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Growing New Traditions

The Ring Family Farm isn’t hard to find—especially during the winter holiday season. For the last two years, Phil and Brittany Ring have transformed their acreage eight miles west of Thompson, North Dakota, into a seasonally themed getaway open to the public and around a staple of December: Christmas trees. The husband-and-wife duo purchased their property in 2016 with a specific vision. Today, along with their children, friends, family and unique assemblage of farm animal companions, the Rings have realized more than they ever could have imagined. What started as a wish and a whim to live in the country and build a place that others might want to visit has become much more. Starting in late November and extending every weekend through December, the Ring Family Farm offers hayrides, ornament making for kids, bonfires, games, cookies, coffee, hot chocolate, and most important, the chance to pick up a fresh-cut Christmas tree, until the day comes when visitors can cut their own tree grown right there on the farm. It’s the type of set up and holiday atmosphere that feels as real and right as any seasonal recipe, decoration or activity we might break out in December. The Rings have created something that is hard to explain and even harder to duplicate. They did it by following their instincts, gut feelings and desires to give others something of value.

“Running a fresh-cut Christmas tree operation on a farm was always our vision,” Brittany says. “We’ve always enjoyed the traditional aspect of Christmas and getting the tree.”

From the beginning, Phil and Brittany knew their operation wouldn’t make them millions (the entry fee is nearly nothing), but they were certain their love of tradition-based memory making was a worthy and sought-after cause. Prior to acquiring their current set up, they experienced the frustration and heartache of finding, offering on and failing to buy a country property (three times).

Spend time around Phil, and its easy to understand why he was never deterred. His nice-guy smile and positive energy for the life he’s created—and has now opened up to anyone willing to drive to his farm—is impossible to ignore. Sometimes, one might wonder if his exuberance for his surroundings and willingness to make new experiences there has put more on his schedule then he can handle. Three weeks before the Rings were set to open for the season, a newly constructed lodge building meant to house a series of tables, refreshment stands, a fireplace and a decoration making area, was only in the idea stage. Dirt on the ground was still the floor at that time. A generator, a random spattering of tools and a big empty space inside the enclosed “lodge” were the only real signs of progress. But even then, only weeks away from opening for the season, with a cold chill in the air and a sun setting lower and lower every day, Phil and Brittany displayed the type of energy that can only be called contagious. They had a radiant confidence—as bright and shiny as a star at the top of a tree—that when they opened up their farm, that when they opened up their farm, lodge included, everything would seem magical.

Today, the lodge is up and running, decked out in memorable fashion. While they wait for their Christmas tree rows to fully mature, the Rings ship in unique and high-quality trees. Instead of cutting the perfect tree, patrons can walk rows and rows of decorated and on-display trees to find the right pre-cut tree. A bundling station wraps up the trees for transport. If Phil helps you with a tree or the bundling or anything else, you can bet he is smiling. The whole set-up feels nearly too good to be true, but Brittany has worked hard to make it feel that way. From the farm animals running around, to the mini-ponies, to the reindeer attractions, to the all-you-can-eat cookies (Phil didn’t want to limit the amount of cookies people could eat) to the general ambiance of being on a farm, in the country, during Christmas, with your friends and family, the whole thing feels like something you just need to do every year for the rest of time. It might be hard to understand why, but it feels right, and good and in need of repeating, exactly like all of our favorite traditions. G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here

PHOTOS BY Manstrom Photography From Issue 6, 2019


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