Ohio farmer, innovator Marcia Ruff: ‘Don’t be afraid to try things’

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Marcia and Mae Ruff stand in front of grain containers, Feb. 11. The containers were built in partnership with Farmers Business Network.
Marcia and Mae Ruff stand in front of grain containers, Feb. 11. The containers were built in partnership with Farmers Business Network.

It bothers Marcia Ruff when a woman says she’s just a farm wife, because she believes there are many opportunities for women in agriculture.

Ruff runs Ruff Farms, with her husband, Mark, and three children outside of Circleville, Ohio. The operation includes nearly 4,000 corn, soybean and wheat acres, and beef cattle and other agricultural businesses.

Ruff is an advocate not only for farming but for women in agriculture.

“I drill beans. I drill wheat in the middle of the night. I’m the shuttle driver for everybody. I deliver the meals to the field,” Ruff said. “I know how to run every piece of equipment on the farm, and because there are a hundred moving parts, I have to know almost everything that’s going on.”

Big enterprise

Marcia Ruff, pictured Feb. 11, has received national recognition for Ruff Farms.
Marcia Ruff, pictured Feb. 11, has received national recognition for Ruff Farms.

Ruff is also adept at the innovation and business end of farming. She has been farming with her husband for more than 20 years. The couple started with 150 acres, and they now have a large farming enterprise, which includes 10 full-time and part-time employees.

The family also works in lawn seeding and drain tile installation. Additionally, the Ruff family built a grain handling and container loading facility in partnership with Farmers Business Network, a resource for farming entrepreneurs. They’re under contract to deliver soybeans for a premium.

“The most recent train car containers we’ve loaded and the ones we will be loading this season will likely go to Malaysia,” Ruff said. “Those are food-grade going into the human consumption market.”

In the family

She is most proud of her son, Matthew, who started an online ear corn business as a project for FFA.

The family rented a corn picker to try out the idea.

“He is successful because we all took a chance,” she said. “We were trying to think outside the box.”

In addition to the new business start up, Ruff is a public school teacher at Westfall High School where she has worked for 27 years. She heads the local 4-H group, where she encourages young women to think about agriculture and go beyond the thinking of “just a farm wife.”

“It’s important for women to look forward to what needs to be done in an efficient manner. Most women are creative and progressive when it comes to business. This helps with innovation and new ideas,” Ruff said. She clarified,“I am an equal partner in this business.”

Try new things

Matthew, Mitchell, Mae and Marcia Ruff contribute to the family enterprise and manage 4,000 acres.
Matthew, Mitchell, Mae and Marcia Ruff contribute to the family enterprise and manage 4,000 acres.

For those young women who are thinking about getting into agriculture, she suggests doing your research first.

“You can’t do everything all at once,” she said. “Research what is the best thing you can do. Reach out to the farming community. They’ll have a lot of advice and don’t be afraid to try things.”

While motivating young people, she looks to how she can be an example for her daughter, Mae. “I hope I’m a good role model for her,” she said.

Ruff has earned recognition as a trailblazer and innovator, from Executive Women in Agriculture. She will receive the award in a ceremony Feb. 24, in Nashville, Tennessee.

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