spain and came to California by way of Hawaii, where they worked in the sugar cane fields. Together the couple purchased 10 acres of farm land which had grown and flourished into 300 acres of prune and walnut orchards over their 57 years of marriage. The business currently consists of 750 acres managed by their decedents.
Today, the Ramos family legacy lives on as Todd Ramos manages the farm alongside his father with the same care for the land and passion that his grandparents demonstrated.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Todd: We are at the end of harvest, so we are performing all of the post-harvest day to day jobs. Today we currently have two different teams of employees going through our orchard. They are cutting out trees which died during the previous season that we marked through harvest, and they are stacking the wood and brush off to the side so we can get back to the stumps later.
We are preparing a field that will be planted with prunes next year. We are currently landplaning a piece of ground and are discing another piece of land that will be planted to prunes in a couple of years.
We will be spreading some gypsum today. We are picking up some roots from an open piece of land where we removed a walnut orchard. I’m also doing some paperwork. If we had talked during harvest, it would be a very different answer.
CA GROWN: What’s your favorite part about farming?
Todd: I really appreciate a few different things about farming. When I left Cal Poly SLO with an agriculture business degree, my parents pushed me to work somewhere else before I came back. They wanted me to experience either a different employer or a completely different industry to make sure that farming was what I wanted to do.
I ended up working in large market health insurance for about six years. I enjoyed it, but I always knew that I had to come back and try farming to find out if that was what I really wanted to do. What I liked most when I initially came back was being outdoors, the scientific aspects and of the biology of the trees.
I enjoy the fact that something is always changing year to year, new results from research come out and there are always opportunities to improve one’s business. You never stop learning and you never stop growing as a farmer.
Farming is a more time consuming profession than most. What I have grown to appreciate, and I didn’t realize until I matured and started my own family was that agriculture would allow me to work closely with my parents and be very active in my children’s daily lives.
When I look back on my life, I’m going to be grateful that I made the choice to work on the family farm. I feel being around family where you can have them involved on a consistent basis, is one of the most important things in life. It has allowed me the ability to spend a lot of time with my children. They are not yet involved because they are 8, 6 and 3 but they love being in the country. They love seeing the machinery and driving the gator throughout the orchards.
The family aspect is the most important as I enjoy having my family close by and being a true part of their lives.
CA GROWN: How do you give back to the community?
Todd: I’ve tried to be involved in the industry as much as I can. Since 2008 I’ve been a director on the board of directors of the Walnut Bargaining Association (WBA). The WBA is a grower-based organization which provide the industry with periodic overviews on the state of the walnut industry. It’s an arm of education, informing growers on both the international and domestic marketplace. I’m currently chairman of the WBA. Through my experience there, I started to become involved in the California Walnut Commission. I’m a board member on the Walnut Commission, serving on a few committees that I’d like to note. One is the Production Research Committee which works closely with UC Davis on new research from plant pathology and entomology to production. I’m also on the Market Development Committee and Issue’s Management Committee. The Issues Management Committee meets with U.S. trade and members of Congress to ensure the walnut industry has broad representation in Washington DC.
CA GROWN: What drew you into farming?
Todd: I grew up being a part of a farming family. I was drawn to the business because of my experience as a child. I didn’t grow up in the country, I grew up in the small town of Winters, California. Our farm was about three miles out of town, but I was out there as a child almost every day. I was a child who loved being outdoors, being a part of what was going on at the farm and was drawn to it because of my family background.
CA GROWN: What are your hobbies or past times when you are not farming?
Todd: Through a number of long-distance hikes that I’ve done internationally, I’ve become very interested in wildflowers. When I returned from my last extended trip, I started planting various wildflowers among the orchards. I would attempt to grow flowers that were not suitable for this region, and being a farmer, I should have known better. But when a packet of seed costs you $4 you don’t mind taking the risk for all that beauty.
One of my favorite things to do is planting large areas of wildflowers. I’ve planted along our orchards, where you’ll see rows of flowers on both sides of the road as you drive. You can add a true sense of splendor with flowers that you don’t often get to see.
I realized how wonderful California truly is because I was hiking in different areas around the world, noticing the wildflowers there, and then coming home recognizing that the state we live in has probably the highest abundance of diversified wildflowers in the world.
When I’m not working, I spend most of the time with my children. It’s my favorite thing to do and the most important and rewarding part of my life.
CA GROWN: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming a farmer?
Todd: I would say no matter what you do, do something that you enjoy doing.
If you want to get into farming, there are a lot of avenues you can take in agriculture. If you want to get established, you’ve got to start somewhere, and you can’t always immediately own property. Once you grasp farming in general, you’ll have ample knowledge to grow just about any crop.
When it’s all said and done, only do what you enjoy doing. If you can make a living at that, you’ll be content in life.
CA GROWN: What one or two things you do on the farm to be sustainable:
Todd: From a sustainability standpoint, whatever we put into the ground, we want the plant to up-take. We want to only use as many resources as our crop needs. We pay special attention with how much fertilizer is applied to the orchards and closely monitor our irrigation programs to make certain the nitrogen remains in the root zone.
We plant native vegetation that attract beneficial insects which in turn protect against crop threatening insects. We have implemented biological controls such as pheromone puffers to assist in mating disruption of insects to reduce the amount of necessary sprays annually.