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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.”


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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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). … Continue reading

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General rules have exceptions, as a general rule

As parents, we have always stressed an across the board policy of openness and honesty with and for our children — no secrets. For many reasons, we believe this to be a very sound parenting policy, but we have found out that there are a few exceptions to this generally good rule.

It was our daughter’s fifth birthday party and she got the same very nice “Fancy Nancy” book from two different people. A couple of weeks later, one of her friends had a birthday party, and, rather than going to buy another gift, we simply wrapped up the extra book for the present to take to the party.

I took her to the party and she carried the wrapped gift. Upon entering the house, my daughter promptly told the birthday girl in front of her whole family, “Here is a ‘Fancy Nancy’ book. We didn’t get it at a store.… Continue reading

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The square dance of Francis McFarkle

His wife had long passed. Their four children had grown,

He lived in town now, still on his own.

His mind was still sharp, but frail he’d become,

Mostly tied to his walker, and stayed at home.

Yet a life of farm memories made his eyes sparkle,

And full of life still was Francis McFarkle.

 

It was one month ‘til Francis would turn 95,

And to celebrate all those years of his life,

He wanted a square dance like those of his youth,

When his body was strong and he looked good in a suit,

He wanted a hog smoked over charcoal.

This was the dream of Francis McFarkle.

 

For he wanted his great grandchildren to see,

Just exactly how good the old ways can be,

When to relax was the exception and hard work the norm,

When the old farmers knew how to weather a storm,

but there was still fun to be had, when they got a chance —

So a lifetime of toil was symbolized with a dance.… Continue reading

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God, farmers and underwear: A post Super Bowl rant

By Matt Reese

Much has been written about the wildly successful commercial, “So God made a farmer,” during the Super Bowl featuring the voice of Paul Harvey, a healthy dose of Ram trucks and Case IH equipment and his comments about the farmers of this country. Of course, I thought the ad was fantastic. The photos were beautiful, the words were powerful and the message was clear. It was so refreshing to see a positive agricultural message in the national spotlight. But, for me, the Ram ad was appealing for more reasons.

We typically go to my in-laws and watch part of the game with our children and have dinner. We mostly watch the commercials and catch the highlights of what is typically the first NFL game I watch all season.

Maybe I am just getting old, but the big game seems to have taken an increasingly worldly turn in recent years.… Continue reading

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Info, food and fun at plentiful winter meetings

By Matt Reese

This winter countless farmers and others involved in Ohio agriculture will grab a donut and a cup of coffee to settle in for a winter meeting or event chocked full of information. The meetings offer a chance to learn, socialize and recognize award winners.

The calendar is always full this time of year for those of us at the OCJ/OAN team. For example, in the current seven day stretch, I have attended (or will be attending) the Power Show (Friday and Saturday), the Ohio Farmers Union Annual Meeting (Friday), the Ohio Cattlemen’s Banquet (Saturday), a Preble County Farm Bureau meeting (tonight) and a meeting with the Ohio AgriBusiness Association (tomorrow).

These events are all important and valuable, but the schedule can become a bit daunting. And, my schedule is light in comparison to that of many others —particularly the dedicated Extension professionals who impart their wisdom at many of these events.… Continue reading

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A bit of perspective from a 90-year-old roofer

By Matt Reese

The slate roof of our old farmhouse has weathered the test of more than a century of everything Mother Nature had to dole out. And, for most of its lifetime, the roof has been cared for by the Hoshor family. Carl Hoshor recently turned 90 years old, but he is still actively involved in his roofing business. That’s right, a 90-year-old roofer.

We needed some work done on the slate roof of our old farmhouse last spring and contacted him to do the job. Everyone around told us he was the best. His sons Rick and Gary do the bulk of the rooftop labor now, but old Carl is still doing the bids and budgets for the jobs, “supervising,” and helping out from the ground level. The business is based in nearby Baltimore.

Part of the job at our house was the removal of an old brick chimney that was damaged by a small tornado in the spring of 2011.… Continue reading

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Wood-pile Picassos take firewood stacking to a new level

By Matt Reese

Back when I was a young man, while I was out driving I would look at fancy cars on the roadways with admiration. When I got married, my wife and would drive around and look at beautiful houses. We had kids and we started gawking covetously at the impressive playground/swing set setups in area backyards. Now that we heat our home with wood, my most current roadside driving distractions are impressive wood piles.

This all started last winter when I cut up a large pin oak tree that had died in our pasture. When it was all cut and spilt, and combined with some other wood I had split, I felt that I had a pretty impressive pile of wood. I brought my wife out to show her and, while somewhat impressed, she was not as dazzled as I thought she should be based upon the amount of work I had put into it.… Continue reading

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Farm life worth crowing about

By Matt Reese

This morning, at about 6:30 a.m., my three-year-old son had crawled out of bed and was frantically making the rooster crow on his toy barn. He was doing so with the hope of encouraging the sun to rise. I explained to him that the rooster responds to the rising sun by crowing, not the other way around. He absorbed this message and his wheels started turning (or maybe he was just thinking about breakfast).

A few minutes later, I went outside to do the morning chores as the beautiful pink-hued sun rose up over the rolling rural hills along the horizon. I listened for the crowing rooster from our chicken coop and knew my son was inside doing the same thing.

I often take for granted growing up on a farm, but children who grow up caring for animals and developing a rural work ethic really do have many advantages due to the lessons they learn at this critical time in their lives.… Continue reading

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Political lessons from a cookie and the fiscal cliff

By Matt Reese

The other day, I was working at home and the children were finishing up their lunches. My wife was out running errands, so I was in charge of cleanup.

My son asked to be excused and then asked very politely if he could have a cookie.

“I’ll tell you what buddy,” I said. “If you help me clean up lunch, you can have a cookie.”

I grabbed a couple of dishes and took them to the sink and grinned as I heard the three-year-old scrambling to pick up his plate behind me. He must have really wanted a cookie. Then, however, I grew concerned as I heard water running from somewhere other than the kitchen sink where I was standing.

I dropped what I was doing and hurried around the corner to the bathroom to the source of the running water. I found that, within seconds, my well-intentioned son had dumped his half eaten plateful of deli turkey and cottage cheese down the drain of the bathroom sink (no garbage disposal in there).… Continue reading

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Rusted van hides a heart of gold

By Matt Reese

The thin layer of fresh snow crunched under the tires of the old, rusted van that pulled into the gravel parking spot between a gleaming new SUV and a big pickup truck. A lone man got out of the dilapidated van with a creak of the door and a plume of cigarette smoke. He had greasy, long hair and wore a sweatshirt with cut-off sleeves and some ragged, grease-smeared jeans.

He definitely didn’t fit the mold of the typical customers that visit our Christmas tree farm for a fun, family experience. Despite his unkempt appearance, though, there was a delighted sparkle in his eyes and he wore a crooked, happy smile on his face as I walked with him into the snow-covered rows of Christmas trees.

Our footsteps crunched through the deepening snow drifts as the man started telling me about his love of a real Christmas tree for the holiday and how he had one every year of his life but last year.… Continue reading

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