Director David Brown
It would be impossible to recount the history of LaRue County without the Ragland family. For generations, the Raglands have lived, farmed and raised their families deep in the heart of the land they still call home. Their roots have created an important foundation for the communities that make up this beautiful part of Kentucky.
Howard Ragland was born in 1932. His parents married in 1924 and moved in 1925 to Shady Rest Farm, the current location of the family land in Hodgenville. Howard was one of 4 children growing up in what is now known to the family as the “homeplace.” As a researcher into his family’s genealogy and author of his own books on the subject, Howard has found that 5 generations of the Ragland family have lived and are buried within a 5-mile radius in LaRue County. (Even further into their history, and decidedly outside of the LaRue County area, he has traced the Ragland name to a castle in England).
Howard remembers life as a young child before electricity came to the area, particularly trying to study and do his chores with a kerosene lantern as well as carrying wood after school every day for the kitchen stove. Howard also remembers his father, Roy, as one of the farmers who were instrumental in bringing electricity to the area. In fact, Roy’s advocacy and dedication resulted in his position as one of the very first Nolin RECC directors. Howard recalls Roy visiting neighbors to help them understand the benefits of joining the cooperative. The Raglands received electricity at their farm in 1939, soon after the first Nolin lines were electrified.
Howard served stateside in the military after the Korean War and left the service in 1956. He and Tickle, his wife of 65 years, then married and moved to the farm where he grew up to raise cattle and crops and their two children, Darlene and David.
In addition to memories of his father’s involvement, Howard also has early memories of the co-op and its place in the lives of local residents. He recalls the very popular 4th of July picnic that was co-sponsored by Nolin and Farm Bureau. During one picnic that took place near the “boundary oak” tree in Abraham Lincoln National Park, he remembers the significance of the Secretary of Agriculture coming from Washington, D.C. to participate. It was important enough that Howard recalls his family stopped thrashing wheat so that they could attend the picnic.
Howard’s involvement with Nolin didn’t end in childhood or with annual meetings. When his father Roy passed away, the Nolin board of directors approached him to fill the vacant seat. That began Howard’s 20 years of service to Nolin and its members as a board director. In his time as director, Howard also served on the board of East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC), a majority of that time as secretary/treasurer. Howard recalls much of his tenure as a Nolin board director dealt with territory settlements with KU and the Public Service Commission. The co-op grew during this time and once Howard retired from the Nolin board in 1988, the need for a new office space (which happened several years later) was already apparent.
The growth of the cooperative was not the only change during Howard’s time as a Nolin director. The increased attention to and concern for the environment presented challenges that he saw play out most directly in his role on the EKPC board. He also saw a significant increase in the use of technology in the day-to-day operations of the cooperative. The first sections of line he saw built as a child were completed entirely by hand – from digging the post holes to taking down (and replacing) fences for access and transporting spools of wire by wagon. By the time Howard left the board, Nolin crews were benefitting from advancements such as bucket trucks and diggers.
Considering his time as a Nolin director, Howard says that he learned a great deal about the cooperative and its members. He also appreciates the opportunity he had to speak on a variety of topics including leadership.
Howard’s service as a director reflects his dedication to the people of his community. It is a testament to the example that was passed on to him and continues with the generations that have followed in his footsteps.
The son of Howard and Tickle Ragland, David was born in 1961. Raised on his family’s cattle farm, David was active in farming operations from a young age. His interest turned to raising hogs as a student at LaRue County High School – it was an interest that would soon shift the focus of his family’s business.
After high school, David went to Bryan College in Tennessee and graduated in 1983. He met his wife, Debbie, at a farm supply store and they were married in 1984. They lived around the area of the family farm until eventually moving into the “homeplace” where they raised their 4 children Caleb, Bethel, Josh, and Gideon.
David’s interest in hog farming led him to acquire feeder pigs as a teenager. He later added breeder sows to their business and started on construction of hog buildings after graduating from college. The family’s business eventually shifted to focusing on breeder sows and has grown into an operation that has around 4000 sows (100,000 total pigs annually). The family has also continued to raise several crops including corn, wheat and soybeans as part of their farming operation.
David has a lot of fond memories growing up on Shady Rest Farm including getting to be near his grandparents and showing cattle. He remembers his grandmother teaching him how to milk a cow and his father talking about his time on the Nolin and EKPC board of directors. He also learned how electricity was brought to this area and the role his family played in bringing it here. In next month’s column, we hear about the significant changes David has seen in his years as a farmer. We’ll also meet his son, Caleb, who not only shares his family’s passion for farming, but for being an active contributor to the well-being of his profession and community.