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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.”


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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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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