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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.”


Red states, blue states and green water

By Matt Reese

I have been doing this writing/reporting/interviewing job for a while now. One of the first things I learned was, even at the risk of making myself sound dumb, I always try to admit my lack of knowledge about something and ask the questions needed to amend it. This is a good general policy and, in my case, it is important for very selfish reasons.

If I don’t know something and ask a dumb question to get the answer, I look silly to that person. If I do not ask the question and write about something I do not really know about, then I instead end up looking silly to thousands of readers. A lack of understanding has a way of compounding problems moving forward. In short, if you don’t know, do the leg work to find out the answers before you take action.

Thus far, Ohio agriculture has been pushing (fairly successfully) for this very strategy in terms of the ongoing water quality challenges in the state.

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Equine opine

Uuuugh…horses. I have a daughter who enjoys occasional horse rides, but she has an aunt with horses (which is just fine with me). Yes, I can see and understand the appeal. Horses are beautiful, graceful, powerful and really nice to observe grazing in pastures from afar — as long as those are not my pastures and I am not paying for their feed/veterinary/tack/saddle/etc./etc./etc. bills. In my estimation, horses are sort of like the boats of the animal world — they are kind of fun as long as they are owned, cared for and maintained by someone else.

Despite numerous equine challenges, though, there really is something special about pairing young people with animals and in some cases horses are the perfect fit. And, when horses and young people are combined with some caring expertise (along with ample funding and many hours of hard work) some really amazing things can happen.

Such is the case with Riders Unlimited, Inc.

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Soil is more valuable than gold

In terms of civilization, it is more valuable than gold. The soil is the foundation for food and stability required for organized, structured society. Without good, productive soils, everything else starts to erode away. The loss of productive soil is a sad tale that shows up over and over throughout the history of mankind.

This repeated trend throughout the earth’s millennia of agriculture intrigued David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who spoke at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in March.

“As a geologist I started looking at soils and studied erosion around the world. A decade ago I got really interested in how soil erosion affected ancient civilizations. That culminated in a book that looked at the role of soil degradation in the decline of ancient civilizations. There is a depressing component to that because you see the same story play out in society after society.

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Dancin’ dairy style (makes me smile)

It is no secret that dairy prices are in the dumps, and have been for a while.

It can seem sad/frustrating/stressful/scary/challenging/daunting/hopeless, among other things. Nope, there’s not much to smile about there. But, like all challenges in life, it is how each dairy farmer or farm employee responds to the situation that can make the difference in not only the specifics of their future but also the perceptions of others who are watching.

When things are grim (no matter the details) we have a choice about how we can respond. Dairy farmers Katie Dotterer-Pyle and Jessica Peters decided to respond by dancing and encouraged others who share their first-hand dairy woes to do the same.

Dotterer-Pyle is from Cow Comfort Inn Dairy in Union Bridge, Md. and Peters is from Spruce Row Farm in Meadville, Pa. The two young ladies decided to rock out lip syncing and dancing to “Shake it off” by Taylor Swift on video.

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Endless March: When will spring arrive?

Brrrrrr!

I consider myself a fairly cold tolerant person. I spend my early winters outside for many hours a day in the Christmas tree fields in all kinds of weather. I grow facial hair. I wear flannel, stocking caps and coveralls. I cut many cords of firewood and I really do truly enjoy winter, snow and cold weather. I handled (and even enjoyed) winter’s worst this season, but these chilly March winds and damp conditions made me yearn for warmer spring days ahead.

It seems as March wears on each year, I am ready for spring to arrive just a little sooner. My daughter and I were discussing the continually unpleasant weather in early March. I passed along some sage wisdom from my youth: “They always used to say if March came in like a lion it would go out like a lamb.” But after multiple appearances of the early March lion, my daughter and I are still eagerly waiting on the late March lamb.

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Salamander hunt!

Every year there are a handful of days in Ohio this time of year where it seems the last of winter has faded. Balmy temperatures warm your bones and the welcomed sunshine pushes the last of the winter doldrums away. There are a just a few of those days in Ohio this time of year where it is simply a pleasure to be outside just for the sake of being outside.

This was not one of those days.

I got an invitation to go check some salamander traps that had been set out a couple of days prior on a central Ohio property not far from where I live. Not knowing quite what to expect, I thought it would be interesting to check out along with some salamander aficionados, including the fine folks from MAD Scientist Associates, LLC, a full-service ecological and wetland-consulting firm based in Westerville.

Thus, I found myself clad in mud-covered boots slogging through the fields and forests of central Ohio after steady rains saturated the landscape.

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Winter Olympics will showcase agriculture (and curling)

Not too long ago I was with some friends at a local eatery watching the television intently. The featured sport was curling.

I do not claim to know much about the sport of curling, but here’s the gist. Players slide 44-pound, polished stones with flat bottoms on ice toward a target area (sort of like winter shuffle board). Each team has four players and eight stones and they try to get the stones positioned in the highest point categories. The stone is pushed down the ice by a curler and then sweepers vigorously sweep the ice with brooms to influence the path of the stone with hopes of bonking their opponents stones to lower scoring areas and putting theirs in the highest scoring positions.

The place I was eating was very small and pretty much everyone present ended up watching curling very intently. I must say it was the most thought I’d ever given to curling, but that may change soon as it is time once again for the Winter Olympics and curling is, of course, among the many events.

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Update on Miami Valley Feed and Grain spill cleanup efforts

The Sutherly family owns Miami Valley Feed and Grain in New Carlisle where a grain tank collapsed late on Jan. 21, spilling around 365,000 bushels of corn worth over $1.25 million. The wave of corn knocked out power and buried State Route 571. Sam Sutherly was kind enough to offer an update on the progress since the spill.

OCJ: What is the status of the cleanup effort?

Sam: The corn was cleared off of the road on Wednesday, Jan. 24, but State Route 571 remains closed by the City of New Carlisle. They decided that it would be easier for the utility companies (AT&T and Dayton Power & Light) to reset the utility poles without the normal flow of traffic. With the extra days, the machinery and semis had better access to the corn nearest to the road. The corn is being loaded quickly and safely to be shipped. The road is supposed to officially open for public use on Jan.

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The raw deal with raw water: Fears of a few can lead to the doubts of many

I was recently in the midst of a battle with a broken water softener. I was made aware of the problem via an aggravating beeping sound coming from the basement — the “error” alarm on the water softener.

Within hours I discovered that my thrice-filtered well water had gone from clear to an unsettling iron orange color. I determined the problem, ordered the part and got the water softener issue resolved as quickly as possible. Filtered, treated, softened water is a very good thing that I really appreciate.

In the midst of the multiple-day water softening fiasco at my house, I read an article about the rise in popularity of a new, trendy beverage craze — raw water. According to the New York Times, raw water contains probiotics or “healthful bacteria” not found in city water or bottled water subjected to filtration that removes beneficial minerals. The “raw water” is said to be sourced from pristine natural springs and sells for staggering dollar figures of up to $60 a gallon.

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Top 10 stories of 2017

Our web site keeps track of the stories that generate the most interest and at the end of the year we like to review the top stories to gain insight into how to better serve readers of our web and print content and our radio listeners. Plus, it is always fun to see which story comes out on top. To revisit all of these favorite web stories and videos in the last year, look for “2017 top stories of the year” on the right side of this web page. In addition to these top posts, other noteworthy drivers of web traffic in 2017 included the Ohio and Pro Farmer crop tours, the Ohio State Fair livestock show results, and Between the Rows. Weather challenges, the tough farm economy, and all things draft horse also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months. Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2017.

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Christmas unexpected

Franklin had a far off look in his eyes as he sat there amid the wrapping paper piles from his Christmas morning present opening frenzy. While he had certainly gotten a good haul, the big present — the pinnacle of his Christmas gift hopes for the whole year — was not what he’d been wanting.

At the top of his wish list had been the newest video game system. He already had one, but it was for kid games and in Franklin’s estimation he was beyond ready to move to the next level of video games. After all, he was 10 now, not just a kid. He’d been less-than-subtle with the hints dropped to his parents.

When he’d scanned the offerings under the tree he spotted what he thought was a box just the right size for the video game. He wasn’t allowed to open that one until last.

Finally after opening packages of socks, underwear, some books, new pants, and a video game for his old game system, and watching his younger brother and sister open all of their presents, Franklin’s dad (with an excited gleam in his eye) pointed to that last package.

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Big cats, badgers and coy wolves: Will a snowy winter offer wildlife tracking opportunities?

As we settle in for what many believe will be a cold winter, I am ready for some snow.

After limited snowball fights, almost no opportunities to take the kids sledding and nary a snowman in the last couple of winters, I am hoping for some snow and frosty weather in the months ahead. Along with opportunities for some outdoor fun, I always am fascinated to walk the fields surrounding my house to look for wildlife tracks with the children.

What seem to be empty fields during daylight hours turn into wildlife highways by night around my house. I never realize how much critter traffic there really is until I pull on my boots and take a crisp winter stroll in the snow and see the vast array of tracks from opossums, raccoons, skunks, mink, fox, and coyotes (among other things) that have traveled the landscape the previous night. My son, especially, loves to find and identify the tracks, and I am always surprised about the volume of them out there.

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National Anthem delays feast, but offers one more reason to be thankful

Last Thanksgiving, some of you may recall the football game that kicked off with what may be the longest-ever version of the National Anthem. Though it is typically around two minutes, legendary singer Aretha Franklin stretched the song to a full four minutes and 35 seconds before a matchup between the Lions and the Vikings.

On that day I was at the end of the line for a Thanksgiving feast and very hungry. The television was on in the background leading up to the game when I had finally gotten my massive plate full of Thanksgiving food and sat down to eagerly feast.

I didn’t even notice what was on the television across the room, and neither did anyone else, except for my seven-year-old son. I shoveled the first heaping fork full of food into my mouth to kick off one of my favorite meals of the year.

I quickly scooped up my next fork full but stopped with the food halfway to my mouth when I saw my son, sitting up on his knees in his chair beside me with his hand over his heart watching the waving American flag on the television.

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Of steak and sizzle (and antibiotics)

It has always been the case, but is amplified by social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Society demands — and rightfully so — that those in positions of accountability to others do what is generally believed to right, good and honorable. This is the steak.

In the case of the social capital for U.S. agriculture, there is plenty of steak, in both the literal and figurative sense. For generations, agriculturalists have built their businesses based on what they best believe to be right, good and honorable. The general story of agriculture, across the board, has steak aplenty. I know first hand as I have spent almost two decades finding good stories to highlight and I never have to look too hard to find them.

As the general populace has grown further removed from grandpa’s farm, though, the details of agriculture’s “steak” start to get a bit hazy. As a result, not only do those involved with agriculture have to really be right, good and honorable, they also have to demonstrate this to others in a tangible way.

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FFA traffic jams worth stopping for

I recently found myself inescapably trapped in a traffic jam in Indianapolis. It wasn’t cars and trucks, but a sea of blue jackets that prevented me from moving. I was in a hurry to meet with some folks for an interview and was being temporarily delayed without any hope of moving. The reason: the National Anthem.

I was riding up the escalator just outside of the arena prior to the start of a session. All of the televisions in the hallway featured a lone corduroy-clad FFA member singing a beautiful, respectful version of the National Anthem then switched to a picture of the flag. The escalator was packed with FFA members trying to get to their seats for the start of the Session and everyone (to a person) stopped in the places they were standing with their hand over their heart, respectfully watching the flag on the multiple televisions in the vicinity.

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A bit of OCJ history for you (Part 2)

Things have certainly changed both for Ohio’s Country Journal, and the farms that were featured since our Vol. 1; Issue 1 came out in November of 1992.

The Crops Section from November of 1992 included a story with Tom Ramsey, of J. M. Hiser Seeds in Ross County. Things have really changed since then. The 1992 story covered the challenges of the growing season for the seed corn production that only averaged 30 bushels per acre, down from 40 bushels per acre the previous year. The planting of the male corn plants in the spring was hampered by wet conditions, though the summer weather evened the crop out for what was an average seed corn yield.

“The business was started in 1937 by my wife’s grandfather. I was the junior partner in 1992 and now I own Hiser Seeds and my son Greg works for me. We got out of hybrid seed corn production when all of the traits got so intricate back in the early 2000s.

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A bit of OCJ history for you…

Nov. 1, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Ohio’s Country Journal with Issue 1 Vol. 25. The very first OCJ was a trial issue that came out in September of 1992 featuring Mark Thomas and his ethanol-powered hot rod on the front cover. The first official issue, however, (Vol. 1 Issue 1) was in November of 1992 and featured pumpkin production (and some fancy painted pumpkins) on the cover.

Things have certainly changed both for Ohio’s Country Journal, and the farms that were featured since our Vol. 1; Issue 1 came out in November of 1992.

CCrds1The front cover featured John and Carol Blatter who ran Blatter’s Truck Patch on Route 40 in West Jefferson in Madison County. Neither were raised on a farm but the Blatter’s started selling fruits and vegetables from a card table in their garage in 1978. By 1992, they had grown the operation to 63 acres with a focus on pumpkins and autumn sales.

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Harvey’s agricultural impact and an Ohio relief effort

Anyone involved with agriculture cannot help but be moved by the terrible pictures and videos coming out of the devastated region of Texas where crops have been lost, livestock has been lost and cattle are being moved to higher ground after massive flooding in the area from Hurricane Harvey.

According to The Weather Channel, heavy rains in Texas from Aug. 24 through Sept. 1 may total as much as 50 inches of rain in some areas. The average annual rainfall in Houston is 49.76 inches. Combined with the estimated sustained winds of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 25 were 130 miles per hour, Hurricane Harvey could be the most costly natural disaster in United States history.

“The economy’s impact, by the time its total destruction is completed, will approach $160 billion, which is similar to the combined effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy,” said Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather.

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2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour summary

After an extremely wet growing season for Ohio we were not sure quite what to expect in the 2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour. We had heard about dry weather, but were surprised how dry some fields were, especially in the northwestern part of the state.

There were certainly some examples that showed up in fields on the 2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour displaying evidence of those challenging conditions. We found some corn still pollinating to dented after the spread out planting season for many this spring. But, at the same time, we saw many more examples of how solid farm management practices made the most of some challenging weather situations and others capitalized on timely rains. The Tour was sponsored by AgroLiquid.

In the West, the I-75 group had an average corn yield of 169 bushels on Day 1 and 183 bushels on Day 2. The Eastern leg of the Ohio Crop Tour averaged 180 bushels on Day 1 and 166 bushels on Day 2.

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State Fair legends

Quietly whistling to himself, the judge strolled by Mike’s steer, giving it a long look. Mike was nervous, but he’d had a good day. He was in the hunt for champion — the last paring down of more than 350 steers. He clutched the halter of his clear favorite, the one he’d had his eye on all year.

Mike’s father started a 4-H club with a focus on showing cattle and he and his brothers had done just that from their earliest 4-H days. They were like most 4-H families and there was always the issue of who would get what animal and Mike had spent his show career picking and choosing with his older brothers. This year, though, was different because Mike’s brothers were older and off to college. Mike got first and last choice.

The steer he led around the show ring at the command of the whistling judge had come from South Dakota.

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