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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.”


Those doggone farm dogs

There are a few things that immediately pop into your mind when you think of a farm, and not too far down that list is a trusty farm dog. While dogs are an indispensible part of many farms, they also can add some great stories. Most farmers have a few good dog stories.

My in-laws have a Great Pyrenees named Joey to guard the sheep from the increasing coyote population in the area. For the most part, Joey does a great job with the sheep, but occasionally gets a bit over zealous in his efforts.

Just the other morning, my wife Kristin was out wandering the pastures in search of a missing lamb. It had wandered away from its mother just long enough for the massive, and well-meaning, white dog to pick up the little guy up and gingerly carry him off to the far corner of the pasture for safe keeping until he could locate the mother and reunite them.

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Farmers feeding a hungry world and caring for it too

Back in college, I was (and I continue to be) pretty fiscally conservative. But, at the same time, I have also always loved ample quantities of good food. These reasons combined make me a big fan of a good buffet. Of course, at a buffet, my personal goal is always to make “profit” — to consume an amount of food with a value that is in excess of the monetary cost of the buffet in question.

For example, I was part of a group of three or four guys back in college that would venture down High Street at OSU and stop at a $6 pizza buffet. At that same place, I could buy a pizza for $9.99. So, if I could eat an entire thin crust pizza at the $6 buffet, I would easily make ample profit. A buffet outing that focused on the higher dollar “everything” pizza would be even more profitable if sufficient quantities were consumed.

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Food Dialogues combine the art and science of food

Have you enjoyed a good sunset lately?

This summer we had a stretch of beautiful summer cool days that made it a pleasure to be outside doing anything (even baling hay). Those beautiful days led to beautiful, crisp nights, many of which were buffered in by breathtaking sunsets.

After a long Saturday afternoon of stacking small square hay bales on the wagon, I wiped the sweat off my forehead and looked up to notice a beautiful sky as the sun dipped down toward the western horizon between the trees and rolling hills in the distance. I was hot and I had been working hard, but the cool evening breeze and the stunning pinkish-orangey-red colors of the sky after a day of working with family offered very a pleasant and hard to quantify kind of feeling.

We live in a science-obsessed society, but some things (like sunsets) are not about science. I am sure that some scientist somewhere could calculate an equation or track brain waves or something that could scientifically describe why people find pretty sunsets appealing.

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Food Dialogues in Columbus

As more questions and concerns about biotechnology and confusion about the oft-used term ”sustainability” emerge for grocery shoppers and diners around the country, people are looking for answers.

Some of those answers are being provided today, The Food Dialogues: Ohio is being live streamed at http://ofb.ag/fooddialogues from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT.

The Food Dialogues event series has been in multiple cities around the country and is coordinated by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance at the national level. The Ohio Soybean Council and the Ohio farm Bureau Federation have worked on and sponsored the details at the state level. Today’s Food Dialogues: Ohio is featuring two distinct discussions one focused on biotechnology and another on sustainability. The panels will be moderated by WTVN talk radio host Joel Riley.

The first panel discussion, “Biotechnology (GMOs) And Your Food,” will explore the role of science when it comes to issues tied to food.

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Teamwork required for Ohio State Fair

We have gotten tremendous response to the quick results we post from the Ohio State Fair. It is amazing how many people check out the photos, videos and results we post in real time as the junior market and dairy shows take place.

I was asked by several people at the Ohio State Fair about what happens behind the scenes to get the results, photos and videos posted so quickly. Well, that is a good question, and here is a short answer. Teamwork.

There are thousands of names, spellings, placings, home counties, and champions in all of the different shows we cover with all of the different species and breeds. It takes extensive work from all of our staff. We each have our own roles and we work together as a team to get the job done.

And during the course of the Fair, our support team for the rapid result posting extends well beyond our staff.

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Porktastic day at the Ohio State Fair Rib-Off

I waited an entire year for it. I got up and went for a three-mile run and ate a very small breakfast in preparation. I got in the car and drove to the Ohio State Fair and it was finally time for me to once again serve as a judge at the Ohio State Fair Pork Rib-off.

Oh the magical sauces, the tender, smoky meat, the delicious smells and eye appeal of the ribs — it is nothing short of dazzling and well worth a year of waiting since I judged in 2012. I was joined in my enviable role by David Black

with the Ohio Soybean Council, Dave White of the Ohio Livestock Coalition, Joel Riley from 610 radio, and Virgil Strickler with the Ohio State Fair.The event that followed was nothing short of amazing. Wave after wave of delicious pork cooked up from some of Ohio’s top rib makers was set before us to enjoy.

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Plenty to look forward to at the Ohio State Fair

At the office, we all look forward to the fun of the Ohio State Fair, but we also work pretty hard at the event to promote the youth and agriculture that are showcased there. Our staff puts in a huge number of man-hours at the event and, over the years, we all have found a few things we look forward to enjoying at the Fair every year.

In my estimation, Dale Minyo almost single handedly keeps the iced tea vendors in business at the Fair. He says he only averages three to four per day. He points out the importance of keeping the same cup for the duration of the event to maximize the savings. Dale also really enjoys seeing what is new at the Ag. And Hort. Building each year.

Bart Johnson remains enamored with Smoky Bear in the conservation area. Every time he sees that familiar face he recalls how amazed he was as a child that Smokey knew his name.

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Beware of heat for the rest of July

It is certainly hot and humid week for baling hay, but many people are doing just that around Ohio.

We bale around 20 acres of mostly small square bales and have been hitting it hard so far this week with a late second cutting following the very extended period of wet weather that bogged down any attempts to cut hay earlier. Yesterday I was out on the wagon starting to stack the second load when I got a bit dizzy. At first I thought I would push on and then better judgment set in. I went and sat in the shade and drank water for about 10 minutes and I was fine after that. Then I drove the tractor for the next load.

Be careful in this intolerably humid heat that looks like it will be sticking (literally) around for a while. Jim Noel, with the National Weather Service, says that the remainder of July will be on the warm side.

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Farm bill fiasco moves forward to conference

In a party-line vote of 216-208, the House of Representatives passed a stripped-down version of the 2013 Farm Bill, containing only farm programs. The bill also repeals permanent law. The reviews are mixed.

Some ag groups support it. Some act like they support it, kind of. Some parts of agriculture hate some parts of it, think some parts are OK and hate some of it. Democrats hate it. Republicans like it in a luke warm sort of way. But at least progress is progress, isn’t it? Or is this progress? Here is what some had to say about the half farm bill from the House.

“The American Soybean Association (ASA) is relieved that we will finally see a conference on the farm bill. However today’s approval by the House on a partial bill will mean nothing if we can’t get a bill back from conference that both chambers will pass. In that sense, there is still much work to be done,” said Danny Murphy, ASA president.


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Century Farm history less about “me” and more about “we”

I love to visit Century Farms each year for many reasons. There is usually fascinating history, there are always great family stories and there are generally some impressive historic structures to gawk at when you think about how they were built so long ago. Another reason Century Farm visits are so valuable is the perspective they provide.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busy schedule of today’s society. It seems that we have so much to do these days compared to those tales of yesteryear that are always so prevalent in my visits to Century Farms. Why is that? After years of learning about Ohio’s agricultural history, I continue to arrive at the same answer to that question: food.

Just a couple of generations back, whether they lived in the city or the country, people spent significantly more time and resources on food than we do today.

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What jobs can farm kids do?

Sometimes, after long hours of work on our various farm endeavors, I think to myself, “When can the kids start doing some of this?”

With hay to bale, Christmas trees to trim and mow around, animals to feed, show sheep to wash, and eggs to gather, there is no shortage of jobs for the Reese family in the summer months. There are seven young Reese grandkids to date (including our two) and as they grow into able-bodied farm kids, there will be inevitable questions about what jobs are safe and age appropriate for them to take over.

Peggy Hall and Catharine Daniels, with Ohio State University Extension’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program, wrote a recent article about the importance of this issue on Ohio’s farms. Here is an excerpt.

It’s hay and straw season in Ohio, which creates both a high need to employ youth on the farm and the challenging task of understanding farm youth labor laws.

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Ash holes, butt pans and other obstacles of inter-generational communication

Our three-year-old son is at a stage where he talks prolifically, but still a little “Dutchy” according to his great-grandma. This leads to inevitable communication issues with adults.

This communication gap was the source of great concern for my wife and I recently as he tried to describe for us the hole in the carpet made by a spark from the fireplace this winter. In his mind, this “hole” made from the “ash” was noteworthy enough to enunciate repeatedly in a very unfortunate word arrangement that, when combined with his three-year old dialect, sounded quite troubling. Not knowing what he was trying to describe, my wife and I exchanged a few worried glances after our son repeated the very crass-sounding phrase several times before I stopped him. I asked, “Do you mean the hole made by the ash in the carpet?”

“That’s ‘zactly what I’m talkin’ bout daddy, an ash hole.”

The communication misinterpretation can go both ways though.

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The compounding law of over-reaction

The other day I heard a trio of screams filled with terror and anguish from my wife and children coming from upstairs. Truly concerned about the wellbeing of my family, I dropped what I was doing and rushed upstairs in a panic.

 

Countless thoughts ran through my mind. Had someone severed a limb? Did something expensive break? Is the house on fire? Did someone fall out of a window? Should I call 9-1-1? What could have happened that inspired such a raucous squalling?

 

The culprit — a spider in the corner. I quickly addressed the situation to the relief of all parties involved (except the spider).

 

Now, to be fair, this was a particularly terrifying looking spider — a bit larger around than a quarter and bearing all of the creepy qualities of its brethren. Yet, even the worst Ohio spider is not worth that type of over-reaction (which, in turn, produces more over-reaction).

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Drive-by planting observations for 2013

In driving around Ohio roadways during the bustling planting season, I always enjoy peeking in on the progress in the fields via the view from the road.

Here are some trends I noticed in 2013:

1. New equipment is almost the norm. I got so used to seeing new (or almost new) equipment as I was driving around, the occasional old tractor was somewhat shocking. Planters too seemed a little bit newer and quite a bit bigger than in recent years.

2. With new equipment comes new technology. I think I even saw a guy with his feet up by the steering wheel of the tractor one day courtesy of auto steer as I drove past.

3. More fields with less residue. After hearing so much about increasing conservation tillage and a steady trend of moving more toward no-till, it seems that I saw more tillage (and more extensive tillage) in a larger percentage of fields than in the past.

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Dad on duty

My wife was out of town again. This time she was on a three-day lobbying trip with the American Sheep Industry in Washington, D.C. While she hob-knobbed and met with legislators, I was once again charged with keeping things running smoothly at home.

I employed my usual tactics that help things run more efficiently when Mom is gone, but anyone with young children and livestock to take care of knows that the task can be daunting for one person. All in all though, it went very well. Our house is still standing and we had quite a bit of fun, but it is always an adventure at home when Dad is running the show.

As I have previously noted, I find that it saves quite a bit of time to only clean once for the duration of my wife’s absence. She comes home to a clean house and I don’t waste time picking things up and cleaning over and over again.

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Watch out: Ticks aplenty this spring

I was out splitting and gathering firewood the other day in grass that was almost knee high.

I had already seen a number of ticks (more than usual) this spring, so I was expecting them, but I was astonished about how many there were crawling up my pant legs and arms. I would stop my task every 10 minutes or so and brush 6 or 8 of them off of my pant legs and another 3 or 4 off of my gloves and arms.

Ticks give me the creepy-crawlies (in fact I am heebie-jeebied out just writing about this). As it turns out, though, my fears are well founded. May is Lyme Disease Awareness month due to the increasing populations (and types) of irksome and dangerous ticks in Ohio.

“Ticks will be out looking for a blood meal,” said Glen Needham, an entomologist and tick expert with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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What are your plans for the “March Against Monsanto”?

Crowds are rallying, hazmat suits are being laid out in anticipation and black markers by the dozens are being used to scrawl a skull and crossbones on cardboard signs to prepare. The “March Against Monsanto” is looming on May 25, but I have other plans.

This protest being held in state capitals across the country later this month ironically illustrates yet another example of a lack of understanding of the basics of the food system. With a bit of homework, it is fairly easy to see that protesting Monsanto accomplishes nothing. Monsanto is simply providing the products farmers want. Farmers are simply supplying what consumers want. If protestors really want to make a difference, they need to stop buying the low-cost, convenient foods that society has demanded and continues to buy. These protestors would send a much clearer message if they stopped eating and drinking foods and drinks made with ingredients produced from genetically modified corn and soybeans from agribusiness companies.

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“Ag gag” debate heats up

First country crooner Carrie Underwood jumped on the anti “ag gag” bandwagon and now Ellen DeGeneres has added her celebrity status to the cause against the proposed “Tennessee anti-whistleblower” bill via her daytime talk show. The bill has passed the Tennessee House and Senate and now awaits a signature from Governor Bill Haslam.

To amp up the debate, DeGeneres had Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on the April 24 show and vowed to donate $25,000 to HSUS if 25,000 people share the interview online.

In his blog, Pacelle had this to say about the experience on the show:

“In the interview, I called on concerned citizens, especially Tennesseans, to contact Governor Haslam to veto this legislation. But I also asked everyone to get engaged in our fight to protect our rights and to understand what’s happening with the industrialization of animal agriculture…

“At the end of the interview, Ellen surprised me by letting me know that if 25,000 people share the interview she conducted with me, then the HSUS will receive a $25,000 donation.

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2013 Christmas tree planting

We scrambled in between bouts of cold weather and heavy downpours to get the Christmas tree crop planted a

couple of weeks ago. They have since been slogged with several inches of rain that are keeping farmers out of fields in the northern half of the state.

While there were a few wet spots, the fields were in pretty good shape for planting.

We planted more than 2,000 Canaan fir trees and 100 white pine, 100 Concolor fir and 100 Scotch pine trees this year. In the past, we have typically hand planted all of our trees, using a six-inch auger to make the holes. This is a huge amount of physical labor (and I am not as young as I used to be).

This year, we planted the first 1,200 or so trees in the open field with a two-man riding planter in around 3 hours. If we are really pushing with hand planting we can plant around 200 an hour with a crew of 6 or 8 people.

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