Darlene and Marion “Butch” Augspurg own and operate a Christmas tree farm, The Branch Ranch, in Philadelphia, MO. They love to share the Christmas spirit and have been able to do that through their farm for a quarter of a century after retiring. They attribute their health and ability to keep going strong to the great care they receive from Quincy Medical Group.
Darlene and Marion “Butch” Augspurg’s story started over 60 years ago. Both are from small towns in Missouri. They got married and went on to raise three children. They share many things, including a love for Christmas. They never could have imagined where that love would take them.
Several years ago, the couple was on one of their frequent trips from their Philadelphia, MO, home to Columbia, MO, where Darlene’s father was in the hospital. On their path one day, something caught their eye.
“On the way there, we would always drive by a Christmas tree farm. I looked at Butch and said we should do that. I just love Christmas and thought it would be fun,” Darlene said.
The couple was ready for their next adventure. Darlene had retired after working for 38 years as a bus driver and 25 years as a realtor, while Butch retired from his career as a kitchen and bath designer. Neither had experience in the Christmas tree business, and the learning curve was steep.
“We planted 500 trees in the spring of 1990. Considering it takes roughly seven to eight years for a Christmas tree to grow to be five to six feet, the first trees were sold in 1997,” Butch said.
That first year, they sold 25 trees.
“That’s all the family we had,” he said with a laugh.
“We had no idea what we were doing, so we had to learn everything from scratch. We reached out to the Missouri Christmas Tree Association for help, and we were so grateful for them,” said Darlene.
For 27 years now, the Branch Ranch has been going strong. This past season, they sold over 650 trees — a big change from that very first year, and they hope to keep the business strong for years to come.
For the Augspurgs, the hard work has been worth it because, while The Branch Ranch is certainly in the Christmas tree-selling business, it’s always been more about giving their community a little bit of the Christmas spirit.
“I get asked a lot how much longer we’re going to do this and I always say, ‘It depends,’,” Darlene said. “I hope I’m out here doing this when I’m 100. That would be great.”
Home Is Where the Health Is
They said they’ve been blessed with their health to keep them going strong and say Quincy Medical Group (QMG) has a lot to do with that. They’ve been patients of the clinic for over 30 years. Before QMG opened its 1025 Maine St. building, the couple saw their doctor at the former location at 14th and Maine St., now home to the Quincy Public Schools Board of Education office.
For years, they were patients of retired QMG Internal Medicine Physician Dr. John Scott. They now see his colleague Dr. Gregory Andrews.
“We were patients of Dr. Scott’s for over 30 years. We started seeing him his first year at the clinic. We hated to see him go, but we became patients of Dr. Andrews and he’s great,” shared Darlene.
Through the years, they’ve gotten to see many of the QMG physicians. In fact, when they need a specialist, they don’t look anywhere else.
“We’re from this area and it’s nice to have a clinic within driving distance that has good doctors,” Darlene said. “As far as going to St. Louis or another place, no way. We have good doctors right here. We’re just well pleased.”
From primary care to walk-in care to specialty care, they’ve come to know many of the QMG team. Their doctors include Dr. George Crickard, III, orthopedic surgery; Dr. Wissam Derian, cardiology; Dr. Sumul Gandhi, dermatology; Dr. Kevin Hilton, orthopedic surgery; Dr. Anna Levin, dermatology; Dr. David Phillips, ophthalmology; Dr. Eric Sieck, ophthalmology; Dr. Paul Tracy, optometry; and Dr. Deborah Woodard, gynecology.
They recall one story about Dr. Sieck that highlights the level of care and commitment they receive at QMG.
“On a Saturday morning, my husband got up and he wasn’t able to see. Everything was blurry and it really upset me. I said, ‘I’m going to call the clinic,’ and he said, There’s no one there on Saturday morning.’ I said, ‘You don’t know that.’ I called and Dr. Sieck was there seeing surgery patients. When I told them what was going on, they told me to bring him right in,” she shared. “Dr. Sieck saw him right away. Butch had a detached retina and Dr. Sieck sent him to St. Louis to the Retina Center. He said, “You have to be there by six and this was 10 in the morning. So we took off to St. Louis. They did surgery on him that night and we stayed overnight and came home the next day and he’s perfect. We’ve never forgotten that and what Dr. Sieck did for us.”
The kindness and care are felt throughout the clinic, they said, they feel welcomed as soon as they walk in the door.
“When we come in, we’re greeted right away. I’ve formed a relationship with the greeter. She shared peach preserves with me and I shared maple syrup with her,” Darlene said. “When I come in for my dermatology appointment, I can walk in and they give me a thumbs up and they already have me checked in. They know me. I’m clear at the back the room, they just give me a thumbs up. It makes me feel good.”
That welcoming feeling that means so much to them is something they extend to their visitors at The Branch Ranch. Those first 25 trees sold are now up to 650. On top of that, they served, this season alone, 58 gallons of hot chocolate, 12 gallons of cider, and 2500 cookies — all made by the couple and served in their small gray barn where their love for Christmas is on full display. Lining the walls and along the floor are holiday knickknacks. As Darlene point to each of them, she shares their story — from the artwork created in school by their now grown children to the decorations handed down by their parents.
To them, the little touches matter, and the joy The Branch Ranch brings to the thousands who visit their farm each year fills their hearts.
“It’s been wonderful to see families come out and make memories. We have a set of twins who first came out when they were two weeks old and now they’re 14,” said Darlene.
Butch added, “This place turns into a winter wonderland each year and that’s not because of us; that’s because of the hundreds who come to see us each year. It’s a lot of fun.”