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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.”


Stories live on after a friend is gone

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We were very sad to hear about our friend and co-worker Kirby Hidy passing away this weekend. Anyone who knew Kirby knew that he loved to share stories. His love of story telling made its way into the OCJ a few times when he wrote some guest columns. Kirby will be missed, but his many great stories will live on for all who knew him. Here is one of my favorites, originally published in December of 2011.

2186b87The Christmas pony

By Kirby Hidy

I was about four years old when I sat on my first horse. Mom and Dad took my brother and me to a local rodeo and horse show. An uncle and several other local cowboys and cowgirls competed in various events from rough stock to wild cow milking (my uncle’s event) to various pleasure horse and youth classes.

As my family and I walked around the grounds, I was fascinated by the horses and, as far as I was concerned, REAL LIVE COWBOYS!

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Fair season is almost here

Next month, summer will finally arrive along with the Ohio agricultural fair season. With the 2015 crop of Ohio fairs, there will of course be new chances for hard work to pay off, the talents of Ohio’s youth will be showcased and show ring dreams will come true.

This year’s fair season gets an earlier start than in recent years. The season kicks off June 8 with the Paulding County Fair, followed by the Putnam County Fair and the Pickaway County Fair starting on June 22. The fair season concludes this year with the Loudonville Independent Fair in Ashland County starting Oct. 6 and the Fairfield County Fair starting Oct. 11.

Throughout the fair season, Dale Minyo and Ohio Ag Net will be on the road again this summer visiting fairs around the state. Stop by and say “Hello” and check in on the markets and happenings in Ohio agriculture.

Most of the OCJ/Ohio Ag Net staff will be at many events during the Ohio State Fair held from July 29 to Aug.

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The massive backfire of the non-GM burritO

Though folks in the ag media have been expressing outrage concerning the questionable marketing practices from fast food giant Chipotle for years, the restaurant chain’s misleading tactics have seemingly gone unnoticed (and have even been celebrated) by most everyone else. That changed in April, though, when Chipotle announced that it was removing all foods containing genetically modified ingredients from its menu — the first major restaurant chain to do this.

Since the announcement, the formerly beloved burritos have been blasted around the country on the air, on the Internet and in newsprint. A flood of information came out about the incredible hypocrisy of Chipotle’s “food with integrity” campaign that disregards an overwhelming scientific consensus, basic, well-founded nutritional facts, honesty, and common sense. The menu’s high caloric content, lofty sodium levels and sugary sweet beverages have well-known, scientifically proven ill effects if consumed in quantity, yet the restaurant chain claims that it offers a healthy eating choice because it is removing genetically modified ingredients from the menu.

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Ag is sexy

Extreme, over simplified, unscientific, and exaggerated problems for the sake of marketing, activism and bolstering the bankrolls of non-government organizations have proven to be far too successful to go away anytime soon.

The reason these tactics work: they are sexy. PETA, Greenpeace, and the Humane Society of the United States have been successful because they know that sexy sells. The videos and pictures of abused animals, the mournful music, the attractive celebrities endorsing these groups doing crazy media stunts — all of this offers a unique flair that makes it stand out due to being extreme, memorable, unique, clever, terrifying, or otherwise instantly recognizable as something desirable or worthwhile. In short — sexy.

The details of the science behind genetically modified crops are inherently boring to most people. Short, emotional headlines about their potential ills for mankind (where the facts need not get in the way) are sexy. That is the problem.

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Planting by the phase of the moon?

In these days with more science than the world has ever known, there is still plenty that is unknown in the world of agriculture. Because of that, there are still those out there who consider the sage advice in the pages of almanacs.

At the office, we consulted multiple farmer’s almanacs this spring to identify the best days to plant corn. In general, according to almanac wisdom of old, it is best to try and plant corn in the first quarter following the new moon. In both April and May, the new moon phase starts on the 18th. The very best dates are after the first quarter, which starts on the 25th of both months. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are considered the best Zodiac signs for planting.

With all of this in mind, we came up with a list of the best days to plant with input from Blum’s Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac, Harris’ Farmer’s Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

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Generations of growing seasons

The year my family started planting Christmas trees was 1983 — 32 years ago. Back then, my father was my age now and I was the age of our son who is five.

The family tradition continued this year, albeit a bit later than normal.

We typically plant trees as soon as things dry out in very early April, but this year the rains kept coming and the fields were slow to dry. The bare root tree seedlings have a limited life in the shipping boxes. We try to get the trees planted within a couple days of their arrival and this year the trees sat in the boxes for more than two weeks as the rains never offered a chance to get in the fields. We finally got the first round of trees planted on April 16.

In 1983, we planted the Christmas tree seedlings with flat dibble bars that are used to make a triangular hole in the ground to insert the seedling and then close the hole up.

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Consumer food choice eroding away in the name of consumer food choice

In this country we continue to see consumer food choice being eroded away in the name of consumer food choice. Here is an example that recently came through my inbox that shows how this is happening.

I got an email asking for my support of the Real Food Challenge. The program is directed at college students and community leaders to encourage them to push for the local college or university to shift a portion of their food use to “Real Food.”

Here is more from the email directed to those associated with The Ohio State University:

The Real Food Challenge is a national initiative to encourage universities and other institutions to buy more food from local sources. Students at OSU are very involved locally in reaching out to the university. If you think the organization you represent might be interested in signing on to the attached letter to OSU President Michael Drake, and if you have any questions, please contact…”

Now, so far this sounds very reasonable.

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A water rule by a different name

A rule that was once called WOTUS,

Crafted by an Agency of POTUS,

Does it sound much more cool as the Clean Water Rule?

Has the EPA gone and snowed us?

Now everything’s all in a muddle

Ag and the EPA in a scuffle,

‘Cause the water rule’s a dud, ‘bout as clear as mud,

Who’d have thunk tryin’ to govern a puddle?

You can take a donkey and call it a horse,

And some fool will believe you of course,

But let’s not be fooled by this Clean Water Rule,

And let them pass this ass for a horse.

First, let me say that my recent trip to Washington, D.C. reaffirmed my general belief that most people who work for the government do so because they truly want to help. I think that holds true for the folks at the oft-criticized Environmental Protection Agency as well. They just want to help and do what they think is right, generally speaking.

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Welcome to spring weather

I coach my son’s U6 soccer team and the practices and games are all outdoors so we are at the mercy of the wildly changing Ohio spring weather. If the weather for the day starts out bad I start getting texts and calls from parents before noon asking if the 6:00 p.m. practice will be cancelled. Don’t they know that we live in Ohio and can have snow in the a.m. and sunny and 65 degrees in the p.m.?

Once, I caved to parental pressure on a gray rainy mid-afternoon and cancelled practice early only to find that idyllic conditions prevailed by practice time. All the other coaches made fun of me while their teams practiced beneath sunshine and blue skies and my team’s practice field sat unused.

Such is the case with spring in Ohio and it appears that the weather will keep soccer coaches and farmers guessing over the next few weeks.

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No spreading manure on frozen ground!

They say I should not apply manure in the snow,

And they’re writin’ up legislation to make sure that I know.

And I’ll do my part, take it to heart, to get cleaner water, that’s for sure,

But of geese and politicians, who spreads the most manure?

So when there’s too much P in the water, and the politicians scowl,

Should they be crying “FARMER!” or should we be crying fowl?

 

 

 

 

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The equation for improving water quality

In just one short presentation at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada, Newell Kitchen provided a great example that illustrates the complexities of the vexing water quality issues in Ohio agriculture.

Kitchen is with the USDA-ARS Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit. Over the last two decades he has worked to address a challenge that has torn down civilizations for thousands of years — soil erosion.

“Civilizations didn’t so much collapse as they consumed themselves,” he said. “How do we get away from treating soils as consumable? When erosion consumes 1.5 inches of topsoil it takes 300 to 400 years to replace that soil if it is under grass. Erosion is still unfortunately a very active process on the agricultural landscape and it needs to be addressed. Sometimes we think a little erosion is not going to matter in the long run, but it does matter.”

To make matters worse, soil erosion also contributes significantly to problems with water quality.

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Farm Machinery Show Valentine

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I know I can be a burden around this time of year,

Because the ground is frozen and winter time is here.

I’ve got all my shop work caught up, and it’s too to cold to be out today,

And when I spend my days in the house I just end up in your way.

So my gift to you my darling, is that I’ll just go

With a bunch of buddies to Louisville for the Farm Machinery Show.

I simply love you too much dear to give a simple rose,

Or chocolates, or candy or lingerie or a pedicure for your toes.

You are wonderful in every way, and deserve some time to relax on your own,

You can read a book or take a nap or talk to a friend on the phone.

You could cuddle on the couch with me, but now you won’t have to hear me snore,

And you can wear the “I Luv my Hubby” t-shirt I got you the year before.

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Is it GMO verses organic? Or is it just food?

What if customers don’t want to be educated about their food?

Generations ago, pretty much everyone understood (at least generally) the origins of the food they ate. If they didn’t produce it themselves, they probably knew someone who did and how the process worked. Since then, things have obviously changed.

As our society has progressed, people are increasingly removed from the life and death of food. Why is that? Could it be that people really don’t want to know that their hamburger was walking around just a few weeks earlier? Could it be that they do not want to think about the fact that many plants gave their very lives for their salads? All in all, these sentiments may be wholly unappetizing, and such grim realities can stand in the way of an otherwise pleasant dining experience. Whether right or wrong, that is a sentiment that exists.

Maybe the growing lack of understanding and interest in the details the food supply over the last few generations is much more intentional than we often seem to think.

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Perception is reality when it comes to water quality and agriculture

Perception is reality.

Those involved with agriculture have long known this — people smell with their eyes, support family farms but hate factory farms, and oppose GMOs even though they do not know what they are. These perceptions translate into realities for agriculture.

The ongoing public debate concerning water quality is laden with perceptions, misperceptions and plain old confusion, even more so than some of the other issues in agriculture. In the case of genetic modification, for example, the crops are among the most tested food ingredients in the history of mankind with no proven ill effects, yet the perception that they are bad and/or unhealthy persists. Even with science clearly on the side of genetically modified crops, perception continues to trump it. Amazing.

Now consider the power of perception in the water quality debate, where there simply is no definitive science able to clearly quantify the factors involved in causing the problem.

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Bikini tractor races, agriculture and “The Bachelor”

The ladies at the office are abuzz about the new bachelor. And, by bachelor, I mean “The Bachelor” on a television show where ladies vie for the affection of (and a marriage proposal from) a desirable guy. While apparently the announcement of the new Bachelor is always significant for fans of the show, the big agricultural news this time around is that the man in question is Iowa farmer Chris Soules. His family farms several thousand acres with a fleet of red equipment, from what I’m told. He works in real estate along with his duties on the farm. I have also been informed that he is quite handsome.

The online description for the show is: “man chooses from a group of women.” That pretty well sums it up, but here is more from the show’s website:

“Millions of single women had mixed emotions when Chris Soules, the stylish farmer from Iowa, was sent home by Andi Dorfman on The Bachelorette.

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Woolly bears and the winter weather

At a recent family gathering one of my uncles asked me about fuzzy caterpillars and their supposed ability to predict the winter weather. He asked because he had noticed a general lack of caterpillars on and around his northwest Ohio farm last fall.

At the time, I admitted my lack of knowledge regarding caterpillar winter lore, but offered to look into it. While I still don’t know what the absence of wooly worms in northwest Ohio last fall will mean for the weeks of winter weather ahead, it was interesting to learn about the lore. Here is what I found out. And — don’t worry — it was all on the Internet, so it must be true.

The caterpillar in question is the woolly bear that anyone who frequents rural Ohio in the fall has surely encountered. It is very fuzzy with black bands at both ends and a reddish, rust colored band in the center.

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Top stories of 2014

Our web site (ocj.com) keeps track of the stories that generate the most interest. We like to review the top stories for the year 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, visit ocj.com and look for “2014 top stories of the year” on the right side of the page.

In addition to these top posts, other noteworthy drivers of web traffic in 2014 included the Ohio and Pro Farmer crop tours, the Ohio State Fair livestock show results, Section 179, and the Ohio FFA Convention. All things draft horse related, the devastation of PEDv and the numerous weather challenges during the year also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months.

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Trapping Santa seems ill advised

The holiday sprit has settled in at the Reese house. Cookies are in the oven, the Christmas tree is decorated and Christmas music fills the air. Everyone celebrates Christmas in their own special way, though, and our son has taken a somewhat unusual tactic to commemorate the season of giving.

Upon walking into our son’s room the other night, I ran into a series of trip wires, a strategically placed stuffed animal and a fair stick precariously positioned over the doorknob and below the light switch. Before I could even guess what was going on, the five-year-old asked, “Daddy can we get a net?”

With further explanation, I figured out what was going on. The fair stick (which needed some further tweaking to be effective) was supposed to trip the switch to turn on the ceiling fan when the door is opened, which then spins to pull a series of jump ropes, pieces of baler twine and bungee cords that disengage a strategically placed net on the ceiling.

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