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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.”


Thanks for putting the “you” in our Review

The warm temperatures and sunny weather encouraged a strong crowd at this year’s Farm Science Review, which always makes it fun for us at the OCJ/OAN barn. With more visitors, we get the chance to talk with more people about the hot topics of the day.

There were 46,680 in attendance for Tuesday’s opening day. Wednesday was the highest-attended day with 54,910 visitors and 24,200 visitors attended the show Thursday for a total of around 125,790 visitors over the show’s three-day run. That gave us plenty to talk about.

The most common topic of discussion in our conversation was the impending harvest. We heard about a widely variable crop around the state, some corn stalk standability concerns and the recent ear mold developments. Ty Higgins caught up with Seed Consultants, Inc. agronomist Matt Hutcheson at the show for an update from the Ohio fields affected by drought conditions mid-season and too much rain late in the growing season.

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Ohio’s Century Farms have changed the times

I love writing stories about Ohio’s incredible Century Farms. There is much wonderful history to be gleaned from these rural treasures that most people probably do not even know exist.

Everyone in agriculture understands how much technology, equipment, farm size, and farm conservation has changed through the centuries of Ohio agriculture, but it is also always readily apparent in Century Farm interviews how much times have changed culturally and socially. I saved back a few examples from my 2016 interviews to illustrate the enormity of the cultural changes in Ohio in just a couple of generations. Read on and just imagine if these things were to take place today.

 

Horsing around at 11

At age 11 or 12 in the 1920s, Richard Evans was already a veteran driver of a team of horses pulling a wagon hauling corn into Urbana, just up the road from his Champaign County farm. This was a job he was a bit nervous about after the team of horses had stampeded through a field when Richard was a young boy holding the reins.

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Another great I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour

The Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net staff barely gets a chance to catch our breath this time of year as we go from the busy Ohio State Fair straight into the Ohio Crop Tour and then we start getting ready for the Farm Science Review. Now, this is all fun, mind you, but it does keep us very busy from late July through September.

In addition to that, Ty Higgins jumps right back in the passenger seat after the Ohio Crop Tour to ride along on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour and provide excellent coverage along the way that gets picked up around the country. It is always interesting to see what Ty finds in Ohio (and the Midwest) and how it compares to the Ohio Crop Tour numbers.

Our Ohio crop tour is an enjoyable (and we hope) very informative outing for us on staff and those on the trip.

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Fire lookout tower adds a new bit of history to the Ohio State Fair

In the 1930s, lookout towers were used around Ohio to monitor and identify forest fires. Between 1924 and 1978 more than 30 lookout towers were built and operated in Ohio. By the late 1970s, though, their role was completely replaced by airplanes and now residents with cell phones are the best way to get a handle on spotting forest fires.

New this year at the Ohio State Fair Natural Resources Park is a refurbished fire lookout tower on display right behind Smoky Bear. The original Armintrout 71-foot-tall fire lookout tower was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as part of an early warning system in spotting forest fires. Originally located in Pike County, the tower was recently taken down and moved to the fairgrounds to reinforce the message of forest fire safety and provide a link to Ohio’s past.

The refurbishing process for the tower included sandblasting, acid dipping, and re-galvanization of the metal legs, as well as replacement of the wooden landing and stairs using wood grown and sawn on Ohio’s “green certified” state forests.

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Rib-Off never fails to be FANTASTIC

It does truly dazzle the taste buds — I once again had the chance to judge the Ohio Pork Rib-Off and it once again was FANTASTIC!

Oh the magical sauces, the tender, smoky meat, the delicious smells and eye appeal of the ribs — it is nothing short of amazing. Wave after wave of delicious pork cooked up from some of Ohio’s top rib makers was set before us to enjoy. Wow. First, baskets of ribs were followed by more of the same, each with a unique and tasty version of BBQ savoriness. But, there was little time to savor, because before we knew it, the next set of yummy ribs had arrived and there was more work to be done. There were no bad entries. They were all fantastic. And after the ribs came a relentless maelstrom of pulled pork leaving the judges in a sauce-covered stupor of pork-laden ecstasy.

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Eating like an Olympian

Ever since my junior high days I have been a runner. I joined the track team because it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Since then, I have never stopped running.

I cannot say how many of my stories have been mentally crafted during a late night run on back country roads guided by moonlight and accompanied by the crickets and rustling corn leaves in the lonely rural farm fields around me. My running keeps me in reasonable shape (even during farm meeting/banquet season) and helps keep me in tune with the seasons and agriculture around me — whether it is watching planting progress, smelling the corn pollinating, looking on as combines roll through the fields, or running through the frozen, snow-covered landscape in winter. Running also helps me organize my thoughts, plan my day and (believe it or not) relax for a bit.

And, although I do not really follow competitive running all that closely, I really have admiration for those who excel at distance running and the unbelievable dedication and hard work required for success.

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Is the backyard chicken boom good or bad for agriculture?

Mankind and poultry have enjoyed a long and storied relationship over time. The most noteworthy of these relationships, of course, is that of humans managing a domesticated animal for the production of meat and eggs. In recent years, the small size, numerous benefits and desire of some consumers to forge ever-closer connections with their food has led to a resurgence of a forgotten chapter in the history of poultry and mankind — the backyard chicken.

This spring that subject matter commanded the attention of a group of all ages gathered in a chilly room at the Pettisville Grain Company. The group intently listened to a lone man sitting on a stool in the corner with nothing but a microphone for two hours. The speaker, clad in bib overalls and a yellow hat, travels the country sharing the backyard poultry gospel to throngs of those passionate about their poultry. His name is Andy Schneider, but he is better known as the Chicken Whisperer

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“Northern pike!”

“Northern pike!”

I opened up my eyes to my six-year-old’s gruff voice with his face about an inch away from mine on the first morning of a recent trip to my family’s cabin on a lake in southern Michigan. I looked across the room to the clock: 6:40 a.m.

He had been up until nearly midnight the previous evening and I figured my son would sleep in for a while as result. Not the case. By the time I had poured a cup of coffee he had his fishing pole in hand and was headed to the dock.

Leading up to the trip, we had talked about the various fish species we could possibly catch in the lake, but the one of most interest was clearly the northern pike. We spent several days researching the fish online to see what baits could work best, the preferred habitats and its habits.

Since my childhood, my brothers and I have shared a similar affinity for the allure of the elusive “fish of a thousands casts.” Each morning around 7 a.m.

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Happy summer solstice!

To take notice of God’s grandeur never fails to give a thrill.

Such is true for summer solstice when the sun stands still.

Then oh the bonfires, fireflies and stars that glow

Lighting  farm fields and cattails and gardens that grow,

The sun sinking low before the shortest summer night,

Is nothing short of magic in the fading June twilight.

Today is the 2016 summer solstice — the longest daylight all year — and a rare pairing with a full moon.

The folks from “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” are definitely taking note of the unique situation that has not happened for nearly 70 years. They are teaming up with Slooh (a space exploration organization) to offer a live Web broadcast this evening of the rare summer solstice full moon.

“Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event,” said Bob Berman, Almanac astronomer. “We probably won’t push people off pyramids like the Mayans did, but Slooh will very much celebrate this extraordinary day of light with fascinating factoids and amazing live telescope feeds.”

For more, check out http://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-summer-2016-summer-solstice.

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Time for a rain dance?

The promise of big rains mid-week has fizzled out for some areas of the state with growing concerns about worsening dry conditions early this growing season.

According to the USDA’s NASS, much of the state has fallen into negative rainfall totals compared to the normal levels. The towns of Ashtabula and Sydney currently have the greatest rainfall deficits with -5.71 and -4.64 inches, respectively. Gallipolis is 2.59 inches above normal, but is the exception. Statewide, the surpluses are vastly outnumbered by the rainfall deficits.

Jim Noel with the NOAA/ National Weather Service Ohio River Forecast Center said that the summer weather pattern is in full swing with temperatures slightly above normal and rainfall below normal this week and warmer weather next week with more hit-or-miss rains.

“All indications are a warmer and somewhat drier July for Ohio. The pattern of June that is warmer than normal and wetter western corn and soybean belt and drier in eastern areas (including Ohio) will last into July,” Noel said.

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How do you pronounce triticale?

Triticale has gained more popularity as a solid cover crop option with some feed and grazing value as well. The story from the Bolender farm in Brown County shows how valuable the crop can be. The hybrid cross of wheat and rye has many merits but is a significant challenge for folks in the ag media (or at least me anyway). I don’t know how to pronounce it.

My initial guess is that you say: “trid-eh-kale.” So, when I do interviews or have professional conversations about the crop that is what I say, though I have been corrected numerous times by others pronouncing it several different ways. Some say “trid-eh-kal-ee” while others use “tri-te-kal,” “tridi-kal,” “tridi-kale-ee,” or “tri-te-kal-ee.”

After several debates about the correct pronunciation I have come to no definitive conclusion on how to say it. As a result, I often end up sort of nervously muffling the word in conversation because of my fear of mispronouncing it and sounding unprofessional.

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Is organic worth it? It depends…

When someone asks me if buying organic is worth the extra cost, I tell them, “It depends.” To simply issue a blanket statement that organic production is better for the environment and better for you is simply inaccurate, though it is a message regularly touted as gospel by many in the organic industry. But, of course, we all know that “it depends” is a poor marketing ploy.

The truth is, though, that “it depends” is a necessity of working with Mother Nature. Every factor of production on every farm (organic or not) has a wide range of complex components that make any claims or consumer-held beliefs that organic food is more nutritious, safer and better for the environment very misleading.

Demand for organic production continues to grow. In recent years, organic food sales have risen by double digits annually and organic food revenue has tripled over the past decade to a record $36 billion in 2014.

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Clover cover crop helping with weed control (so far)

After the trees are planted in the spring, a major source of summer labor on my family’s Christmas tree farm is weed control.

Weeds can rob young trees of exposure to sunlight, moisture and nutrients. The first year of planting trees on the farm (many years ago) we did not emphasize weed control and lost nearly the entire crop.

Since then my dad, brothers and I have spent countless hot, buggy, summer hours mowing between trees. This is most important in the youngest trees, which are also the easiest to mow off while riding on a mower. Imagine looking for an 8-inch tall tree in 8-foot tall weeds. Mowing takes considerable time and fuel and can also cause significant damage to larger trees by breaking branches and scarring the trunks. We do some spraying, which helps, but there are drawbacks and limits with that weed control method as well.

As an experiment, we are trying a Dutch white clover cover crop planted ahead of tree planting.

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Will La Niña send markets soaring?

The 2016 soybean and corn crops in the U.S. could face a serious shortfall if they get the full brunt of a La Niña.

This winter I had the great pleasure of talking with Elwynn Taylor from the Iowa State University. He is watching what the strong El Niño does next. He had this to say over the winter.

“If the El Niño manages to stay with us at least until the first of July, we have a 70% chance of an above average crop yield for the whole Corn Belt. If it switches out of El Niño to a La Niña, it is a 70% chance of a below normal average yield with extremely volatile weather. We hope the El Niño stays with us because it is the friend of the Midwest farmer. Should it disappear, keep track of it. It takes about a month before its effects go away,” Taylor said.

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The Reese garden mud hole barometer: A value analysis

When I was growing up, a neighbor had one of those Mule Barometers to monitor the weather. It said something like: “If tail is dry — Fair; If tail is wet — Rain; If tail is swinging — Windy; If tail is wet and swinging — Stormy; If tail is frozen — Cold.”

In what has become an annual tradition in our garden, my six-year-old son has unknowingly constructed something similar. On days when there is even a hint or suggestion of spring in the air, his greatest desire is to spend endless hours digging a mud hole in the garden. When he completes what he estimates to be a significant milestone in the excavation process, he immediately recruits me to begin hauling buckets of water from the barn to dump into his newly expanded mud hole. With great delight for the both of us — and any area buddies my son recruited to stop by and assist with the endeavor — we watch the resulting water fall flow through the shallower areas of the hole into the deeper trenches of his garden creation.

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Is the EPA funding an anti-ag PR campaign?

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Spring 2016

I killed a wasp in very early March and my daughter got her first mosquito bite the following week. By all accounts it appears that the planting season will be early in Ohio this year.

The four-inch inch soil temperatures will likely be running above normal this spring and forecasters thought they would reach above 50 and stay there one week to two weeks earlier than normal this spring.

“April is shaping up to be warmer and drier than normal,” said Jim Noel with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service in a recent CORN Newsletter from OSU Extension. “Historically in strong El Niño springs, we do not see late freezes but more normal last freeze dates. However, if the warmer weather causes things to start growing earlier, there is a risk a normal last hard freeze could still cause impacts.”

In addition, Noel pointed out that evapotranspiration rates will likely be above normal this spring due to the warmer weather.

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Battle of the Smiths

It was a battle of the Smiths for the highest Ohio yield in the National Corn Growers Association 2015 Corn Yield Contest.

Fresh off his trip to Commodity Classic where he was recognized for his corn yield success, Adam Smith had several tales of what turned out to be a pretty great 2015 for him and his family.

It was late 2015 and Adam just found out that he had the highest yielding Ohio entry of any category in the National Corn Growers Association 2015 National Corn Yield Contest. The final contest results had been released the December day he was driving south from his Huron County farm to pick up parts for his fertilizer spreader.

As he drove, Adam passed a farm in Marion County with a tower drier exactly like the one he’d just ordered. Though he’d never been to the farm before, and didn’t even know who lived there, he thought he would stop in to see if anyone was in the shop to ask about the tower drier.

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Thanks to those who make farming look simple, even when its not

A few years ago my uncle got a new farm truck. He searched long and hard for a new model with as few electronic gadgets and gizmos as possible. No power seats, windows or locks, or AC. The truck has standard transmission and certainly no heated seats or heated steering wheels. He even has to turn the knob on the radio for goodness sakes. Why would anyone purposely subject themselves to such personal calamity?

The answer: all that fancy stuff breaks, and it can’t be fixed in the farm shop. Power windows, for example, are very convenient until they happen to go out when you are trying to pay at a drive-through window in a torrential downpour. Then they are frustrating, unpleasant and expensive to fix (speaking from personal experience).

As I get older I continue to gain more appreciation for non-fancy, basic stuff that really works the way it is supposed to.

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Barn cats and drugs are hard to keep out, especially after you let them in

On the colder days during the winter months, we have a group of barn cats that crowd up near the front door of our house, hoping to sneak in to enjoy the warmer temperatures at the next opportunity. In the barn they have proven repeatedly to be valuable assets. In the house and under foot, however, they are irksome beasts.

Despite the fact that they have access to a cozy barn with a well-stocked haymow perfect for snuggling in on a cold winter afternoon, one too many trips into the house as kittens courtesy of our children has provided ample experience and know-how concerning the logistics of infiltrating the front door. The worst two feline culprits are Sister (named by our daughter as a hopeful hint suggesting a possible family expansion a few years back) and Auto-steer (named by our son based upon his love for all things farm). These two female tiger cats prowl the front step and wait for any entrance or exit from the house by a person not paying complete attention to the task of keeping the cats out.

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