Ralph Felty knows a thing or two about tractors, tillers, tobacco, tomatoes and practically anything else related to agriculture in Carter and Greenup Counties.
After 40 years on the job at Kee’s Farm Service as well as a lifetime working his own farm, experience has been an outstanding instructor for a man others turn to for advice.
Born and raised on Laurel Road in in Oldtown, Kentucky, Felty has never strayed far from his roots.
“I’ve lived there all my life. We still live there out in the boonies,” he said with a hearty chuckle.
A member of the Greenup High School Class of 1977, he worked in the dairy department at the old Ralph’s grocery for a couple of years before joining the Kee’s team as they became associated with the Southern States company.
“I came up here in 1994 when they built new,” he said of the store near Grayson’s city limits.
A lifelong grower himself, Felty said he and his wife, Doye, continue to grow produce including corn, beans, tomatoes and Honey Select corn, which they sell at different places. Growing up, Felty said his family’s farm worked 20 acres of tobacco every year, as well as raising various produce and livestock.
“We had cattle and hogs and things like that,” he said.
Farming, he said, has changed considerably since he first reported for duty at the Greenup Kee’s Farm Service store four decades ago in 1980.
“A lot of it … It’s this Internet here,” he said, gesturing toward the computer on the right hand side of his work station near the back of the store.
“When I started, we had tickets and pencil and paper. Farming is a different thing now. The old farmers – a lot of them’s gone. Farming is a lot more advanced now, I think.”
Felty said today’s local farmers supply a different market than their fathers and grandfathers did.
“It used to be that every farm up these hollows had a crop of tobacco. And, dairy farms. When I started there were probably eight to 10 dairy farms here,” he said. “Those two things are the big things you’ve seen change here.”
“Tobacco money paid for a lot of farms, a lot of college tuition for farm kids and it bought a lot of vehicles around here,” he added.
At Kee’s Farm Service, Felty is the “Go-To” guy for just about anything.
“I do parts – chainsaws, tillers, tractors … things like that. I just do anything that needs to be done. I’m not an expert at anything,” he said, consulting with a customer about a watering device for a pig.
Off the clock, Felty said he most enjoys time with his family, including two daughters and eight grandchildren. With a grin, he says he has two excellent bosses – “Hannah (McGlone) here and Doye at home!”
Spend a few minutes with Felty and he might reveal a surprising talent.
“I stutter, but I sing. I sing Johnny Cash, Elvis, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard … all that classic country,” he said, explaining his speech challenges seem to go away when he raises his voice in song.
“It’s kind of like Mel Tillis. He stuttered except when he sang too,” Felty said, grinning and adding “He made millions doing it – I ain’t made nothing yet!”
Store owner Hannah McGlone said Felty is a true asset to Kee’s Farm Service.
“He is a familiar face and people know they can trust him for reliable, honest information. We call him our resident comedian. Everybody knows him. He knows way more people in our community than I do,” she said.
“And definitely the parts. We all do everything here, but he knows all the parts off the top of his head like that,” she said, snapping her fingers to illustrate the point.
Kee’s Farm Service is located one-half mile north of Grayson. For more information, call 606-474-5713.
Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON