FFA project turned business: It’s for the squirrels

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three ruff children sort through dried corn cobs
The Ruff children Matthew, Mae, and Mitchell assess and package the dried corn ears for shipment. (Nella Citino photo)

“Our Ohio-grown ear corn is great for deer, squirrels and all other backyard wildlife!” states the sales listing on Amazon.

Behind the listing is Matthew Ruff, who created a dry corn cob business in Circleville, Ohio. Ruff is a freshman attending Ohio State University, but he started the corn business while a sophomore in high school at Westfall High School.

Focused.

The business began as an FFA-supervised agricultural experience.

“This is a project where students participate and gain work experience,” said Ruff’s adviser, Rachel Scior. “The experience could be an internship or a job with whatever is available to them. It has to be work-based.“

She said she didn’t know what to think when he proposed the idea, but after visiting, she realized how focused he was.

The business is now a full time enterprise and Matthew’s younger brother, Mitchell, manages it while Matthew is at college.

“My family has always been a great help. They have been a crucial part of the operation. They have been very helpful in the harvest, processing and packaging process,” Matthew Ruff said. “We ended up finding that Amazon lacked good quality ear at a good price.”

dried corn sits in a bin
Dried corn sits in a bin ready to be bagged and shipped.            (Nella Citino photo)

Pandemic.

The project turned into a business because it gained a lot of attention and traction during the pandemic.

“Covid helped him a lot,” Scior said. “It gained speed.”

Matthew’s mother, Marcia Ruff, said the shutdown created a market.

“People were home watching squirrels, and sales of corn went through the roof,” she said. “He was selling 150 boxes a day. His phone just dinged all the time when a box sold, and I would have to drive him to the post office to drop off packages because he didn’t drive yet.”

The project gained recognition as a proficiency finalist in grain production at the National FFA Convention in 2021, landing it in the top four nationally that year.

Matthew Ruff considers his parents’ support to be a key reason for the success.

matthew ruff holds up an advertising care for corn
Matthew holds up an ad card he puts in every box of sold corn.                  (Nella Citino photo)

Customer feedback.

Sales are primarily through Amazon, with customers across the U.S.

Customer comments include: “It seems a little silly to rave about a product as pedestrian as corn on the cob, but I feel The Ruff Farms folks deserve a pat on the back for turning out this superior ear corn.”

“The price is amazing since it includes shipping. And I’ve come to learn that the seller of this corn is a member of the FFA. As long as it’s for sale, I will be ordering!”

Each box is hand packaged and a note of thanks is placed in each box. In return, customers send pictures and videos of the squirrels to Ruff.

Scior has high praise for Ruff.

three ruff children sort through dried corn cobs
Matthew, Mae and Mitchell pitch in and bag corn ears.  (Nella Citino photo)

“He’s really focused and driven and humble,” she said. “I hope he comes back to the farm and influences the rest of the community. He is an amazing young man, and I really want to see him succeed.”

Ruff also attributes his business’s success to Scior’s support.

“She always pushed me to improve,” he said.

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