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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.”


Ag needs to be a squeakier wheel in farm bill debate

By Matt Reese

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, they say. And, right now, the wheels of federal farm programs are running smoothly, which may not bode well for the farm bill and agricultural funding amid the tight budget situation.

Agriculture is one of the few areas that has been proactive in light of the budget concerns in Washington, D.C. Joe Shultz, senior economist for the U.S. Senate Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, told attendees at the Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium back in mid-December about how agriculture tried to do its part in the failed Super Committee.

“Only one committee in the U.S. Congress stepped up and worked to create a reasonable plan to save money – the House and Senate Ag Committees,” Shultz said. “The thing that makes me proud to work in ag is that we were the only committee to come together on a bipartisan basis and give our fair share.

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GM mosquito terror spawned from lemon flavored milk

By Matt Reese

In response to the Doc Sanders article posted on our website earlier this week, “Thank God for the FDA: A sour tale of lemon flavored milk,” we got a question from a concerned consumer who had recently read an article that portrayed the FDA in a less favorable light.  She was concerned about the safety of eating foods with genetically modified ingredients approved by the FDA. I was curious, so I read the article.

The article was a classic effort to drum up mass panic about food and technology related issues with little regard to accuracy. It featured genetically modified mosquitoes, disturbing health consequences from consuming genetically modified foods and a deep suspicion of mainstream science with all the makings of a campy horror film. The author, Dr. Mercola, even sounds like a name straight from science fiction.

If you’re involved in agriculture, chances are someone has asked you about an article, book or movie presenting similar “facts.” How have you responded to these types of questions?

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Most viewed stories of 2011

 

With the dramatic expansion of our Web presence in the last couple of years, it has been interesting to see which stories are viewed most often. So, in a tradition started last year, we thought we would highlight the most viewed stories on www.ocj.com over the last year. These results will be in the January issue of Ohio’s Country Journal in my column, but you can get a sneak peek at them as they are posted throughout the week.

In many ways, 2011 was a year that will be remembered for a very long time. The top 10 stories from the year provide interesting insights into what is happening in the broader picture of Ohio agriculture.  It should be mentioned that these were among the top individual stories, but that posts highlighting major annual events including the Ohio State Fair livestock shows and the State and National FFA Convention, and regular features including Between the Rows were collectively viewed more times than these individual stories.

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Merry Christmas from the Reese family

The thin layer of fresh snow crunched under the tires of the old, rusted van than pulled into the parking spot between a gleaming new SUV and a small, sporty BMW. A lone man got out of the dilapidated van with a creak of the door and a cloud of cigarette smoke. He had dirty, 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 well-to-do 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.

He 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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Flood waters make for soggy Christmas tree sales

By Matt Reese

Christmas tree farms have to deal with the weather twice – once during the growing season and then again during the sales season. With just a few short weeks of marketing for Christmas trees from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the late fall/early winter weather can make or break the entire year.

Despite the soggy weather, Christmas tree sales were up for many Ohio choose-and-cut farms and sales increased nationally as well. This has been the wettest sales season we have ever had on the Reese family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County, but we were fortunate to have some nice weekend days between the incessant rainfall that flooded fields, muddied boots and made for generally miserable tree cutting conditions. We are blessed to have loyal customers, though, who were willing to brave the soggy situation and still come out to get a tree amid the mire.

It is my job to crawl underneath the trees in the mud and cut them down.

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A brown Christmas

This week, I wanted to share a blog my wife wrote about a very unfortunate, but humorous occurrence  at the Reese family Christmas tree farm.

A brown Christmas.

By Kristin Reese

This is a blog topic that you will not see me writing about often, or maybe ever again. I had to attempt to tackle this because it was so funny and gross. At our tree farm we did a beautiful new expansion of our gift shop. We are moving into the new age with our technology and of course our growing practices. While we have come a long way, we still use a Porta-John , a nice one but still a Porta-John. We have discussed adding on an actual bathroom with a toilet and even running water.

As any business owners know, you take it one major expense at a time. While, as workers on the farm, it would be wonderful to have a traditional bathroom but you do what you need to do.

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Last minute shopping gone awry

By Matt Reese

It was three days until Christmas. And, though I had no gift for her yet, my wife had dropped less-than-subtle hints that she wanted a new pair of boots for Christmas.

I have always steered clear of clothing purchases for several reasons. First, I never have any idea what my wife likes. In fact, if I pick the ugliest thing in the store, that is typically what she likes best (it is usually also the most expensive thing in the store). In addition, I never know what size she wears and I hate going to stores.

I was prepared last year, because I asked my sister about my wife’s foot size and I was told it was 7. So, I went to a store just down the street from my office. I walked in and quickly identified ugliest pair of boots. It was the last pair, so they must have been very popular.

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Talkin' Turkey Part II: Leftovers

By Matt Reese

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have so much to be thankful for this year, my fantastic family, my wonderful career and Ohio agriculture. Without a robust agriculture in our state and country, we would have far fewer blessings to count on the Thanksgiving table and all year long.

Of course, the turkey is always the star of the day, and there are always those great leftovers to enjoy. I have been fortunate to know Jim Chakeres for many years now and, in that time, have discovered that the Executive Vice President of the Ohio Poultry Association is a top-notch chef. With that in mind, I thought he would be the perfect guy to talk with about turkey recipes and the best ways to handle leftover turkey. Here is part of the Q&A we did with him in the Mid-November issue of Ohio’s Country Journal. And you can trust my taste buds that, if Jim says it is a good recipe, it is worth trying.

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Talkin’ Turkey Part II: Leftovers

By Matt Reese

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I have so much to be thankful for this year, my fantastic family, my wonderful career and Ohio agriculture. Without a robust agriculture in our state and country, we would have far fewer blessings to count on the Thanksgiving table and all year long.

Of course, the turkey is always the star of the day, and there are always those great leftovers to enjoy. I have been fortunate to know Jim Chakeres for many years now and, in that time, have discovered that the Executive Vice President of the Ohio Poultry Association is a top-notch chef. With that in mind, I thought he would be the perfect guy to talk with about turkey recipes and the best ways to handle leftover turkey. Here is part of the Q&A we did with him in the Mid-November issue of Ohio’s Country Journal. And you can trust my taste buds that, if Jim says it is a good recipe, it is worth trying.

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Buy your wife a fir for Christmas

 

The Reese family is gearing up for another big Christmas tree season. We spent the summer and fall doubling the size and refurbishing our aging gift shop to get it ready for the day after Thanksgiving when we open for the year — we call it Green Friday.

At any rate, there are a number of important varieties to choose from when getting a real Christmas tree from a farm (clearly the best way to do it). At our tree farm, Kaleidoscope Farms in Hancock County, we sell Canaan Fir, Blue Spruce, White Pine, Scotch Pine, Austrian Pine, Norway Spruce, Fraser Fir, and Black Hills Spruce. Here is a nice overview of popular Christmas tree varieties from University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Ron Wolford.

 

– Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) has short, flat, long-lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrance.

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Take time to thank a veteran

We get to celebrate Veteran’s Day in a special way on my family’s Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. We participate in the Operation Evergreen Program that sends around 300 Christmas trees, complete with handmade ornaments, to troops stationed overseas for the holidays. On the Sunday prior to Veteran’s Day, we invite area veterans to come and select three or four Christmas trees from the farm to cut for this purpose. Local elementary students, high schools students and community groups also visited the farm to present the ornaments they have made to the veterans. This year there were well over 3,000 ornaments brought to the farm. The trees and ornaments then go from our farm to the Ohio Department of Agriculture where they are inspected and shipped off to Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever else U.S. troops are serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each year we have done this, my Grandpa Franklin Deeds has been a part of the ceremony.

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Will cellulosic ethanol power my flying car?

As a young man I enjoyed science fiction books and movies portraying a future of fantastic flying cars, robots that would do all of your chores for you and Jetsonian conveniences. At my young age, those wild fantasies did not seem entirely outside of the realm of possibility in my long life ahead.

Since then, I have grown up and entered the professional world of agriculture and found a new flying car to wish for — cellulosic ethanol. Cellulose is considered the next frontier in ethanol production. The process involves extracting sugars from the cell walls of biomass from a wide potential range of plant materials.

Successful, large-scale corn-based ethanol, of course, has been a fairly recent, but successful addition to Ohio’s energy portfolio, though it is not without controversy. Right or wrong, livestock producers, consumer groups, and environmental groups have often been very critical of ethanol for a wide variety of reasons.

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Rats!


We could not believe how much grain the fall lambs were eating. Not only were they cleaning out the trough quickly they were spilling the grain all over the place, even outside of the pen. Soon enough, though, the real culprit was revealed. I was out in the barn the other day finishing up chores when I saw a giant rat over by the feed (though based on its size it could have been a rain forest dwelling marsupial that had escaped from the Zanesville wild animal farm.)

Now I normally consider myself a fairly stout-hearted farm boy. Spiders don’t really phase me, snakes are no problem, and mice are almost cute, but this rat just about made me jump out of my skin. Yikes! It was terrifying.

After some further investigation, I found its lair — a large hole carved out beneath the cinder block barn side. I dropped some rat bait down the hole and hoped for the best.

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A riding “lamb” mower?

It was a long summer for mowing the grass this year as steady rains kept it growing. We have missed very few weeks since we started mowing the lawn in April (when we mowed multiple times a week in some cases). We are hoping this week will be the last that we need to mow the grass. On what may be the last nice sunny day for a while, we thought we’d better get it done.

My children love riding on the mower with their mother (I do the push mowing) and both kids wanted to ride for the last time this year. In addition, the bottle lamb named Lily (that freely roams the barnyard because she is small enough to fit under all of the fences) also wanted to go for a ride. Hence, I went outside to get something from the garage and found this unusual scene in my yard…

Good luck with finishing up your mowing for the year and try to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

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A riding "lamb" mower?

It was a long summer for mowing the grass this year as steady rains kept it growing. We have missed very few weeks since we started mowing the lawn in April (when we mowed multiple times a week in some cases). We are hoping this week will be the last that we need to mow the grass. On what may be the last nice sunny day for a while, we thought we’d better get it done.

My children love riding on the mower with their mother (I do the push mowing) and both kids wanted to ride for the last time this year. In addition, the bottle lamb named Lily (that freely roams the barnyard because she is small enough to fit under all of the fences) also wanted to go for a ride. Hence, I went outside to get something from the garage and found this unusual scene in my yard…

Good luck with finishing up your mowing for the year and try to enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

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Meet the Reeses

This summer, we did a family video that highlights the large amount of stuff we do on our little farm. We stay very active with various agricultural endeavors because we enjoy them and we want our children to learn life’s lessons from an agricultural perspective. And no time is better to be around a farm than the bountiful harvest season.

We are currently gearing up for Christmas tree season and have been trying to help my family with a dramatic expansion of our gift shop building. We also have a pen full of meat chickens that will be ready for market in a couple of weeks and we are still feeding some bottle lambs. This is Fairfield County Fair week as well. Kristin is the poultry superintendant and Campbell will be helping show sheep in the Open Show and competing in the Sheep Lead. It will be a fun, but wild week.

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Still a long way to go…

My wife will tell you that I have long been a fan of cheap dates that involve taking her with me when I do story interviews that she would find interesting. Thus, it has been tradition that around our September wedding anniversary to do this.

This year, our cheap date tradition had a slightly different spin — our two children. We had also planned a work weekend at my family’s Christmas tree farm and decided we would go straight from the NE Ohio story interviews to our NW Ohio farm, which required that we bring the children. Though this was not quite ideal, the Pine Tree Barn, Moreland Fruit Farm, and Gervasi Vineyard all have great outdoor spaces where the kids could run around. The trip had all the makings of a fun family adventure and a cheap date.

We left at 7:45 a.m. and it didn’t take long for us to grow concerned about the uncooperative weather.

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Cider, anyone?

We picked up delicious apple cider from Hirsch Fruit Farm. The whole family loves it, particularly my two-year-old son. We had the cider at a birthday party for my daughter and I received reports from six different people that he had asked for (and received) cider from them throughout the course of the afternoon. Fortunately, there were no ill effects.

Though my son clearly has an affinity for cider, I was very proud the other day to see him share some of his cider with his sister after she had finished her own. It was one of those moments amid the wild schedule of our house that was great to see and enjoy as a father.

This is especially refreshing since these days it seems that almost everyone is looking out only for themselves, often at the expense of the greater good. It is nice to see that my son has already learned to share with others, even one of his most valued commodities.

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Sheep in the house?

I arrived home from the Farm Science Review this week to find a tiny lamb clad is a shirt strolling through my bedroom. Sadly, I was not as surprised by this as you might think.

My father-in-law’s flock of Horned Dorsets is lambing at full force. We’re up to 47 lambs born this month, with another batch yet to come in the next few weeks. Of that 47, there have been two sets of triplets, which obviously create some challenges. One set of triplets is at our barn and, because the ewe does not have enough milk for all three, they need to be bottle fed. While the lambs are very young, they are fed an exasperating 6 times a day. This, of course, makes for quite a bit of extra work, particularly at the midnight and 4 am feedings.

The smallest lamb born this fall (and one of the smallest my wife has ever seen) resides in our barn.

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A most notorious Ohio Century Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In a desolate house on a corner, lived three wealthy men all alone.

For years they had lived there together in the secluded spot they called home.

No mother or sisters had they. Their father had long been dead.

For years they had labored together, cheerfully winning their coppers and bread.

Faithfully they clung to each other, did Loren, Jarvis and John.

And no less than 1,000 acres composed the farm, which they lived on.

In a dark little room apart from the others, stood an iron bound safe firmly locked.

Here was the hoarded gold of the brothers, no stranger allowed on the spot.”

So begins the 1903 song, Jarvis Meach, by Miss Coral J. Irish that sets the stage for the notorious Meach robbery that occurred a year earlier. I recently got to meet with Jarvis Babcock and his sister, Catherine (Babcock) Leary about their family’s Century Farm.

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