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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.”


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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Unified efforts are productive for agriculture

There is tremendous power in teams or organizations to accomplish goals. Ohio is blessed with many wonderful agricultural organizations (checkoff-driven, commodity specific, and general) and there are many truly wonderful people working on behalf of farmers in Ohio within them. I consider myself blessed to have the chance to regularly work with the many fine folks employed by the organizations of Ohio’s agriculture.

Yet, inevitably, as budgets tighten and volunteer hours get harder to come by, it can sometimes seem like a turf war within the tight community of agriculture. Farm organizations need to spend increasing amounts of time explaining why you should be a part of that particular organization for simple self-preservation.

Though there are clearly challenges in this situation, there can also be great success when the organizations of agriculture focus each of their unique strengths on a common goal — an organized effort between organizations. Several recent stories prove just that.

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The exhibitors are the champions

When the Ohio State Fair recently put out the list of exhibitors from every Sale of Champions since the first one in 1968, I really enjoyed taking a few moments to read through the list. Johnny Regula, auctioneer for the Sale, did too.

“I have always felt the SOC is Ohio production agriculture’s chance to showcase our products — our boys and girls and our livestock. You take the list and look at the names of these exhibitors from the beginning and look now at what they are doing in agriculture, they are all leaders. That is what this program does,” Regula said. “You see these little dynasties. Here recently one of those might be the Banbury family. Going back you had the Westlake family do the same thing. In cattle you had the Shane family and in hogs you had the Islers and the Jacksons and then you had Rusty Coe.

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We’ll always have Paris…oh wait, never mind

President Donald Trump again sent the left wing aflutter when he fulfilled another campaign promise by announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that laid out a framework for countries to adopt clean energy and phase out fossil fuels in a global effort to address climate change.

The Paris Agreement seeks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

This, to be sure, is a noble goal, but in the world of climate science (and much more so in the world of climate politics) there are many ifs, buts, unknowns, and educated guesses that can render even the best of intentions ineffective. At its best, the Paris Agreement is something that makes people who are terrified of climate change feel good that we are collectively doing something to address the challenge.

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Pollinator prose

Floating through meadows with charm,

Buzzing ’round flowers on farms,

Pollination facilitator,

Everyone loves a pollinator,

Until one lands on your arm.

In March it was made official: the rusty patched bumble bee is the first wild bee in the continental U.S. to gain federal protection on the government’s list of endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the rusty patched bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) effective on March 21, 2017. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 11, 2017 with an effective date of Feb. 10, 2017. The effective date was subsequently extended to March 21, 2017 by the Trump Administration.

President Donald Trump, though, lifted the hold that had been placed on a plan for federal protections for the bee proposed last fall by the administration of Barack Obama.

“Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee.

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Raising hands for 4-H

Ohio is winning and I decided I want to try and keep it that way.

As part of its “Raise Your Hand” campaign, National 4-H wants alumni to sign in at 4-H.org/alumni. The state with the most registered alumni by the end of June will bring home $20,000 to use towards 4-H programming. On May 23, Ohio led the national competition with 10,501 alumni. Coming in second was Indiana with 7,677. Texas was third with 4,495.

I remember watching in awe as something I built as a nine-year-old launched into the heavens. One of my first 4-H projects was rocketry and I still remember the euphoria as I gazed skyward at my rocket soaring over the Hancock County corn fields. That project was by no means the most influential part of 4-H for me, but a fond early memory from the program that was a part of my life for many years.

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Why are we hog wild over bacon?

While growing up my brothers and I had a running joke that, when asked how much bacon we wanted, we would answer, “Yes.” The idea was that whatever amount of bacon that was available is the amount that we wanted. The Reese brothers (and our father) REALLY enjoyed bacon growing up, and still do. Apparently, we had cutting edge culinary tastes, because bacon has since become quite trendy.

“Bacon is hip. It’s cool. It is kind of the Band-Aid of the kitchen. If you burn a roast, you wrap it in bacon and you’re good to go. Bacon just works. It is a super food in terms of how it can be utilized,” said Quinton Keeran, bacon fan extraordinaire. “I’m a backyard BBQ warrior kind of a guy and I have yet to make one thing that I couldn’t improve vastly by wrapping it in bacon.”

Keeran has, to some degree, built a fair portion of his professional career in Ohio agriculture around bacon.

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Earth Day offers opportunity to showcase stewardship

On April 22, the broad Earth Day Network will recognize the concerns and the work of dedicated scientists by co-organizing the March for Science Rally and Teach-Ins on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“This year’s theme for Earth Day worldwide is climate and environmental science literacy, which is why the rally and teach-ins on the National Mall are particularly meaningful,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “It is fitting that once again this year, Earth Day serves as a vehicle for mobilizing concerned citizens — not only on April 22nd, but throughout the year.”

This Earth Day can actually be a great opportunity to not only support scientific literacy but also promote understanding of agriculture’s role in environmental stewardship. Terry Fleck, executive director of The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) said most consumers aren’t completely convinced farmers are doing enough to protect the environment, according to the latest CFI trust research.

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Easter candy to avoid this weekend

In the Reese house we grew up hunting for Easter baskets then scarfing down as much candy as we possibly could before heading to church. And, while I do enjoy some delicious Easter candy, I recently stumbled across some types that are definitely worth steering clear of with regard to inclusion in a youngster’s Easter basket. Here are some to avoid this Easter and I’ll think you’ll see why.

 

marshmallow_creeps

Creeps

For those who don’t know, the Easter basket staple of Peeps marshmallowy candies has developed a sort of sub-culture of fanatics. There are Peeps speed eating contests (which I don’t recommend) and countless crafty masters of destruction have found a myriad of unique ways to explode Peeps in microwaves and record the act of brutality to post on the Internet. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes but some version of the Peep is a must-have for many Easter candy connoisseurs as they are the fourth most-popular Easter candy.

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Ohio relief efforts sweeter than the meadowlark’s song

A western meadowlark garbled its charming call, watching over me from a charred tree limb as I rolled up strands of ruined barbed wire crossing through the bird’s former grassland home. In the place of the endless stretches of native grasses and forbs waiting on rains to burst with spring growth, blackened hillsides sprawled out in every direction. Despite its pleasant sound, one would have to guess that the state bird of Kansas serenading me was none to happy, having lost its home and livelihood in the few minutes it took the fires to sweep through the area driven by fierce March winds.

Like that lonely meadowlark, many ranchers in the area lost everything in a matter of minutes and we were there to offer a helping hand. In March, I had the wonderful privilege of travelling with a group of Ohioans to deliver supplies and get some work done in Clark County, Kan.

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Ohio to Kansas photo highlights: Farmers helping farmers

March 2017

Ohioans got together through Facebook to lend a helping hand to the folks in need in Ashland, Kansas after devastating wildfires burned the area.

March 24

7 a.m: The BAV crew meets up at the Beck’s facility near London.

8:30 a.m: The crew congregated at a rest stop near the Indiana state line with media, more than 40 loads of hay, feed, fencing supplies, and other items to start the convoy west.

9 a.m. to after 7 p.m.: The convoy cruised due west on I-70 through some brutal crosswinds, a traffic jam or two and some rain showers.

7:19 p.m.: BAV crew arrived at the Kansas City Hotel (with the remainder of the Kansas City Group to follow) for a delicious dinner at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. The rest of the group continued on to Pratt about an hour out from Ashland.

March 25

7:45 a.m.: The groups fueled up for the last push for Ashland.

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At the heart of agriculture is a helping hand

This picture is a stump of a Christmas tree I cut down last December on my family’s farm in northwest Ohio. My niece noticed the heart-shape and asked me to take a photo. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it caught my attention later as I scrolled though my phone photos.

As I looked at the photo more, I began to see it as a symbol of the farm that is more than just a place of labor or source of income. My heart is in it. The family farm — the soil, weeds, trees, buildings, wet spots, the critters that roam it, all of it — is a part of me. And no matter where I go or what I do, that farm will always be there. I know that most of you feel the same way.

Now, imagine that this piece of you — your farm — was devastated despite your best efforts to save it.

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Everyday heroes

I am unbelievably fortunate to have many heroes in my life, some who have been top of mind as of late. I thought I’d share with you a bit about these “everyday heroes.” I am sure you know some too.

 

Uncle Mike

I grew up beneath the gaze of this picture hanging on the wall of our school. One day in late junior high I was looking up at it. Another student stopped and asked, “Who’s that.”

“My uncle.”

The other kid looked up at the demigod staring down at us from the photo and then looked at me (uncoordinated with big glasses) with obvious and warranted skepticism. Uncle by marriage…not blood, but certainly an uncle to be proud to know both then and now.

In his formative years J. Mike Inniger was the epitome of a small town football hero that lives on in that picture and will long (and deservedly) be remembered for being a leader of the undefeated and unscored-on 1968 State Champion team in the hallowed halls of Cory-Rawson High School.

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Who’s the rabbit now?

Early this year Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would be shutting down with the final installment of the “Greatest Show on Earth” this May. This is at least partially a result of one final trick from the wildly popular Barnum & Bailey performing elephants — they disappeared.

Tickets sales for the circus really slumped after the touring elephants were retired in mid-2016 to the point that, when paired with high operating costs, the business became unsustainable. Of course, animal rights activist organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), were behind the push to pull elephants from the circus.

The event attracts roughly 10 million visitors a year who will now have to seek new venues to get their fix of exotic animals and human oddities galore. There is no doubt that the circus that ran for nearly 150 years will be missed by many, but as the legendary  Barnum & Bailey fades from our memories in the name of “progress,” will the thought of performing elephants one day be as foreign as phones with cords that hang on the wall and 8-track players?

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My Plate My State puts Ohio-grown foods on cafeteria trays

Though my metal, rusting Adam-12 themed lunchbox of yesteryear was a far cry from the insulated designer lunchboxes my children use today, the challenges remain largely the same. Times have changed, but for a host of reasons, schools continue to struggle to provide high-quality, low-cost nutritious meals that finicky students actually want to eat — though it is not for lack of trying.

Certainly a legacy of the Obama Administration will be Michelle’s oft-discussed school lunch requirements and I know plenty of hard working school cafeteria folks that really try on a daily basis only to be labeled with the notorious “lunch lady” moniker. But all of the many efforts that have taken place from my childhood until now have done little to slow the endless amounts of homemade PB&J or lunchmeat sandwiches and pudding cups carried to school each day.

Another challenge in places like Ohio with strong farm roots and diverse agricultural production is to connect the local food producers with the needs of the school system.

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Be on the lookout for prognosticating groundhogs next week

Early spring hopefuls will soon flock to the nearest prognosticating groundhog to gain meteorological insights into the weeks ahead. Known as Groundhog Day, the U.S. tradition builds upon old German lore associated with predicting the spring weather on Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple on Feb. 2.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.

Somewhere along the line someone added the hibernating groundhog and its shadow to the Candlemas tradition and Groundhog Day was later adopted in the U.S. in 1887. While Pennsylvania has the longest running tradition, Ohio is home to two groundhog meteorologists.

From Ohio History Central: “Buckeye Chuck is one of two groundhogs in Ohio known for predicting the arrival of spring.

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