Majestic Oak Winery

When Laura and Doug Rufenacht’s daughter, Erica, was looking for scholarship opportunities during her senior year of high school, she came across an opportunity through the Ohio Farm Bureau. There was just one problem – her parents weren’t Farm Bureau members.

That opportunity, in addition to the couple’s pending business venture, was enough reason to apply for membership

“It was something we had considered,” Laura explained. “Doug’s family had been members, my parents were members, and we felt that it was important to be part of the Farm Bureau. So, as we prepared to open the business and got things going, becoming members just seemed like a natural step.”

Not only did Erica apply for the scholarship, but she won — which made the Rufenacht’s introduction to the Lucas County Farm Bureau that much sweeter.

“Through Farm Bureau, we were able to meet some of the people in our area, and that was just a really great experience,” Laura said.

Partnered for success

During the summer of 2009, the couple took day trips around the area to places they always said they wanted to visit, but never had. One of those stops was Stoney Ridge Winery in Bryan, Ohio. 

“We had been thinking about doing something with our property; we just weren’t sure what that was,” Laura explained. “It was after that visit that we thought we’d just grow grapes and sell to other wineries.”

It wasn’t long after they planted their first grapes in 2010 that they decided they could do so much more. The Rufenachts opened Majestic Oak Winery, in Grand Rapids, Ohio, on Memorial Day 2013. Neon Groundhog Brewery followed exactly two years later in 2015.

Majestic Oak Winery
Majestic Oak Winery

“This is not something we ever thought we’d do. It was something that kind of came to us,” Laura said. “We knew we wanted to stay in agriculture because we had both been raised around it.” 

Doug had a background in grain farming, including cattle and hogs, and Laura grew up around horses and helped her mom in their large garden; however, neither of them had grown grapes before.

The couple leaned on the expertise of Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Wine Producers, Ohio Grape Industry Committee and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center through The Ohio State University for resources, information and training. And, they weren’t afraid to ask other wineries for help.

Both Laura and Doug have their individual tasks when it comes to managing their business, but they always begin making the wine together.

“We both make the wine together, that’s just our rule — we start every batch together,” Laura said. “And we never make wine when we’re mad.”

Laura said that while she misses some of the quiet time she used to have in the vineyard, the part she enjoys the most about this way of life is the people.

“At the end of the day, it’s the people. I mean, we have amazing customers — it’s important for Doug and I to spend time with them and we try to arrange our schedule to be with them as much as possible,” Laura said. “We truly value them and want them to enjoy the experience.”

Majestic Oak Winery and Neon Groundhog Brewery together offer live music, sip and shop, summer salmon and steak night, and other unique events in addition to wine, craft beer and a relaxing atmosphere.

“I always like to say we sell escapism before we sell wine, so I look to offer those kinds of opportunities,” Laura said. “You can come out here and relax and it doesn’t feel like you’re in northwest Ohio.”

More than a scholarship

In 2022, Majestic Oak Winery hosted the Lucas County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

“That was really important to me. I wanted to do a farm-to-table event and that’s what we did.” Laura said. “We tried to source everything for the meal as locally as possible.” 

That’s also why the Rufenachts are part of the Toledo Farmers Market.

Majestic Oak Winery“We joined Farm Bureau because we wanted to be part of the agriculture community and often, especially as a winery, we are thought of as a different type of business,” Laura said.

The Rufenchts didn’t just become Ohio Farm Bureau members themselves, they became group members, extending membership to each of their employees.

“We wanted to be a group member because we want to share this with our employees,” Laura said. “You know we are a small business and it’s hard to do some things, but we felt getting everyone around us involved would be a good thing to do.”

Farm Bureau Business Solutions

Farm Bureau has a team available to help individual members or businesses by walking them through the laws and providing information and additional resources.

“Because we are active in the legal community, we can typically connect members to attorneys that are familiar with agriculture and the types of issues they are facing,” Leah Curtis, policy counsel and senior director of member engagement, said. “It might also be connecting with accountants, lending institutions, their local farm service or soil and water.” 

If you own a business and are interested in Farm Bureau’s group membership program for your employees, visit OhioFarmBureau.org/group-membership.

I'm eternally grateful for the support Ohio Farm Bureau scholarships provided in helping me turn my dreams into reality.
Bethany Starlin's avatar
Bethany Starlin

Hocking County Farm Bureau

Available scholarships
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Business Solutions
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
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