By Matt Reese
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak on behalf of my family this week when my grandpa Lehr J. Reese was posthumously inducted into the Hancock County Hall of Fame. It is always humbling to think about the great people who have gone before us in agriculture and this experience was no exception.
While the following words represent part of my family history in agriculture, I am guessing that very similar words could be said about many of Ohio’s agricultural families.
When I think back to my memories of grandpa Lehr J. Reese, I think of hard work (grandma always said he was a workaholic), pulling weeds from the crop field for a nickel a piece, pausing under the big shade tree for lunch on a summer day, seed corn hats (many seed corn hats) and a relentless pursuit for that perfect display of field corn for the county fair. And, when looking back on his life, it seems the many hats Grandpa wore in his different roles even exceeded the vast number of seed corn hats he would proudly show off to his grandchildren.
After he finished high school, Grandpa started out at Ohio State University, but Uncle Sam had other plans for him. He served our
country for three years before returning home to the farm and a new wife. Grandma said after the War he went from one firing squad to another when he signed up for life with her. Together, they started the farm with $1,000 and a cow.
In the farm community, Grandpa Reese was known for being innovative, he was among the first in the area to try no-till. He was also known for growing top-notch corn, and for the family tradition of high quality Jersey cattle. He was named the Outstanding Young Farmer in Hancock County in the mid-50s.
The young couple built the farm and raised a family on a foundation of hard work. The four Reese children, Dave, Ron, Kathy and Jana, learned at a young age that, at least on their farm, there was a very important 11th Commandment to be followed regularly: Thou Shalt Worketh Very Hard. And they did. The kids all had daily farm chores by the time they were five (though Ron says he started at age 2).
Grandma, though she was a teacher, even got in on the farm work regularly and she loved to drive the tractor. One day, Grandpa had finally built up enough confidence to let her cultivate his prized corn crop. She did great until she rounded a curve and sent a fair number of tender corn plants a-flying. She tried to replant them by hand and that didn’t go so well, but grandma says sometimes cheap help is better than no help.
Lehr Jay loved the Hancock County Fair and was very proud when his children followed in his success through 4-H, even reaching the lofty goal of grand champion steer, as he had done years before. Along with his tireless work on the farm, Grandpa also volunteered his time to help others as a 4-H advisor, school board member, soil and water conservation board member, county fair board member and in countless church activities. He was also a noted seed salesman, representing Hancock Hybrids and Ferry Morse Seeds. He did agricultural ad sales for WFIN Radio as well.
Grandpa’s 72 years were full of life. To many, Grandpa was known for raising good crops and cattle, but more importantly, as a father and family man, he set a good example when raising his family. His children have gone on to serve their communities and churches in countless ways. His sons continued in agriculture and their sons after them. This is the greatest legacy to which any farmer can aspire.
For a farmer to raise a fruitful crop is a noble thing indeed,
But a farmer who raises farmers will generations feed.