Carol Haramis's family has owned a farm for 5 generations that is now an agro-tourism farm. They raise Christmas trees, day-lilies, and pumpkins. They also produce maple syrup and hold festivals on the farm. In this 2011 interview, Haramis discusses the history of the family farm and details some of the work required to run the farm.
Haramis, Carol (interviewee)
Fish, Shiah (interviewer)
Cuyahoga Valley Project
"Carol Haramis Interview, 02 March 2011" (2011). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 518007.
Transcription sponsored by Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Carolyn Conklin [00:00:03] Today is March 2nd, 2011. Shiah, go ahead.
Shiah Fish [00:00:08] My name is Shiah Fish, and today I'm interviewing...
Carol Haramis [00:00:10] Carol Haramis.
Shiah Fish [00:00:11] And would you mind spelling that for us?
Carol Haramis [00:00:11] Yes, it's H-A-R-A-M-I-S as in Sam.
Shiah Fish [00:00:19] So tell us, well, we're going to start kind of from the beginning. Just tell us a little bit about your farm.
Carol Haramis [00:00:26] We have 115 acres. I'm the fifth generation on the farm. We raise Christmas trees, daylilies, pumpkins. We also do a harvest festival in the fall. My husband makes maple syrup. It's a agrotourism farm. You know.
Shiah Fish [00:00:47] And your family has been on for a while I guess?
Carol Haramis [00:00:52] One hundred and sixty three years we have.
Shiah Fish [00:00:55] Can you tell us where around... same area and farm?
Carol Haramis [00:00:59] Same farm. My great-great-great uncle Lawson Waterman came to this area in 1833 and was in Cleveland for a while, learning, building with sandstone and learning, working with Cleveland quarries, and then eventually came here in the early 1840s and started buying land, including the quarries that are now part of the Metropark, and he started farming.
Shiah Fish [00:01:32] What made him want to start farming?
Carol Haramis [00:01:36] I think it was a combination of that was the way most people supported themselves and he just, he liked the land. He had the quarries they farmed. He also was one of the largest canal boat builders in the area. And the farm was the way that they supported their day to day living.
Shiah Fish [00:02:02] How long have you been farming or living on the farm?
Carol Haramis [00:02:05] I grew up there. I was born here in the area and have lived my whole life on the farm.
Shiah Fish [00:02:13] What's your earliest memory of farming on your farm?
Carol Haramis [00:02:18] My earliest memory of living on the farm actually had to do with some Black Angus that my dad was raising, and he had a big bull named Prince when I was three, and I would not lay down to take my nap in the summertime. And so they would take me out and put me on the back of the bull and I would sleep straddling the bull's back and he would just very quietly wander around the pasture. And when I woke up, he would walk over to the gate for my mom or dad to take me off his back.
Shiah Fish [00:02:55] You mentioned that the farm does pumpkins, daylilies, Christmas trees, but you also just mentioned that there were other types of endeavors?
Carol Haramis [00:03:04] Every generation has done something a little different and it's always something to make the farm profitable. So Lawson Waterman, they raised your typical crops. He had sheep and cows and chickens, and they did wheat and oats and corn. And then the next generation, he was more of—that would have been my great grandfather Charles—and Charlie was more of a gentleman farmer and he leased out a lot of the land, but they still did maple syrup, and different farmers that leased the land grew different crops and they raised cattle and all that typical farming stuff. And then the next generation would have been my grandfather. And he didn't want anything to do with farming, so he rented the entire farm and he moved to Cleveland and lived in Cleveland. My dad, when he was 27 or 28, moved, married my mom. He wanted to farm, so they moved here to the farm and he took over farming, and I learned everything I know from him.
Shiah Fish [00:04:25] So every season you guys do the Christmas trees, the pumpkins, the daylilies.
Carol Haramis [00:04:30] Correct.
Shiah Fish [00:04:31] What are the advantages, well not even advantages. Can you just kind of explain your day-to-day seasonal?
Carol Haramis [00:04:38] Okay, we're coming out of our down season. You know, Christmas Eve we close the the Christmas season, and then we spend basically January, February, and the first part of March housecleaning and doing, you know, traveling and that type of thing. And then mid-March we go in to cleaning up the fields from the tree seasons, getting the fields ready to plant. We plant in mid April, and then as soon as the ground's dry enough to start mowing, we are mowing Christmas tree fields for the entire summer and fall. I open my daylily business. I have almost 300 varieties that I sell in the summer. The daylily business opens the second weekend in March, or I'm sorry in June. We're also going to be having a Wednesday farmer's market for area farmers that'll be starting the 15th of June. And the daylily sales go from June through August. Farmer's market will go until the first part of October. As soon as we close in August, we tear apart the daylily beds, replant them for sale for the next year, and immediately start setting up for our our fall harvest festival, which we call Pumpkin Pandemonium. And we sell pumpkins and mums and cornstalks and straw bales, all the harvest decoration things on the weekends. We have made a scavenger hunt, all kinds of activities for the kids. And then Saturday evenings we have haunted hayrides, and that's what we've done for fall for probably twenty years. We raised our own pumpkins up until about six years ago. And the deer population here in the Valley, because there's no... Because of the national park, there's no hunting, so the deer population the last few years we raised pumpkins decimated our pumpkin crop. So we now buy our, actually buy our pumpkins from southern Ohio farmers and do our fall harvest. And then as soon as Halloween gets here, we have a week to take all of the Pumpkin Pandemonium things down and get set up for Christmas tree sales. And we start selling Christmas trees the weekend before Thanksgiving, and we're open seven days a week all the way through until Christmas Eve.
Shiah Fish [00:07:09] What kind of Christmas trees? What kind of species?
Carol Haramis [00:07:13] We raise white pine, scotch pine, blue spruce, and we also have a test field in right now of Canaan fir. The problem with the fir tree... growing the fir trees here is the deer love 'em. They love to eat 'em. So we have that area fenced and so far the fence is keeping 'em out. But it doesn't look like it's gonna be a real good crop for us because we'd have to put ten-foot fences up around all of our a Canaan fir fields. So we partner with a couple southern Ohio farms to bring in Fraser fir and Douglas fir.
Shiah Fish [00:07:48] Is there a certain type of tree that I guess sells the most?
Carol Haramis [00:07:54] For cut-your-own, scotch pine is pretty much the favorite right now, although blue spruce is not too far behind. And then in our precut trees, Fraser fir is by far the the best seller.
Shiah Fish [00:08:09] Do you have particular kind of favorite?
Carol Haramis [00:08:10] I love Fraser fir. I wish I could grow 'em on the farm.
Carolyn Conklin [00:08:14] Can you describe what makes thoses trees different?
Carol Haramis [00:08:17] They're very fragrant. They're a short needle like the blue spruce, but they're not a sharp needle so they're very easy to decorate. They're kid-friendly. They're... They look like your typical Christmas tree, you know, your traditional Christmas tree. They're very nicely shaped and they hold the ornaments really, really well, and it's just a really nice tree.
Shiah Fish [00:08:45] You said that you learned all of your techniques from your father. How from that period to I guess now, have the techniques changed or has the technology changed a lot?
Carol Haramis [00:08:57] Oh, wow. Yeah, when my dad first started planting Christmas trees, I was... Well, he put the first crop in the year before I was born. And when he first started the Christmas tree farm, it was... The whole Christmas tree business was just really getting going in Ohio. And they had to build their own tree planters. They didn't mow the fields as much as we do now. We're into precision planting. We plan our trees on six and a half foot centers so we can mow in both directions. We're constantly mowing our fields to keep grass down because I don't like to use herbicides. So we mow to keep the trees from getting choked out by the grass. They didn't spray as much for diseases back when my dad was raising trees because the varieties that we grow in Ohio hadn't grown here that long. So they hadn't attracted these diseases. And now the different varieties get different bugs and different diseases and they're all throughout the state, so we're we're having to do some insecticide spraying and some some fungicide spraying. And tractors are just, you know, they're easier to handle. They're, you know, you've got power steering on your tractors and they just run a little better. I can remember my dad all the time being in the barn repairing something. And things are made, in some senses they're made a lot better now. And in other senses, it's more of a disposable market now. So some of the... Some of the tractor parts and things are just, you know, they're made for a year or two and then they break.
Shiah Fish [00:10:46] You you said your family has been there since 1844, I believe?
Carol Haramis [00:10:51] 1833.
Shiah Fish [00:10:51] Sorry.
Carol Haramis [00:10:52] Yeah.
Shiah Fish [00:10:53] Is there any of the original houses or buildings or is that a special place to you or you know, the farm, per se?
Carol Haramis [00:11:01] The barn, the original barn is still there. And actually when the family moved here, that was the first building that was put up and it's been in continuous use since 18... Well, he actually settled in Peninsula in 1844. You're right. And that barn was finished in 1846, and the family kind of hung out there where they built the first house up on top of the hill. And the house I live in is... It's the original farmhouse, but every generation has added on to it, so it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Shiah Fish [00:11:45] So you said that you've lived in the Cuyahoga Valley all your life. Could you just tell us how it's changed over time as well?
Carol Haramis [00:11:58] Well, first of all, with the park coming in, there's a lot more people in the Valley. I think they had over four million visitors here last year. And Peninsula gets a lot of them. So it's a real busy place now. When I was growing up, I'd get up in the morning on the weekend and saddle up my horse and I would be gone all day long. I'd tell my parents what direction I was going in and there were farms all up and down the Valley so we could ride from one end of the Valley to the other without ever going on the road. And now between, you know, farms being sold and being broken up and housing developments going in and the park land, you really can't go anywhere now without without going on the road. We don't... We actually don't even have horses anymore because it just got to the point where, you know, I didn't like riding on the road to have to get to a specific trail. Let's see, how else is it changed? There's not as much farming. You know, when I was growing up, there were a number of farm families in school and it was kind of nice because you'd come in on Monday morning, and, you know, some of your friends had been out doing fun things on the weekend. And those of us that were farmers had been baling hay or doing something over the weekend. And we kind of understood what the lifestyle was. And now there's... There just aren't farm families anymore. And a lot of people don't understand the lifestyle, especially in an urban county like Summit County.
Shiah Fish [00:13:31] Do you miss just saddle up your horse and ride?
Carol Haramis [00:13:34] Oh, yeah, yeah, I do. It's... It was a very relaxing thing to do and... But it just got to the point where my husband and I both for a while, we're working internationally, and it was very difficult to find people that knew how to take care of the horses. And so when the when our last horse died, we just decided not to get any more. We pulled up the fence and the horse pasture became my daylily area and and we started rescuing and raising dogs. So we're doing that now. And it's a little different lifestyle.
Shiah Fish [00:14:15] You said that you... Going back to the daylilies, you said that you harvest over 300 different kinds?
Carol Haramis [00:14:20] I have 300 different varieties. Most of them are hybridized by other people. I don't do any of the hybridization. I let them... That's too much like science, and I didn't like science in school. So, I let other people hybridize them and then I pick out the prettiest ones and bring them up and cultivate them and propagate them and sell 'em as a... It's a retail business. I don't do any wholesale.
Shiah Fish [00:14:49] I guess on to the retail. So, you sell, like where do you sell your, how's business, where do you sell the daylilies, where do you sell pumpkins?
Carol Haramis [00:14:57] The daylilies, people actually come and they go through the gardens and they pick out the varieties they want. They make a list and then we actually dig them right out of the garden. They take them home, bare root, and plant them in their gardens. And daylilies are really nice because they they double and triple as the years go by. And so they just kind of keep multiplying on their own. And I try and keep about three hundred varieties. So every two or three years I'll discontinue 30 or 40 varieties and bring in 30 or 40 new ones. And that way my customers always have new selections and it turned out to be a really fun business. Daylily customers are really interesting people and they're very friendly. And it's a fun business to be in.
Shiah Fish [00:15:44] You mentioned that you... We're going to kind of go off the path here for just a second here, but you mentioned you had worked internationally. Could you describe what kind of work?
Carol Haramis [00:15:58] I did some work with an area foreign exchange program for a number of years. My husband and I have hosted twenty-three students through a couple of programs. And for a while I was working with these exchange programs, interviewing students in other countries and doing that type of thing. And then for a while I was doing a little bit of international business development in Mexico. I had been an exchange student in Mexico when I was in high school and was working with one of my host brothers down there for a number of years.
Shiah Fish [00:16:35] That's quite different from farming.
Carol Haramis [00:16:37] Yeah, it is.
Shiah Fish [00:16:38] How did you get into that besides, you know, being an exchange student, younger or younger?
Carol Haramis [00:16:44] Actually, I started doing business down in Mexico. The Ohio Christmas tree growers were looking into the possibility of exporting some Christmas trees to Mexico, and they sent me down to Mexico to a trade show to see if we could find customers and get into that market. And while I was down there, I met some Mexican businesspeople that wanted to start doing some business in Mexico or I mean, in the United States. So I just started working back and forth with all kinds of different groups.
Shiah Fish [00:17:17] Thinking back on your years in the Valley, what's the strongest memory you have related to farming?
Carol Haramis [00:17:27] I think my best memory is being able any time during the day that I wasn't doing homework or had other responsibilities around the house, being able to get on my horse, go find my dad and work with my dad. And from the time I was old enough to go to the field with him right up until he passed away in 2007, we were... We always worked together out in the fields and in the woods.
Shiah Fish [00:17:56] So your father was really integral on your being brought up on the farm?
Carol Haramis [00:18:00] Oh, absolutely.
Shiah Fish [00:18:02] How was it working next to hi? What did you learn from him?
Carol Haramis [00:18:05] Well, he taught me everything I know about raising Christmas trees and taught me a lot about good forestry management. We have probably 60 acres of woods that we're managing and occasionally we'll do some select cuts for lumbering and just taking care of the land. It's in some senses, it's a big responsibility being in charge of this wonderful piece of property that has come down to me and in other senses, it's just a delight to be able to be outside on great sunny days when a lot of my friends are sitting in offices somewhere, you know, and being able to also work for myself and set my own schedule. You know, if I know something's coming up that I want to do or there's a trip I want to take or a conference I want to go to, I know I can set my own schedule and work out things most of the time so that I can take the time off that I want to take off without really having to answer to anybody else. Although there are times on the farm that you just don't go, you know, if a particular insect is active and it has to be sprayed on the Christmas trees, you can't do it on Saturday because you have time. If they're active on Tuesday, you're out there on Tuesday and forget whatever plans you had. So it's... Probably the best thing about farming is, you know, being able to to be outside all the time and enjoy all the nature.
Shiah Fish [00:19:48] So your dad was intergral to you, but you said that your grandfather wanted nothing to do with the farm or wanted nothing to do with farming?
Carol Haramis [00:19:55] He was not a farmer. He was an accountant. And when he was old enough, he married a local girl here and they moved to Cleveland and he worked for a couple of companies in Cleveland. And they would spend summers out here and sometimes they would come out from Cleveland for the weekends. But he just wasn't a... He wasn't a country boy. He really liked the life in Cleveland and that's where he wanted to be.
Shiah Fish [00:20:25] So then, how did your father learn to be a farmer?
Carol Haramis [00:20:30] Because he grew up here Summers.
Shiah Fish [00:20:31] Oh.
Carol Haramis [00:20:31] He spent summers here and he actually went there were a couple of years that they actually lived out here for the entire year, but growing up summers and being on the farm and he really got to love the land and decided that that's what he wanted to do.
Shiah Fish [00:20:48] And do you have any other relatives that are faring with you, or is this your...
Carol Haramis [00:20:52] No, it's... My husband and I run it, and there's some local kids that help us on the farm. But it's just the two of us. My brother didn't want any any part of it. He lives out in Oklahoma and has no desire to have anything to do with it. And I've got some cousins that are... One lives in New York and one lives in Vermont. And they're very attached to the farm but their life is where they are now. And they come out as often as they can, and when they're here, they help. But the day-to-day running of the farm is my responsibility.
Shiah Fish [00:21:29] Do you have any other worries about the farm life or anything in the Valley or anything that really has like embodied your experiences here? I don't know, did you miss anything?
Carol Haramis [00:21:40] No, I don't think so. I think, you know, we kind of... We're I'm trying to think if there's any other stories that are real... Well, I guess one of the reasons that I really like being in farming, especially in an urban county, the first year that we started selling pumpkins, we had a big patch and we put our patch in the front yard. So it was real visible. We had about two acres of pumpkins. And I think that year we had something like 800 or 900 pumpkins in the front yard. And a mother came in with her three kids and had them pick what they went out into the patch and picked their own pumpkins. And she said the reason that she brought her children to our place was because they had been walking down the aisle in the grocery store and the pumpkins were all sitting in the grocery store. And she mentioned that she had seen an ad in the newspaper for a place where they could go pick their pumpkins out of the patch. And her son looked at her and said, oh, Mommy, pumpkins come from the grocery store. And so, you know, for us, it was really a great experience to show these kids where these things really come from.
Shiah Fish [00:22:56] What's the largest pumpkin you guys have sold?
Carol Haramis [00:22:59] Oh, I think our biggest one was only like about 50 pounds. You know, we don't do the super huge ones.
Shiah Fish [00:23:05] We just walk in the.
Carolyn Conklin [00:23:10] So let's let's go back to growing up on your parents' farm.
Carol Haramis [00:23:16] Okay.
Carolyn Conklin [00:23:18] Can you just tell us, so what did it feel like to be there? What did the farm look like?
Carol Haramis [00:23:21] Well, the farm was bigger because in 1979 we were forced to sell 140 acres to the national park. But when... So when I was growing up, it was a 250-acre farm. And my dad had Christmas trees on most of the farm. So we would... You never knew what part of the farm he'd be working in. And it was it was really kind of fun. We had a huge maple tree that was right outside our kitchen door, and I would climb up the maple tree, probably three-quarters of the way up, and from that spot, you could see the entire farm. And so if Mom needed to get a message to Dad, because of course there were no cell phones then, I'd climb up the tree, find out where Dad was, come back down, saddle up my horse and I'd ride out to get him. And, you know, that was always kind of fun because that meant I got to use my horse, you know, at different times. And the fun thing about growing up on the farm was, I mean, it was a different era. You didn't have to worry about your kids being out by themselves. And we'd get up on a Saturday morning and pack our peanut butter and jelly sandwich and go hiking in the woods or get on the horses and go wherever. And and the rule was you were home, washed, in your seat at six o'clock for dinner. And if you'd been out on the horses, you were back in time that the horses were groomed and they were cooled down and they were fed before you were in your seat. And... But, you know, we knew six o'clock, boy, you're, you're at dinner. That was the big thing. The other thing on Saturday, Sunday mornings in summertime, horses had to be fed by eight o'clock. By the time I was a teenager, it was like, we don't care how late you sleep in, but you will be up and out and those horses fed by eight o'clock. So I'd drag myself out of bed at seven o'clock on a Saturday morning, go down and do all the chores and then come back and just kind of slide right back into bed and sleep till ten or eleven o'clock like most teenagers do.
Carolyn Conklin [00:25:39] Oh, I have... Go ahead.
Shiah Fish [00:25:49] I had another question but I wasn't sure if...
Carolyn Conklin [00:25:52] Can you describe the horses?
Carol Haramis [00:25:56] We started out, I always wanted horses, and Dad would not let me get my own horse until I was big enough to take care of it. So when we were 10, we boarded horses for the winter from a local day camp. And the only one of... There were four of us kids. The only one that took care of the horses was me. So I was the only one that was allowed to get a horse when I was 12. And my first horse was a big bay gelding. I bought it from one of the neighbors. He cost me a hundred and twenty-five dollars at 12 years old. My dad loaned me the money and I had to pay him back. And so I think I'm trying to remember, I think I paid him five dollars a month. And the day I got him, Dad drove me down to the neighbors' and we saddled him up and I rode him home. And I had him until I went away to college. And at the time then I had to sell him and I wound up giving him to a neighbor because I wanted him to stay in the area, and then—I was only gone for college for a year—I came back and moved back home and went to Akron U. and Kent State, and so as soon as I got back, I got another horse and I had a buckskin named Cloud. And we had him... I got him when he was 11 or 12 and he lived to be 32. And then when I met my husband, he grew up riding, and so I would borrow a neighbor's horse so that he and I could go riding, and then when we got married, his grandfather gave us a horse as a wedding present, which I'm not sure whether that was really a good present or not, but it was a fun horse. And we had those two horses right up until, I'm trying to think when it was that Cloud died, it was probably mid-'80s. And at that point we were working internationally and just decided that we weren't going to we weren't going to do the horse thing anymore because there wasn't anybody around to help us at that point.
Shiah Fish [00:28:05] Is there a specific legacy that you want to leave the Valley or farming or your future?
Carol Haramis [00:28:20] I like the idea that the Valley's gonna remain the Valley, you know. When the when the park was first proposed, there were a lot of people in the Valley that were very skeptical about the idea that it would be a solid city from Cleveland to Akron. And, you know, I'll admit, we were angry and devastated when we lost half the farm. And... But seeing what's happened over the years, you know, they were right. It would have been. It would have been one solid city from Cleveland to Akron. And it's nice to know that the Valley is going to be protected. And, you know, I plan to farm as long as I can, and we're kind of working with some of the local kids in the area. And we're not real sure exactly yet what the next generation of the farm is going to look like and what the makeup, how the farm is going to continue to be a farm, but as far as I'm concerned, we're going to make sure that it stays a working farm for as long as we possibly can, hopefully, you know, generations to come.
Shiah Fish [00:29:39] Is there a particular new endeavor that you were getting into?
Carol Haramis [00:29:46] My dad always wanted to see the farm be used for educational purposes. And so we're starting to develop some programs for home schoolers. I put together a couple of programs that I haven't had a chance to do yet for creative writing. So we'll be doing some workshops and starting to to do a little more of an educational twist to what we're doing. But farming, you know, they'll still we'll still be grown crops and in harvesting lumber and, you know, doing what we're doing and and just start teaching. Some of the kids know how it's done.
Carolyn Conklin [00:30:30] What do you some of the most important things to teach the children?
Carol Haramis [00:30:38] I think more than anything else, it's caring for the land and in realizing that more houses aren't necessarily progress and that it's not a resource that will just automatically renew itself, it needs to be taken care of. And also the... Just the basic idea that it's hard work to farm and it's hard work to grow the things that we need in this country. It's one of the reasons why we started doing a farmers market. We wanted to give the local farmers a location to sell what they're growing and also to give the the people in the area the opportunity to really find out where their food's coming from. And a lot of people just don't understand, you know, and you know, they'll look at a farm. The perception is just from the fact that a farmer has a lot of land that they're wealthy, and they don't understand the costs and the hard work and everything that goes into it. And what I tell... What I've told some people in the past is that, you know, I can't eat dirt. You know, that it's a lot of hard work. And a lot of times I work weeks at a time and I don't make a penny. So it's... You've got to love what you're doing in order to do it. And also understand that, you know, if you had breakfast, lunch or dinner today, you need to thank a farmer because that's where your food came from.
Carolyn Conklin [00:32:29] Can you tell us the process of selling your products at a farmers market?
Carol Haramis [00:32:36] What we do more than anything else, I mean, I sell my daylilies during the time that we do the farmer's market and but we also provide the location for other farmers to come in. We have an area right down by the road that we've cleared and graveled. And we put out solicitations for local farmers and they apply to us and we pick the ones that we feel will be the high-quality farmers that we would like to have represented. And then they're... They'll pay a membership fee. They come in and they have a ten by ten spot that they can set up a booth to sell what they grow. And it you know, it's really nice. For four, five years, we partnered with the Countryside Conservancy and we had the farmer's market and then it outgrew our location and they went ahead and moved their Saturday market four miles down the road to Howe Meadow. And after two years of not having a market, we decided we wanted to do a Wednesday market on a little smaller scale than what we had done with Countryside. And so this year will be our first Wednesday market. We already have a large number of requests for vendor space. So it looks like it's going to be a nice-sized market and it gives the the farmers a chance to come in and show what they grow and sell, what they grow. And for the customers to get a chance to talk to the people that are growing their food. And it's a great opportunity to run from 3:30 to 7 on Wednesday nights. And it'll you know, it's just going to be a really, really fun get together and a chance for people to get to know the people that are growing their food.
Carolyn Conklin [00:34:33] What products do you expect to have to sell there?
Carol Haramis [00:34:35] Fruit, vegetables. There are some... We will have a baker who'll be doing breads and pies. Bedding, plants, perennials. I'm not sure whether we have anybody coming in to sell honey. We're still getting our vendors right now. We have somebody that'll be doing soy soaps, soy-based soaps and lotions. Some prepared food, we have a woman who does pierogies who's going to be there. It's a whole mix, but a lot of fruit and fruits and vegetables, you know, locally grown fruits and vegetables,
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