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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.”

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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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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.… Continue reading

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Should we legislate the rain?

First, the larger view and philosophies of HB 490 make quite a bit of sense. There is no argument there and that is why the legislation has general support from agriculture. Politically, many feel more needs to be done by agriculture to improve water quality in Lake Erie. HB 490 seems like a reasonable response from a proactive Ohio agriculture.

On the other hand, any time factors like weather, soil, nutrients, and water are a part of legislation, a broad brush is often used to cover the small details that really matter when it comes to complex challenges such as water quality. It also should be noted that the principles of HB 490 rely heavily on tried and true conservation practices that have been used in the past, which is when the problem with water quality got its start. This is a problem that demands change and a new way of looking at things based upon answers to questions that are not yet known.… Continue reading

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Heritage breed tied to a bit of Ohio history

Laura Haggarty can remember from childhood her grandfather handing out buckeyes from the tree on his farm to everyone he met. After he passed away, they found a buckeye or two in every one of his pockets.

Years later, Haggarty recalled this fond memory of her grandfather when she first heard about the Buckeye chicken. Ever since then, even though she now resides in northern Kentucky, the Buckeye has been close to her heart.

“I have worked with 17 breeds of chickens and Buckeyes are all I have now. They are just the best all around homestead bird. They are a true dual-purpose bird for eggs and meat and they are hearty. They forage well and eat anything that moves,” said Haggarty, who now serves as the treasurer for the American Buckeye Poultry Club. “When I started with Buckeyes, there were only around 500 birds left and now there are more than 5,000 due to the efforts of the Livestock Conservancy.… Continue reading

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Agriculture helping to fight hunger in Ohio

In the classic book, “The Yearling,” a boy befriends a deer fawn that he wants to keep as a pet on his family’s small southern farm. His father is reluctant, but eventually allows it, providing the deer does not hurt the crops. Well, as expected, the deer does significant damage to the crops that are vital for the family’s food supply and winter survival. The deer must go. The upset boy runs away and discovers the powerful pangs of hunger that drive him back home to the farm with a hard and painful lesson learned. Hunger — real hunger, not the “I’ve been working all day and I’m starving” kind of hunger we have all experienced — is crippling and all consuming. There is not much else that matters when you, or your children, are hungry.

Just like the young boy who picked a deer for a pet over the success of the crops, we are a society that takes food for granted.… Continue reading

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Ohio’s Patriot Guard Riders honoring fallen heroes

On this Veteran’s Day, it may be hard to imagine that anything other than respect and dignity would purposefully take place at a military funeral. But, unfortunately, such events have been plagued by protests and other challenges in the past that put an already grieving military family through more suffering.

In response, the Patriot Guard Riders — a volunteer, federally registered non-profit organization — was formed to ensure dignity and respect at memorial services honoring fallen military heroes, first responders and honorably discharged veterans. Jim Michael is a volunteer Patriot Guard Rider in Lima and travels Ohio on his motorcycle with mounted flags to honor those who lived and died serving others.

“I travel to missions from the Toledo area to Cincinnati, depending on what is needed. It is a really rewarding experience,” Michael said.  “When I am out on a mission, I always try to have the U.S. flag in the center, and I often have an MIA POW flag on one side and a flag from whatever branch of the service they were in on the other side.”

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse group of volunteers from across the nation — many do not even have motorcycles.… Continue reading

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2014 Farm and Fair Photo Contest results

With the end of the Fairfield County Fair in October, the 2014 Ohio fair season wrapped up. It has been another great year of fairs around Ohio and many online visitors enjoyed seeing favorite photos from around the state throughout the summer.

In addition, this year’s photo contest also included a bit more diversity this year with Ohio agriculturally-related photos of any kind. The contest ended Oct. 30. To see the entries, click here.

A winner was chosen via online voting based on the total number of votes. The winner will receive a pass for free admission to any Ohio county fair and the Ohio State Fair in 2015. The fair pass is compliments of the Ohio Fair Managers Association.

2 2014 Farm and Fair Photo Contest

 This year’s winner is Nancy Keiser, from Arcanum, who submitted a photo of her granddaughter Katie in the Family Barn with Moe the horse.


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Big numbers at National FFA Convention

One can’t help but be inspired by the quality and the hard work of the young people clad in those distinctive jackets who, for a few short days are turning Louisville a bluer hue.

This week’s National FFA Convention will once again transform the city of Louisville into a sea of corduroy as big numbers are expected for the event. The city is prepared for more than 60,000 students, advisors and other visitors for the 2014 National FFA Convention and expects an estimated economic impact of $40 million, with visitors in 136 hotels for a combined 39,247 nights within a 60-mile radius of Louisville. Those sound like some big numbers, but they are well founded based upon past conventions and the steady membership increases in FFA around the country. This last year saw an explosion in FFA membership throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. As of this fall, membership in FFA stands at 610,240 students up from 579,678 in 2013.… Continue reading

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Is the CAUV grass greener?

Anyone with fenced in livestock understands the idiom: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Such is the case for our Great Pyrenees sheep dog that we have penned up with our sheep. The dog’s name is Clay. He has a pretty nice setup in the barn and pasture with sheep and a donkey to play with endlessly, ample room to run around, a comfy place to curl up and sleep, and plenty of food and fresh water.

Unfortunately for us, the very large dog has the ability to get out through very small places. He is terrified of the electric fence, so that is not an issue. The problem is with the gates in the barn.

We have a swinging gate with a latch to allow easy access to the pen, but even though the bottom of the gate is only a few inches off the ground, he can get out.… Continue reading

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Budweiser Clydesdales a very popular attraction at the 2014 Fairfield County Fair

Whether it has been from a commercial on television or a chance sighting at an event somewhere, there are few people in this country who are not at least vaguely familiar with the impressive and iconic Budweiser Clydesdales.

The tradition of the horses started in 1933 when August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch III surprised their father with the gift of a six-horse Clydesdale hitch to commemorate the repeal of Prohibition. They saw the marketing potential of a horse drawn beer wagon and the tradition was born with an initial six-horse hitch drawn through the streets of New York City. The Anheuser-Busch tradition continues today with approximately 250 Clydesdales in the breeding program and teams that make appearances around the country accompanied by their mascot, a Dalmatian named Clyde.

Last week, the Fairfield County Fair hosted the renowned Budweiser Clydesdales. The famous horses have only ever been to a handful of county fairs in the nation.… Continue reading

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Fair rodeo much better than the real thing

It is Fairfield County Fair week for the Reeses — the last (and best in the argument of some) fair in Ohio each year. Sheep shows, guys and gals lead, open cattle show, pee-wee showmanship, and plenty of poultry will dominate the week for our family, along with a healthy dose of autumn fair food and fun. But, amid all of these activities, we try to attend some other fun events at the Fair as well, including the always entertaining combine derby and the rodeo.

Last night we watched brave bull riders, skilled barrel riders and a couple of crazy clowns in what ended up being a very entertaining evening for children and grownups alike. Little did we know that after the conclusion of the rodeo at the Fairfield County Fair, authorities would be involved with a real life cattle roundup in Highland County near Leesburg just a couple of hours later.… Continue reading

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Farm bill calculator has Ohio roots

As the extremely important decision about the Farm Bill programs draws nearer, farmers can take advantage of more tools that are becoming available to help in that decision. And, as is the case for so much at the federal level, Ohio has played an important role in the development of some of these tools.

Anthony Bush, a Morrow County farmer and Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association member, is very interested in the recently released Farm Bill Calculator that allows growers to compare and contrast how the different Title 1 programs in the farm bill will work with their farm numbers and price projections.

The idea for the calculator was created by farmers at the national level while Bush was Chair of the Public Policy Action Team for the National Corn Growers Association.

“I am extremely excited about that calculator. We worked on this for a long time. When I saw this thing in action, I was really impressed and I am glad that producers have this tool available,” Bush said.… Continue reading

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Apple harvest underway

Pumpkin pies are delicious, changing leaves are stunning, and the blue skies with crisp temperatures are great, but delicious homemade applesauce trumps them all in my opinion because it takes your taste buds back to the bounty of autumn harvest all year long. And, glancing in the freezer, I know that autumn is here because the supply of my wife’s homemade applesauce in the freezer is dangerously low. It must be time to pick apples.

In general, Ohio had a pretty good growing season for apples (though most of the state’s peach crop was wiped out by the cold). There were some pockets of apple frost injury with the cool, late spring, but the moderate temperatures and ample moisture around much of Ohio this growing season have led to a fairly large, and high quality crop for many orchards this year. Wet weather can often mean more fungicides, though cool temperatures helped keep diseases in check.… Continue reading

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Food reality, not rhetoric, should drive ag decisions

This summer we had three fluffy little kittens running around in the barn that both of our children adored — Little Stripy, Balderdash and Kitty. One morning when my wife was out doing chores in the barn with the help of our five-year-old son, little Kitty made the very unfortunate decision to hop right beside the dog food bowl while our aging lab-mix was eating. A quick growl and a snap from the grumpy 85-pound dog was all it took to send one kitten flying in multiple directions. It was a gory, but quick, finale for poor little Kitty.

Being around livestock every day, our son was upset about the loss of one of his kittens, but he quickly moved on with life, and apparently a new story to share with friends. A few days later we were driving home from a Cloverbud meeting when my wife got a phone call from a concerned mother.… Continue reading

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Jim’s rainy day

One day a guy named Jim figured out how to control the rain.

He grinned with glee at his newfound power. He figured the world he’d reign.

He set up a business (that for a small fee) could bring you rain or shine.

One week in his business boomed — things were working out fine.

Farmer McGinty needed rain for his corn. Farmer Smith needed some sun.

Betty Lou Harris had just planned a picnic and wanted guaranteed fun.

With a tip of his cap and a wave of his hand, Jim made their wishes come true.

That corn pollinated, the wheat harvest went well and the picnic skies were blue.

More farmers placed more orders. More events were planned.

Jim was making big money — his business going grand.

He could bring on the sun or precipitate, based upon a whim.

To predict what the weather would do, the local weatherman would call Jim.… Continue reading

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Concerned about water quality? Take a gander at the geese

Take a gander at this…

It is a great success story that plays out like a half-century long feel-good movie — the tale of the Canada goose in Ohio. By 1900, the Canada goose had been eliminated from the state of Ohio. In the tradition of white man’s abuse of the abundant natural resources of the land, Canada geese were wiped out from the Buckeye State. In response, the Ohio Division of Wildlife initiated a Canada goose restoration program on state-owned wetland areas in 1956. The effort had fragile beginnings, but by 1979 had proven successful with 18,000 Canada geese nesting in 49 Ohio counties. From there, Ohio’s goose population soared. By 2012, there were nearly 150,000 resident geese in the state and numbers have continued to climb. And, that does not include the migrant birds that are just passing through.

As the population has grown, the story of the goose in Ohio has gone from a feel-good movie to more of a horror picture.… Continue reading

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