Connected to the Co-op
December 2, 2020
Written By Adam Buckallew
Since the day Lester Rufenacht first got his hands in the dirt on his family’s farm in southern Henry County, Mo., he’s found himself drawn to working the land.
“I guess it’s in my blood at this point,” Lester says with a laugh.
With the exception of a two-year deployment to Vietnam with the 9th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, Lester, 73, has been farming on the same acreage where he grew up since he returned to help his father, Kenneth, in 1968. That same year, he bought his first bulldozer and began operating a custom earthmoving business to supplement his farm income.
For 45 years, Lester helped clients build “lots of soil conservation projects” like terraces and waterways in western Missouri, in addition to ponds and lakes. Though he no longer operates his dozing company, he remains active with his farm where he raises 400 acres of row crops and about 100 head of cattle.
A Long History
The Rufenacht family has been involved with MFA Oil Company since 1932. John Sylvester “JS” Rufenacht, Lester’s grandfather, was a delivery driver for the company’s bulk plant in Clinton, Mo. At the time, there were five bulk delivery trucks running out of the Clinton office, and JS was responsible for deliveries to anyone southeast of the plant.
Besides working as a bulk plant driver, JS also operated the family farm and ran an MFA Oil service station at Mount Zion, Mo. The truck JS used to make his fuel deliveries remains in the family and is currently parked at the Rufenacht homestead near Osage Township.
Lester recalls making his first fuel and oil purchases from the cooperative in 1968 and says he has never found a reason to buy from anyone else.
“I’ve run MFA Oil products in all my equipment for more than 50 years and never had an issue,” Lester says. “It’s been good for me, and I’ve stuck with it.”
Like his father before him, Lester has been a long-serving delegate for the cooperative. For the last 46 years, he has represented local farmers’ interests for the Clinton bulk plant.
In 2018, Lester’s nephew, Zachary Rufenacht, began working as a service technician for the company.
Though he’s been halfway around the world, Lester still resides in the same house where he was raised. The farm has been in the Rufenacht family since 1870, and it’s made a great place for Lester and his wife, Maryln, to raise their family. Lester has two daughters, Krista and Heather; a stepdaughter, Cheri; and five grandchildren.
When he’s not tending to his crops or working cattle, Lester enjoys hunting, fishing and camping with his grandkids by a 10-acre lake he built behind his home.
Lester’s other passion is building and flying quarter-scale remote-control airplanes. It’s something that has kept his interest for over 40 years. During that span, he’s collected more than 20 planes.
“Sometimes the kid in you never goes away,” he says.