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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.”


Wow! What a storm!

Wow! What a storm last night. For the first time since we have lived at our new home, we gathered up the kids and headed to the dank basement because of a possible tornado. It sounded fierce outside and we thought it would be best to take the safe option.

I do not know if there was a tornado here or not, but the morning light revealed quite a bit of damage. Two electric poles down from our house, the pole was snapped off about three feet up of the ground. The pole and electric line are out in the field.

We had four very large pine trees that uprooted and fell over, narrowly missing the house. We had countless pieces of slate blow off of our old roof. The wind shattered an old glass window in the barn and blew off part of the barn roof. There were also several places where siding had been blown off of our house.

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The planting season has started for Christmas trees

While cold, wet weather persists, corn and soybean growers can only sit and watch their soggy fields hoping for sunnier days ahead. Because we plant most, and usually all, of our Christmas trees by hand, we can get out in the fields comparatively early to put our Christmas tree seedlings in the ground. We use a 6-inch auger to drill holes and then four or five of us follow behind, kneeling down in the dirt to plant the trees.

This year we are planting 2,800 trees or so, mostly Canaan fir, but also some white pine, Concolor fir, and Black Hills Spruce. We started planting in earnest on what was the first semi-warm day this season on Saturday. We worked from 8:30 to 8:30 crawling around in the dirt and got about 1,100 trees in on our drier ground. We are still waiting on our wetter ground to get fit, hopefully sometime this week.

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A royal afternoon

My family had the opportunity to meet the first ever Ohio Wool Queen, Elaine Leightey, and her husband Franklin, from Upper Sandusky. Leightey was crowned in 1955 as the first queen. The dress was handmade and she was treated like real royalty, meeting celebrities including Phil Donahue and Neil Armstrong. She had number of other great stories to tell that I will include in an upcoming story.

It was fun for my wife to meet Mrs. Leightey because Kristin was the Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen in 1999 and is the current coordinator for the contest. Our daughter Campbell was extremely excited to meet the “Queen” and has royal aspirations as well, with hopes of one day being a Lamb and Wool Queen herself.

All in all, it was a very royal afternoon.

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Gibbs the latest in a bumper crop of Ohio ag leaders

Much to the dismay of Buckeye fans, Ohio State was not No. 1 in basketball or football. Ohio is not the top corn or soybean producers in the nation. Nor is the Buckeye State at the top of the list for the production of many agricultural commodities. But I do think a case can be made that Ohio is near or at the top of the nation in another very valuable category — farm and agricultural leadership.

From the FFA to the commodity organizations to the Federal Government, Ohio has a rich history of producing leaders with agricultural backgrounds. One of the most recent additions to this storied history is Bob Gibbs, the first-ever former state Farm Bureau president to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

Gibbs graduated from The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in 1974, and then started raising livestock at his Hidden Hollow Farms in Holmes County.

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Keep focus on the value of our food

“Pork chops.”

“I think we’re going to have pork chops tonight. I love pork chops. We’ll probably have some sweet corn and some iced tea too. Mmmmmmm.”

In college, I worked for an old guy who refinished high school gym floors in the hot summers. On our long road trips to and from jobs, we would often have long discussions about one of our favorite subjects — food. Whenever conversation of the day’s work trailed off into long stretches of silence, he would inevitably blurt out the name of one of his favorite foods, usually whatever his wife was making for dinner.

I too love talking about food, and his dinner discussions would always result in resumption of lively conversation for the duration of the trip. People love talking about food and, in recent years, it has become clear that they also love to talk about the rising prices of food.

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How will you celebrate Ohio Ag Week?

By Matt Reese

How will you be celebrating Ohio agriculture week?

Just last week, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 89 designating this week (the second full week of March) Ohio Agriculture Week. HB 89 was passed unanimously by the General Assembly and is intended to increase public recognition of the vitally important role agriculture plays in Ohio.

I will be spending part of the week in Washington DC with the Ohio Farm Bureau on their annual lobbying trip with the county presidents from around the state. My wife and children will be going to a couple of local elementary schools to talk about agriculture on our small farm and in the state of Ohio. They may even be taking one of our sheep with them (which has always proven to be an adventure in the past). In addition, my wife is planning an agriculture activity for our daughter’s class at church. 

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Ohio agriculture addresses the horror of hunger

With spring planting on the horizon after a long cold winter, Ohio’s farmers will once again plant Ohio’s rich soils to produce abundant food for the state and the world. Unfortunately, despite this unprecedented bounty of agriculture, people around the world continue to suffer from horrors of hunger, some right here in Ohio.

“[Hunger’s] cascading impact goes far beyond just the pangs and physical discomfort that accompany it. Hunger also affects the human spirit…This horror gnaws at the heart, perhaps even more than it gnaws at the stomach and it colors every other aspect of life,” wrote Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., in his book, “The hole in our gospel” (which is definitely worth reading if you have the chance).

Fortunately for many, Ohio agriculture has long been at work on this vitally important issue of local and world hunger through a variety of efforts. Here are a few recent examples.

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Love birds?

Don’t tell my wife, but amid the extremely busy schedule of Commodity Classic in Florida, I have found another girl. This friendly female parrot gave me a kiss at a BASF event held at Busch Gardens. As you can see, she is very pretty and is quite a talker. She is also on a similar intellectual level. We were instant soul mates.
Other than this brief fling, Dale and I have been very busy compiling many interviews and quite a bit of great information to share in the next few days. Bart, on the other hand, has been more infatuated with a tall, leggy red-head giraffe he met on the Safari later that night.

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Words are my bailiwick

Kudos to Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin Extension soybean specialist, who presented at last week’s Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada. Conley’s energetic presentation featured volumes of great soybean information in Friday’s session of the meeting. While the presentation was well done, one of the top things I took away as a writer was his appropriate use of the term “bailiwick” — not a word typically used in an agricultural presentation.

Conley used the term in response to a question that would be covered in a later presentation by a different speaker, as the topic was that speaker’s bailiwick. The term means: An area of activity in which somebody has particular responsibility, or in which he or she has specialized knowledge or ability.

As one who has attended many farm meetings through the years, I really appreciate unique words when I hear them used amid the usual crop lingo. This also appeals to me because I too aspire to integrate unusual words in my writing on occasion just to spice things up a bit.

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Cooperative efforts for good and mischief

By Matt Reese

I have younger twin brothers who caused more than double the amount of parental consternation as young children through their cooperative efforts. On one occasion, the twins were around four years old and had gone upstairs to bed. My dad heard several strange noises outside and went to investigate. He was somewhat surprised to find a pile of toys, clothes, sheets, shoes, and just about everything else from the twins’ room in a pile below their open window.

As it turns out, the four-year olds, rather than going to sleep, decided it would be fun to work together to remove the screen from their window and throw the contents of their room outside. My concerned parents rushed upstairs to find the mostly empty room and the twins both straining beneath one of their mattresses that was partially shoved into the open window. They discovered early on that a cooperative effort could be very effective.

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Farmers Union spirit

Ohio Farmers Union is the yin to Ohio Farm Bureau’s yang. They are the voice of the left in the often right leaning politics of Ohio agriculture. So many times it seems that if Ohio Farm Bureau has a position on something, Ohio Farmers Union (OFU) is just the opposite – often a lone swath of blue amid a sea of Republican red.

This voice of Ohio’s blue-collar farmer, though, has been mostly silenced in recent years after the OFU’s former Secretary/Treasurer was caught embezzling money from the organization. The bottom fell out for OFU in spring of 2009 and the organization scrambled to maintain the viability of their insurance programs and other necessities. The tremendous financial loss from the crime severely crippled the OFU and forced the organization to cut staff and close its Columbus office. Heroic volunteer efforts of OFU president Roger Wise and others managed to keep the Ottawa office open, though their work in the Statehouse was all but eliminated.

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Don’t put daddy’s toothbrush in the toilet!

By Matt Reese

My wife and I try not to have a long list of silly rules for our children to follow, but sometimes, their actions warrant rules.

Here are a few of the strange rules in Reese family law.

  1. Do not stand on the table. There are clear safety issues when an 18-month old is standing on pretty much anything. Plus, no one wants the feet of anyone (even a cute kid) in, on, or around the food.
  2. Do not unroll toilet paper for any reason. There are, of course, very important reasons why toilet paper needs to be unrolled. But, due to our children’s seemingly insatiable desire to unroll the entire roll onto the floor and around our home on a regular basis, we had to enforce very strict guidelines. For now, mom and dad do the necessary unrolling to prevent an in-house TP party.
  3. Do not pet the dog.
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Don't put daddy's toothbrush in the toilet!

By Matt Reese

My wife and I try not to have a long list of silly rules for our children to follow, but sometimes, their actions warrant rules.

Here are a few of the strange rules in Reese family law.

  1. Do not stand on the table. There are clear safety issues when an 18-month old is standing on pretty much anything. Plus, no one wants the feet of anyone (even a cute kid) in, on, or around the food.
  2. Do not unroll toilet paper for any reason. There are, of course, very important reasons why toilet paper needs to be unrolled. But, due to our children’s seemingly insatiable desire to unroll the entire roll onto the floor and around our home on a regular basis, we had to enforce very strict guidelines. For now, mom and dad do the necessary unrolling to prevent an in-house TP party.
  3. Do not pet the dog.
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Oilseed radish the lamb

I’ve got another interesting addition to my post from a couple of weeks ago (see Conservation Stinks from Jan. 11) about the stinky oilseed radishes in my neighborhood. If you read that post, you’d know that the unbelievable smell of rotting oilseed radishes has been a regular topic of conversation in my family because we drive through the cloud of stink almost every day. My three-year-old daughter now says, “Whooo-weee. There are the oilseed radishes” whenever we drive by that farm.

The other night, I was home while my wife and daughter were out. We were expecting a ewe to lamb in the barn at any time, so I went out to see how she was doing. To my surprise, she had just given birth to a buck lamb. I quickly prepared a separate pen for her and the new lamb, just in time for the arrival of a second ewe lamb.

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Say cheeeese!

A portion of my duties at the OCJ includes taking photos to accompany the stories I write. In addition, I have been taking photos for farm-related calendars in the last couple of years. Along with that I do a few senior pictures every year and an occasional wedding.

As a result of all of these endeavors, I have spent a fair amount of time behind a camera and I am relatively comfortable there. Unfortunately, I am much less comfortable on the other end of a camera.

While my face is generally somewhat normal looking, it seems to morph into some hideous grimace when confronted with the end of a camera I am less accustomed to working with. The resulting photos reveal a distorted, ridiculous face that looks almost nothing like the visage I see in the mirror when I shave.

This perpetual problem of mine comes up every so often when I am in a wedding, my wife wants a family photo or it is time to update the OCJ staff photos.

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Conservation stinks

In the weeks prior to Christmas, we would load up the kids drive off to wherever we were destined. And, every road trip, just about a mile or so into our journeys, we would smell something awful. At first, we thought some small mammal had crawled into our engine and died.

After a few more trips, in multiple vehicles, we determined that is was not just our car, ruling out the dead-animal-in-the-engine theory. Then it occurred to me that the smell originated in the general area of David Brandt’s farm. He lives just a couple of miles from us and is nationally known for his work with long-term no-till and experimentation with cover crops.

I have heard him talk several times at various meeting about one of his favorite cover crops, the oilseed radish. This cover crop has many benefits, but is best known for its ability to break up compacted soils.

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It was a great Christmas for the Reese family

We had a really nice Christmas at the Reese house. The kids are just getting old enough to really have fun waiting for Santa.

After a nice Christmas Eve candlelight service, we went home to tuck in for the long winter’s night. Our daughter woke up at 3 am looking for Santa’s sleigh. She did not find evidence that night, but the next morning her full stocking, the presents under tree, the cookie crumbs, and the missing carrots for the reindeer were ample evidence.

They had a great time opening presents. Then we went down the road to my in-laws for a great breakfast, some more presents and then an afternoon nap. What a great Christmas. I hope yours was just as great.

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Christmas traditions on our farm

By Matt Reese

In this year of the 500th anniversary of the decorated Christmas tree, there is quite a bit of talk about tradition. For my wife and I, the annual holiday tradition starts with a massive Thanksgiving dinner at her parents’ home where we eat heartily.

This year’s guest of honor at the feast was a 40-pound turkey we got at the Fairfield County Fair. The lady on the turkey-cooking hotline was stumped and thought my wife was crazy to attempt cooking a 40-pound turkey, but she suggested a five- to six-hour cooking time. We soaked the bird in brine for nearly a day and a half. We got up at 3:30 in the morning to rinse the bird outside with the hose and bring it in to rub it with butter and start cooking. Fortunately, we measured the oven and this poultry giant just eeked in there. The turkey was actually done much sooner than the anticipated cooking time and it was spectacular (visit http://ocj.com/blogs/lets-talk-turkey/ for photos).

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We're staying busy at the Christmas tree farm

We are having a BIG year at the family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. Despite the cold and windy weather this year, we have been very busy cutting down Christmas trees. In the recent blizzard conditions we were still fairly busy. My daughter got to cut down her first tree this season. My 1-year-old son is still a bit young, but he is growing fast and has a bright future on the farm as well. My wife has also sold around 1,000 homemade Christmas cookies and 500 delicious cinnamon rolls (I have to conduct regular taste tests for quality control). We have been hearing similar reports of successful sales seasons from many other Christmas tree farms around the state as well.

For more about the farm, visit www.Kaleidoscopefarms.com.

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