ALLEGANY — In the 10 years Sister Joyce Ramage of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany has served as president of Canticle Farm, the all-natural, community-supported facility has grown and expanded — much like a healthy plant.
On Tuesday, Ramage announced her plans to retire in January as president of the farm, and will be succeeded by Sister Melissa Scholl, also of the Franciscan Sisters.
The nonprofit farm, owned by the Franciscan Sisters, comprises two field locations as well as a year-round market site at 3809 Old State Road that is currently open 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to the public.
When the farm started out 16 years ago under Sister Ann Rothmeier, with acreage on South Nine Mile Road, fewer services were available.
Under Ramage’s leadership, the farm added the Old State Road farm site, opened up the year-round market at that location and added high tunnels on South Nine Mile to extend the growing season. The farm also expanded its distribution to include shareholders from the Bradford, Pa., area.
Additionally, the popular Heavenly Harvest fundraiser, featuring a meal of fresh dishes supplied by the farm, also became an annual event.
Ramage, who was appointed by the Franciscan Sisters to replace the late Sister Fran Cardillo, admitted that in looking back she didn’t have much farming or business experience.
“I had an interest in caring for creation, of course, and this was like bringing a lot of that to life,” Ramage recalled.
“I never had run a business before, so I learned something about doing that.”
Ramage said the best part of running the farm was the relationships she developed with fellow employees, shareholders and customers. After a decade of hard work, however, she realized it was time to move on.
“I thought it was time for me to do something different,” Ramage said. “I don’t know what that will be, but I’m taking a couple of months off to get a little rest and relaxation.”
Kimberly LaMendola, chairperson of the Canticle Farm board, said that during Ramage’s tenure the farm not only succeeded, but also thrived.
“We’re sad to see Sister Joyce go, but we are so fortunate with the tenure and legacy she is leaving to the farm,” LaMendola said. “She has served this farm longer than any previous Sister. Her leadership, vision, compassion and commitment to the farm really demonstrated an amazing growth and diversity.”
LaMendola said the board is “thrilled to have Sister Melissa be our farm’s next president” as she is not only a native of Allegany but has been involved with the farm since its beginning. Over the years, Scholl served as a volunteer at the farm as well as on the board of directors.
Scholl said she, too, is looking forward to her appointment in January. She currently serves as volunteer coordinator at the Genesis House homeless shelter in Olean and is now training her replacement.
“It will be a new experience for me to be in leadership at the farm,” Scholl said. “I’m looking forward to working with the entire staff. It’s just remarkable the people they’ve put together.”
Farm manager Mark Printz said he believes Scholl will be a wonderful replacement for Ramage, thanks to her longtime involvement with the facility.
“It’s going to be a natural transition,” Printz said. “It will be real nice.”
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at email@example.com)