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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.”


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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Dig a little, learn a lot

By Matt Reese

In my nearly 14 years as a farm writer, I don’t know that I ever saw anything quite like it. The sun was out (at least some of the time), the fields were fit, and the temperatures were warm in early April and there was a large gathering of crop farmers NOT in their fields. Instead of scrambling to make last minute preparations for planting or doing any of the myriad of other farm activities so often addressed on a pleasant spring day, well over 200 farmers went to someone else’s farm. This somewhat baffling occurrence demonstrates the power of and interest in soil health at a field day on David Brandt’s Fairfield County farm.

Farmers are learning more about the massive armies at their disposal for improving farm profits and productivity by taking steps to work WITH Mother Nature instead of fighting her. These legions of productive and efficient laborers need no wages and they can be unbelievably productive.

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New ways to build old-fashioned relationships

With today’s technology, there are more ways than ever before to bridge the widening gap between consumers and agriculture, which (somewhat ironically) is more important than ever before.

Social media, blogging, and websites offer opportunities to develop relationships based on trust and shared values regardless of the geography and demographics that have restricted good old face-to-face relationships that have facilitated this debate in the past. My wife and children recently visited an area farm to learn about embryo transfer in beef cattle and she shared what she learned in her blog. Now, people she has never even met have a way to connect with her and a fascinating component of agriculture. This effort did not take long. After the farm visit she spent maybe 45 minutes documenting the experience, added a few photos and posted it. The blog allows her to reach hundreds or thousands of others with a fact based, accurate message about current happenings on modern farms.

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Extension offers cure for ag information disorientation

By Matt Reese

When soaring through the air at high speeds, jet pilots can experience spatial disorientation where their perception is different from reality. This can occur when they lose the horizon in poor visibility conditions. When this disorientation occurs, pilots need to rely on their instruments, and not their perception, to safely and successfully guide the plane. If left uncorrected with the help of instruments, the disoriented pilot could unknowingly end up in a diving turn known as the graveyard spiral, which (as the name suggests) does not end well for the pilot or the

plane.

In the flood of information overload in modern agriculture, sometimes farmers (and farm writers) need a reliable tool to help keep the proper perspective when facing information disorientation. Every agribusiness company out there has its own set of agronomists, consultants, research, test plots, miracle products and production benefits — then they have meetings, press releases, advertisements, websites, email, and social media to share them.

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What are you doing for National Ag Day?

By Matt Reese

Today is National Ag Day and, to be quite frank, this is not really that big of a deal to me, or my family. This morning, for example, I got up and went outside to feed the livestock hay and grain, let the chickens out and gathered eggs just like I do every other day.

I suspect most people actively involved in farming take similar action to commemorate Ag Day — nothing out of the ordinary. And, quite frankly, that is the problem today and every day. The purpose of National Ag Day, and the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) that started it, is to increase the public awareness of

agriculture’s vital role in our society. The Agriculture Council of America and the National Ag Day program started in 1973.

The ACA believes that every American should:

• Understand how food and fiber products are produced.

• Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

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Feeding generations

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.

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A farmer’s lament

By Matt Reese

It seems all too often that agriculture is being pulled in opposite directions. Consumers expect food that is easy, high quality and convenient from farmers who adhere to ever-changing rules of political correctness. At the same time, farmers face a dirty business as the food supply’s front line in the perennial struggle with Mother Nature that is not always fair, not always pretty and never politically correct.

 

A rowdy rooster rules the roost, and keeps his hens in check.

No I’ve never seen a rooster that’s politically correct.

 

The hens have a pecking order, where the weakest get a smaller share.

The top hen only answers to the cock — nope nothing PC there.

 

Though you may be offended, a bull pays you no mind,

As he looks up from amid his task being performed from behind.

 

A sow will eat her babies just because she can.

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Fun at Commodity Classic

The Commodity Classic is always a wild few days for us media types. This year, Bart Johnson, Dale Minyo and I

went to the event in Kissimmee, Florida.  It is all fun, but there is constant running from policy meeting, to fancy dinners, to meetings with advertisers, to networking opportunities, and to lengthy walks around the trade show. Then, when not attending one thing or another, we have to upload, interview, write, tweet, and Facebook so we can get the pertinent information to you in a timely manner. So, in short, it is fun, but it is also quite a bit of work.

There is always a nice media facility inside, but, whenever possible, I would sneak outside with my laptop to enjoy the beautiful weather (at least during the first part of the event) and Florida sunshine while getting some work done. I found a nice bench under some palm trees overlooking a well-manicured outdoor  grass and community area surrounded by the massive Gaylord Hotel and Conference Center (though this one is substantially smaller than other Gaylord Hotels around the country). 

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