Ohio farmer turned author

Farmer Ralph Rice, Jefferson, Ohio, records his memories of life on the farm in his book Cultivating Memories.


JEFFERSON, Ohio — Farming is his first passion, but Ralph Rice of Jefferson, Ohio, has an amazing way of remembering and telling stories. In his book, Cultivating Memories, Rice shares his experiences growing up with farming and then running a farm on his own.

The collection of essays ranges from stories with deeper meanings of farming and rural life, to hilarious anecdotes about his own farm mishaps.

“I’ve always been outgoing and I like to poke fun at myself,” said Rice.

The book paints a portrait of rural life, both past and present, showcasing Rice’s storytelling gift.

Growing up

The book, Cultivating Memories, can be purchased at their farm, 1485 state Route 307, Jefferson, OH 44047; at the Jefferson Feed Mill; J.R. Hostetler Jewelry store in Jefferson; and Rural Heritage website, www.ruralheritage.com.

Rice, 58, grew up in Dorset, Ohio, and, although his father was a school bus driver, both his grandparents operated small farms. After his parents divorced when Rice was 5, he spent much of his time on the Vaughn Rice farm, owned by his paternal grandfather.

As a boy, Rice was involved in 4-H and FFA and always knew he wanted to farm. With land prices too high for him to get into farming right out of school, he started his career as a butcher.

From 1975-1991, he professionally butchered, and he still butchers his own animals, providing all of the meat his family eats.


As an adult, he began writing down memories and lessons learned from his time on his grandparents’ farms.

“The memories are so dear; they are locked in there. I can feel the memory like it is happening all over,” he said.


Ralph became a writer through encouragement from his wife, Connie. He began journaling after they married. Then, he started writing more structured pieces about farming practices, draft horses, his childhood and life in general.

Author Ralph J. Rice
Ashtabula County farmer wrote Cultivating Memories, which paints a portrait of rural life, both past and present, showcasing Rice’s storytelling gift.

Ralph approached the editor of Rural Heritage with some stories and, in May 2001, had his first story published in the magazine. He’s been writing for them ever since. His regular column is called Reflections.

Rice also blogs at ricelandmeadows.com. He used to write his stories in longhand, which he still does at times, but now he has the digital archive.

He has had many things published over the years in agricultural publications. Connie edits his work and they pride themselves in quality writing. Neither of them of have professional training in writing, but they make a good team, said Rice.


Other support to write came from the late Gene Logsdon, who wrote the forward of Rice’s book. Logsdon, who farmed in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, wrote many essays, novels, and nonfiction books about agrarian issues, ideals and techniques. Rice and Logsdon became friends after Rice reached out to him with a letter in the 1980s.

Logsdon and Rice’s friendship grew through discussion about crops and horses, methods and life in general.

“It was a real honor to have Gene write my forward. He encouraged me to write, telling me, ‘you have something to say,’” said Rice.

Farm life

In 2000, Connie and Ralph bought 11 acres and began farm life there. Now they own 73 acres, 35 of which are woods.

Ralph J. Rice book signing schedule:

Feb. 2: Kingsville Public Library from 5-7 p.m.; 6006 Academy St. # 6, Kingsville, Ohio 44048

Feb. 18: White House Fruit Farm from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; 9249 Youngstown-Salem Road (U.S. Route 62), Canfield, Ohio 44406

In the last 16 years, they have built their house, many barns, and slaughter and sugar houses. Most of the barns are built from white pine they harvested from their woods and had processed at a local mill.

Additionally Rice is a shift supervisor at Cristal in Ashtabula, Ohio, where they make titanium dioxide.

Rice doesn’t consider farming work. “There is no work in farming for me; that’s my mental health,” he said.

Rice also focuses on conservation practices and works each year to keep his forest healthy and maintained.

“Environmental stewardship is important,” he said. “Mill Creek shares a border with the farm, and I am conscious that I am a buffer to that.”


On the diversified farm, he raises cattle, sheep and pigs, gardens and makes maple syrup. They have around 1,000 maple taps, and Rice hauls in all the sap by horse and wagon or sleigh. He makes the syrup at the farm in his sugarhouse.

“We always sell out,” said Connie. “This year, we had 68 gallons and it was gone by October.”

Author Ralph J. Rice
Rice stands in front of his sugar house. He uses the horses to bring in the sap and boils the sap with firewood.

Even with today’s technology, Rice still uses Percheron horses to gather the wood and the sap. “My grandpa did it that way, and I do it for the romance.”

Rice enjoys living off the land.

“I’ve always known this is the life I wanted,” he said. “Raise our own food, watch the sunset, listen to birds sing and be a resource for friends and family.”

“After I feed the animals in the evening, if I just stop and listen, it is a peace like no other,” he said.

How-to videos 

He has worked with Rural Heritage magazine to produce shows for RFD-TV, demonstrating the techniques he uses to farm with horses and live off the land.

The network plans to come out again this summer to film more how-to type segments.

A Solider’s Story

Though farming is his first passion, Cultivating Memories is not Rice’s first go at being a published author. In 2008 he published a book about his in-laws. The book, A Solider’s Story, is about his father-in-law’s service in WWII and his mother-in-law back home raising two girls on her own.

“It is a story of two people in love in a time when there was no internet,” Rice said.

Future books 

From all of his experiences, trials, errors and successes on the farm, he has learned a lot and plans to continue sharing his experiences and expertise through writing. He has two book ideas in the works.

The book, Cultivating Memories, can be purchased at their farm, 1485 state Route 307, Jefferson, OH 44047; at the Jefferson Feed Mill; J.R. Hostetler Jewelry store in Jefferson; and Rural Heritage website, www.ruralheritage.com.

The book is $15, or if you send $18 to Rice, he will mail a copy anywhere in the Farm and Dairy readership area.

The handles of the plow, worn smooth from time and work, fit my hand like a warm handshake. Holding the plow and taking in the beauty that surrounds me, I feel the blood of generations course through my veins. In the tradition of my ancestors, I till and toil and stir memories, along with the soil.

— Excerpt from Cultivating Memories, by Ralph J. Rice


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Katy Mumaw is a graduate of Ohio State University where she studied agricultural communications and Oklahoma State University earning her master's in agricultural leadership. The former Farm and Dairy reporter enjoys family time and sharing the stories of agriculture.



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