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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.”


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah!

It is a very busy time of year for the Reese family with the Christmas tree farm, scads of ag events and meetings and the rest of our normal duties with the livestock, children and jobs. So, amid all of the running around we do, it is always good to take just a moment for a good chuckle. We run a full service Christmas tree operation. We cut, shake out the dead needles and bale the trees for the customers. A customer at our family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County shared this video of their robust Scotch pine Christmas tree being shaken at our farm. Ha!

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Wood-fired philosophy

The frost in the ground, a chill in the air,

A winter woods has a way of erasing your cares.

Especially with the laborious task to perform,

Of cutting up firewood to keep your house warm.

A flash of a songbird, a worn down deer trail,

A layer of ice over a woodland swale,

Hard work, sweat, muscles get sore,

With the resulting warmth well worth the chore,

Hardwood and fire and smoke and a saw,

The rustle of oak leaves that have yet to fall —

They’ve all been replaced with a thermostat on the wall.

We’ve gained so much convenience, but what have we lost?

There is a gain, but at what cost?

Can electricity or propane and technology,

Replace the good of a day spent among trees?

In the end, are we really ahead,

With fast food, email and store bought bread?

It is easy to turn up the heat and just write a check,

But sometimes I wonder if easy is best.

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Johnsons recognized for service to agriculture

By Matt Reese

I am fortunate in my job to regularly be surrounded by people who are committed to serving others. I get to talk with farmers who put family, farm, church, neighbors and God above any of their own personal advantage. I write about families who have generations of service to our country in the military. And, maybe most noteworthy, I get to work for the Johnson family that operates a business founded on the love of agriculture and a philosophy of willingness to serve others.

Last night, the Ohio Soybean Council recognized the Johnson family for their

contributions to Ohio agriculture, and ultimately, their service to others. Here is the award presentation from the 2012 Ohio Soybean Council banquet last night:

Someone once said that, “Many people measure wealth by money and things, but true wealth is measured by the number of lives you have a positive effect upon, Ed Johnson was the wealthiest man I know.”

Anyone who ever knew Ed Johnson quickly realized that he loved what he did and that he lived a life of service.

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I’m thankful for food

By Matt Reese

Harvest is mostly wrapped up around Ohio, the election is done and the season of Thankfulness and reflection upon the busy growing season is at hand.

I am thankful for my family, my career, the mercy of God and the freedoms we have in this country. I am thankful that, although we have had our share of weather challenges in the last couple of years, we have been spared the total devastation that so many of our country-mates have suffered to the East.

I am also thankful for food. I love food, especially during this special time of year. Each year, the Thanksgiving meal

inevitably lives up to weeks of anticipation as I dream of turkey, cranberry sauce, mountains of stuffing and delicious desserts. Then there are the leftovers — oh the delicious leftovers!

But along with the unprecedented options and bounty of food that we have to enjoy today, there is also unprecedented suspicion and skepticism about that food.

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Attitude of service

By Matt Reese

Life is not all about “me.” Life is about serving others, not ourselves, and agriculture has a unique way of teaching this key value.

An attitude of service always seems to be a bit more prevalent in rural agricultural areas (at least to me). The act of caring for the soil, tending to animals and producing products for others on the farm has a way of weaving itself into your moral code and instilling a willingness to serve others.

My wife and I are already trying to use lessons on the farm to teach our young children about the value of service to others. With this in mind, I tried to involve both of our children in the Operation Evergreen program this year. Each year on Veteran’s Day, veterans come out to the Christmas tree farm and select trees that will be sent to troops overseas with the hope of providing a bit of holiday cheer so far from home.

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Sunrise after Election Day

By Matt Reese

I took note this day after the election that the sun indeed rose in the east and crossed the sky as usual. It provided some perspective to the conclusion of the raucous few months of hype, promises, rhetoric, and politicking that have bombarded Ohioans.

Of course, winners rejoiced with unbridled optimism regarding the positive changes for the future and losers lamented the disastrous outcome for life as we know it. Ultimately, the truth of the matter is that the election results will be neither as idyllic as hoped or as horrific as feared. We have a proven system of checks and balances that (for better or worse) reign in these extremes. It may be flawed, but it keeps chugging along, just like that sun crossing the sky overhead.

This election, though, seemed that the stakes were a bit higher from the two very different, but both well-intentioned presidential candidates (and their respective parties).

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Trust is increasingly important component of food system

By Matt Reese

Trust.

It is impossible to live in today’s society without some level of trust. If you don’t believe me, just think through your day and take note of how many times you blindly trusted someone you barely knew or never even met. Any time we rely on something that we did not procure ourselves, we are trusting someone to provide us with a safe and reliable product.

We rely on things produced or handled by others for even the most mundane aspects of our lives — brushing your teeth, stopping at a restaurant for lunch, operating vehicles or farm equipment, taking a shower, etc. If the toothpaste, food, equipment, soap, shampoo, etc. is safe, then you never think once about this trust. If there is a problem with any of those products, though, the consequences could be life threatening. That is quite a bit of trust in somebody you have never met.

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Sheep lead politics

In this swing state election year, even the Guys and Gals Sheep Lead Competition at the Fairfield County Fair was not free of politics, courtesy of my wife. For the competition, my wife dressed our children like politicians and sent them around the show ring. My three-year-old son, in particular, performed like a seasoned politician with a golf cap, red sweater and blue blazer.

With the roar of the truck pull and the beautiful fall foliage of the Fairfield County Fairgrounds beneath a darkening autumn sky, I once again found myself holding onto a well-groomed sheep with one hand and any number of hair bows or sparkly ribbons in the other while my children waited outside the show ring. It is the annual event that makes me cringe and grin all at the same time in the paternal struggle that is the Guys and Gals Sheep Lead competition.

My daughter has done this several times and, really, the event is ridiculous by any measure.

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Rural votes matter

By Matt Reese

Yikes. Are you tired of political ads yet?

There is almost nowhere I can look in Central Ohio, other than the fields and autumn-clad woods behind my house, without seeing or hearing something about a political candidate. Radio, television, print, billboards, Internet, airplane banners — every possible form of media is overflowing with election driven messages.

Ohio voters have been relentlessly bombarded for months by a steady stream of political ads highlighting the virtues of some candidates and pointing out the villainous behavior of others. Ohio once again finds itself at the center of the election at the federal level, and is also home to multiple state and local elections of significant importance this fall. The amount of ads and money spent is clear evidence that, if you live in Ohio, your vote really matters on a national scale.

I have talked with multiple people who recently visited Ohio from other states and they are amazed at the number of national level political ads here verses what they see and hear in their home states.

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Farm bill failure hurts planning efforts

By Matt Reese

It was a harried Saturday morning. Our young son had an 8:45 soccer game and we were scrambling to get him equipped with the proper uniform, socks, shin guards, water bottle and all of the other necessities required for a 30-minute epic battle of three-year-old athletes upon the field of play. I was in charge of shoes and shin guards and we were running late.

With proper planning, I would have found all of the necessary items the night before so they were ready to go in the morning. I didn’t do that, however. It was a wild scramble and finally we had everything loaded and ready to go. The kids were in their car seats and we were headed down the road before I realized I left my son’s left soccer shoe at home. My wife was not impressed.

With busy schedules of story interviews, events, speaking engagements and meetings this time of year, my wife and I are always planning and scheduling ahead for our various road trips.

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Say yes to bacon!

While growing up in the Reese house, when any of my brothers would be asked, “How much bacon would you like?” they would simply respond, “Yes.”

The idea was that they would be keenly interested in any available amount of bacon. One of the favorite bacon dishes of our family was (and continues to be) World Famous Dad McMuffins. I am not sure of the the accuracy of the “world” part, but they were certainly famous in some circles, and the highlight of the egg and cheese sandwich on an English muffin was the bacon. As they were being prepared, there were inevitable bacon thefts and my hungry brothers and I waited for the delicious treat. MMMmmmm…bacon. I still love it.

In fact, I even tried the somewhat unusual bacon maple doughnut from Patterson Fruit Farm in Geauga County last week. (Thanks, by the way, to all in Geauga County who hosted us). 

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