Ralph Forrest saw the writing on the wall. Technologic advancements would bring a sharp decline in demand for the ice he produced at the Bayboro Ice Plant. Fish processing facilities were adding their own ice manufacturing systems and the electric refrigerator would open the door for in home ice production. In 1969 Ralph left the ice business and purchased Lee’s Farm Supply, taking over the feed and seed supply store that had been started by Charlie Lee in 1952.
Ralph was not a farmer but he didn’t let that stop him from entering the farming business. He was a businessman who recognized the changing tides of the economic landscape. Like many successful businessmen, Ralph learned through observation. He knew in order to stay prosperous Forrest Farm Supply must be able to respond to changes in demand and not be solely reliant on any one product. He experienced this firsthand as an offshore Sword Fishermen when an unforeseen rise in mercury levels effectively shut down the swordfishing industry for nearly 35 years, leaving many fishermen out of work.
In the early years, most of the homes in Pamlico County were heated with coal burning stoves and Forrest Farm Supply was where residents purchased their heating fuel. Prior to 1974, Forrest Farm Supply was a stop along the railroad bound for Oriental. Coal brought down from the Kentucky mines was offloaded here for the residents of Pamlico County. But just as bulk ice production had been decentralized and sword fishing had dried up so too would coal as a home heating source.