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Matt Reese

I grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio and spent most of my youth writing, doodling, taking pictures, reading and exploring the surrounding farmland. With a family full of teachers, I also grew up around a culture supportive of education. I was active in athletics in high school before graduating from Ohio State University where I studied agricultural communications. This led to my career in agricultural journalism.

I continue to work on the family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. I live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. I have a daughter, Campbell Miriam, who was born in the fall of 2007 and a son, Parker Matthew, born in August of 2009. We are active in our local church and with numerous other organizations.

I have worked for Ohio’s Country Journal since 1999. I also write a column for numerous newspapers around Ohio, Fresh Country Air and do freelance writing and photography work. I have written and self-published six books to date. To find my books, visit lulu.com and search for “Matt Reese.”


Support the businesses supporting Ohio’s essential agriculture

By Matt Reese

It has been made very clear by the DeWine Administration that Ohio agriculture is essential because of the vital importance of farmers and their service to society. But, during these challenging times, it is also important to remember those who serve Ohio’s essential farmers.

There has been plenty mentioned about getting take-out to support your local favorite dining hotspots that may be feeling a real pinch right now. It is just as important to remember other parts of the service and supply chains that allow Ohio’s essential farmers to do what they do during the coronavirus measures taken by the state and the Stay at Home Order.

“I just want to thank our customers for shopping here and supporting us,” said Larry Goodman, manager of the Rural King in Marion. “At first, for probably the first week and a half, it was off the hook here, very busy.… Continue reading

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Wise words when the world goes COVID crazy

By Matt Reese

We are currently facing a time that may offer a chance for thought and introspection. Many folks are offering up words of wisdom and I will spare you most of mine, but I do want to share some of the wiser words I’ve come across during this unique time for our farms, our state and our nation.

One of the best things I have read comes from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, and his “On Living in an Atomic Age” from 1948 where he writes about the great public concerns about the newly developing societal fears at the time. It seems there are many applications for our current situation.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.Continue reading

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Turning adversity into opportunity

By Matt Reese

In January, Mark Gardiner talked about genetics and a forward-look at the cattle industry at the Ohio Cattlemen’s Annual Meeting. He outlined the challenges and opportunities in the cattle business from his perspective at Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kan.

“Our ranch in Kansas would be very similar to many ranches around the United States. My family migrated to Kansas in 1885 and homesteaded there. I’m the fourth generation and my sons represent the fifth generation. It is a family-run operation. We were commercial cattlemen forever and then we started the genetics business back in the 70s and our first production sale of Angus genetics was in April of 1980. We’re beef cattle people first, but our main business is Angus genetics at Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kan.,” Gardiner said. “Technology and information is available to all of us and we have used data-based selection systems to select multi-trait specialists for the traits of merit since 1980.… Continue reading

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Keep the proper focus with H2Ohio

By Matt Reese

Last year I had the opportunity to serve as the head coach for my son’s third and fourth grade basketball team. As could be expected, wrangling a squirrelly group of elementary school boys did prove challenging, on occasion. This was on full display for the community to see on youth recognition night.

For the event, all of the elementary and junior high boys basketball players in the program gather at the school before a varsity game. The players get their names announced over the loudspeaker and then form two lines facing each other to make a “tunnel” where they slap hands with the varsity players as they run out before the game. It is a nice event to showcase the efforts of the youth.

My team was there, on time, with their jerseys on, which was a significant victory. They ran out as their names were announced as planned.… Continue reading

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Top stories of 2019

Our web site keeps track of the stories that generate the most interest and at the end of the year we like to review the top stories to gain insight into how to better serve readers of our web and print content and our radio listeners. Plus, it is always fun to see which story comes out on top.

To revisit all of these favorite Web stories and videos in the last year, visit ocj.com search for “2019 top stories of the year.” In addition to these top posts, other noteworthy drivers of web traffic in 2019 included the Ohio and Pro Farmer crop tours, the Ohio State Fair livestock show results, FFA, and Between the Rows. Weather challenges, the tough farm economy, and all things draft horse also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months. Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2019.

 

  1. $65 hay bales a sign of the times

It was tough for hay production in 2018-2019.… Continue reading

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Roselyn’s last wreath

By Matt Reese

Louise was in a snit. And, an ugly snit it was. Regarded as a living saint by all in the small town community, Louise had rarely been known to be in such a state.

Louise had dedicated her life to service to others, most notably her handicapped elder sister Roselyn. Louise was talented, beautiful and extremely intelligent in her youth. She’d had unlimited potential, and she’d lived up to much of it.

She’d had a successful career in business, from which she was now retired. She had tirelessly cared for and supported Roselyn beyond what could be reasonably expected of anyone. And it was said Louise shone the brightest every year in her service to the local church. This level of service reached its pinnacle at the start of Advent. Louise coordinated the magnificent Advent Service each year four weeks prior to Christmas in the beautiful, small town church her family had attended for generations.… Continue reading

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A lesson in service

By Matt Reese

Once again this year, the day after Veteran’s Day, 100 Christmas trees were packed up and shipped off to military units overseas through a partnership between the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio Christmas Tree Association for the Operation Evergreen Program. Christmas tree growers from around Ohio donate the trees and deliver them to the ODA where nursery inspectors certify they are free from pests and disease. Both groups come together at ODA to wrap, load up and send the trees to military members stationed overseas. This is the 24th year for the program that got its start in Ohio. The trees cost $150 a tree for shipping and the expenses are covered through donations.

“This year we are sending the trees overseas to Kuwait. They leave and get to Kuwait in two weeks and then they get dispersed to the bases in the area,” said Valarie Graham with the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.… Continue reading

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Plenty of steak at stake in alternative meat debate

By Matt Reese

I can very clearly remember the dietary craze of the days of my youth regarding low fat and fat free food products. It was an oft-touted “scientific fact” back then that the fats in meats and dairy were very detrimental to our existence. Products like whole milk, butter, bacon, and red meats were scorned while highly processed low fat and no fat products flooded the market.

As I grew older I realized the “science” behind the fat free hype was greatly skewed by marketing. As it turns out, I later discovered some of those low fat and no fat products were actually much worse nutritionally than the fatty products they were manufactured to replace. The stuff added to these foods was/is worse than the actual fat it is meant to taste like. Somewhere along the line, the fine farm folks woven throughout my upbringing convinced me of the folly of following food fats.… Continue reading

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Ohio Department of Agriculture partners with Ohio Christmas Tree Association to send Christmas trees to troops overseas

Yesterday, 100 Christmas trees were packed up and shipped off to military units overseas through a partnership between the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.

State Christmas tree growers donate the trees, ODA nursery inspectors certify they are free from pests and disease. Both groups come together at ODA to wrap, load up and send the trees to military members stationed overseas. Trees will also include decorations provided by school children, churches and veterans’ groups from around Ohio.

This is the 24th year for the program that got its start in Ohio.

“This year we are sending the trees overseas to Kuwait. They leave and get to Kuwait in two weeks and then they get dispersed to the bases in the area,” said Valerie Graham with the Ohio Christmas Tree Association. “It is always great to participate in this program. They appreciate what we are doing.… Continue reading

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Great staff is like a second family

By Matt Reese

I love our staff. I am so fortunate to have the chance to work with so many talented, kind caring folks. From the late Ed Johnson to the current Dale Minyo I have had the opportunity to work with (and learn from) some of the very best. What an honor and privilege!

With so many summer events to attend around the state, we are very rarely all in the same place at once. And, with some staff changes this year, I thought the recent Farm Science Review would be a great chance to highlight our current fantastic staff and what they do for the team to keep you up to date.

 

Bart and Sheryl Johnson

We are like a family and they are kind of like the parents (or in Bart’s case sometimes an ornery big brother). Bart is the son of Ed Johnson who started the company.… Continue reading

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Testing of faith produces perseverance: 2019 mud pies

By Matt Reese

I saw so many sad farm situations this spring in what was, in many cases, the worst planting season in history. But, as it always has, life went on, and I have seen so many farmers rise to the occasion and turn the challenges of 2019 into more positive situations. There was plenty of mud this spring, but also some silver linings, or for 2019 the term mud pie might be more appropriate.

 

2019 Mud

You had prevented planting acres this spring. This was a tough decision that, after being made, led to many more tough decisions.

 

2019 Mud pies

The unplanted acres opened up opportunities for tiling, cover cropping (with cost share opportunities), an insurance payment, a potential Market Facilitation Program payment, and a chance to hay or graze those cover crops this fall. There also are opportunities to soil test and set fields up for success in 2020.… Continue reading

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Fun at the Farm Science Review

Wow! What a fun Farm Science Review! The weather was the best we have had in recent years and we really enjoyed the chance to talk with so many of you who dropped in to see us. We got to lament the challenges of a difficult 2019 but celebrate the bright future of agriculture in Ohio too. We also had the chance to talk with many great guests who will be featured in upcoming broadcasts, podcasts, videos, and OCJ stories.

This year’s late harvest boosted attendance at the farm show, which attracted 114,590 people over three days. Typically at this time of the year, many farmers are driving combines. Instead, some were eyeing brand-new combines and tractors displayed at the show, taking pictures of their children and grandchildren behind the wheel at the Farm Science Review.

Under sunny skies and welcoming mild temperatures, visitors learned about the economics of producing malting barley, legal issues associated with growing hemp, the most common mistakes made by family-run farms, and tactics to reduce the risks of producing corn and soybeans, among other topics.… Continue reading

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When we get what we ask for, will we like what we see?

By Matt Reese

There is a line from the 1989 baseball movie Field of Dreams I thought of on a summer tour of the incredible MVP Dairy near Celina in Mercer County: If you build it, they will come.

For all of the folks out there who have been demanding ever-increasing transparency of the processes required to get their favorite foods in convenient packaging to the shelves of their handy grocery store at astonishingly low prices, they built it. Now, will you come see it? Will you appreciate the amazing lengths MVP Dairy (and the food industry in general) has gone to not only provide an incredible level of transparency but also showcase it in an easy to enjoy way? I hope so, but I’m not sure.

In this era of more specific demands of each end of the food supply chain, I am not sure many consumers really know what they are asking.… Continue reading

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State Fair gives fodder for proud parents

By Matt Reese

For me, the Ohio State Fair is a very busy stretch with my work schedule and two children showing a variety of livestock projects, but those long hours are quickly forgotten when replaced by proud parent moments that will last a lifetime. There were certainly plenty of those for mothers and fathers around the state at this year’s Ohio State Fair.

At an event bursting with proud parents, auctioneer Kevin Wendt had to be right up there as the proudest papa in the building as he watched his daughter Riley parade her Reserve Champion Market Barrow around the ring in the Sale of Champions. For the last several years, Kevin has been the Sale of Champions auctioneer for the cheese, turkey and goat sales that kick off the event. This year, though, Kevin stayed off the auction block to focus on just being a dad. Seeing the look of the purest joy as he stood ringside and watched his daughter’s barrow sell for a record-setting $35,000 in the Sale of Champions made it apparent his decision was the correct one.… Continue reading

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Will the Lake Erie algae bloom forecast come to fruition in 2019?

By Matt Reese

Last year I hopped on the boat and made the trek to the fantastic Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie for the announcement about the predictions regarding the 2018 algal bloom.

The boat ride was quite pleasant, the presentations at the event were very sciencey and impressive, the folks doing the research being presented were extremely intelligent — and the forecast was totally wrong.

In July of 2018, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its research partners predicted western Lake Erie would experience a harmful algal bloom (HAB) of cyanobacteria of a 6 on the severity index, with a range between 5 and 7.5. In late fall, NOAA reported back that the actual harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie for 2018 had a severity index of 3.6, indicating a relatively mild bloom far short of the predicted severity.

Now, I don’t know what the total budget is for this forecasting system, but I would guess it is not a small price tag over the years of developing models, conducting extensive research, paying numerous staff members and researchers at various agencies and entities, and hauling curious farm reporters to the island on boats.… Continue reading

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A heartbreaking early June wedding…

By Matt Reese

It was an early June wedding in central Ohio. The brother of the beautiful bride was, of course, in attendance, though his troubled mind was a couple of hours away. He was thinking about his still unplanted farm fields at home.

He had been fortunate last fall that he and his parents had been able to get the crop out of the fields in a fairly timely manner. Since then, though, the precipitation had been relentless. The window to plant will always come, his father had said. This year, though, it hadn’t. Other than a few test passes with soybeans in early April (none of which emerged) no crops had been planted. No hay had been baled. No fieldwork had been done in his northwest Ohio fields of his family’s farm. He had waited. He had hoped, prayed, prepared, planned, and re-planned. None of it had worked out.… Continue reading

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Quorum sensing and it’s impact on your soil health: Plant diversity is the key

By Matt Reese

OCJ publisher Bart Johnson once asked the staff during an office lunch: if you could only drink one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? His answer: root beer. I think mine would be water. This led to a long debate of the merits of root beer versus water.

The discussion then turned to food. I think I could eat pizza just about every day. I am guessing that most of you (other than Dale Minyo who really does not care for pizza) may feel the same way. Now, if you just had one pizza ingredient to eat every day, what would that be? For me I think it would have to be the cheese (it is dairy month, after all).

Christine Jones, who served as the keynote speaker at this spring’s Conservation Tillage Conference in Ada, is a retired soil ecologist from the University of New England in Australia.… Continue reading

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Transparency, care for animals and honesty one-sided in undercover animal rights video release

By Matt Reese

Whether they are specifically written down or not, most farms and agribusinesses operate on the foundation of a code of ethics or principles. The core values of one of the nation’s top agritourism destinations recently came under intense scrutiny when an undercover video was released.

Indiana-based Fair Oaks Farms has been all over the news after Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) released a video depicting animal abuse on the large dairy farm. In the aftermath of the video release retailers pulled Fair Oaks’ Fairlife products from their shelves, three people from the video were charged with animal cruelty and Fair Oaks temporarily suspended delivery service to protect delivery service drivers who have been harassed. Fair Oaks Farms is also being sued for fraud citing the Fairlife milk labels promoting “extraordinary care and comfort” of the cows.

Going into this, Fair Oaks had clear standards for animal care, but employees featured in the video did not adhere to those standards.… Continue reading

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20 years??

By Matt Reese

I recently had a rare couple of free hours and some jobs to do around the house. I got my laptop out and clicked on my music list to enjoy some tunes while I worked. Things were going great. I was rocking out and getting stuff done for about three songs before it happened.

I am not especially tech savvy, and a few weeks prior I had plugged my phone into my computer to transfer a file and I unknowingly transferred many of the audio interviews I have done in my career over to my laptop. They intermingled with my music. As a result, my randomly selected mix of songs now includes randomly selected interviews I had conducted with countless farmers and agribusiness professionals from years gone by.

The first interview started playing over my laptop speaker and I sort of groaned. I stopped what I was doing (I think it was caulking the shower) and went to skip to the next song so I could resume rocking out and tackling more chores.… Continue reading

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Farm takes proactive steps to address undercover activists

By Matt Reese

On these wild weather spring days we’ve had, if I see the western sky darkening and the winds start picking up, I’ll run out and close the west-facing barn door, secure anything that might be prone to blowing away and put items under cover that I do not want to get wet. The coming storm is out of my control, but I can be proactive by taking measures to try to mitigate the damage it may cause.

The same strategy should be used with an impending public relations storm.

Animal agriculture is once again bracing for a storm in the form of possible fallout from an undercover video effort seeking to portray livestock production in a negative way. This time, the deceptive work of animal rights activists recently took place at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, one of the top agritourism destinations in the country. The working farm was designed with transparency in mind to showcase modern dairy production to curious consumers.… Continue reading

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