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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.”


Tall drink of misinformation: The murky mistruths of water

Water is directly responsible for millions of deaths every year. Water is in the system of every person who has died from cancer. Water, mixed with sodium, is toxic for many types of plants. Ingesting water can be fatal within minutes for young children. Evil world dictators are universally linked with water consumption. Water can be found within a quarter mile of all bee hive losses. With the proper spin, omission and phrasing, it is possible to use facts that make just about anything sound scary. Despite these unsettling facts, there will not likely be any efforts launched for a nationwide label on all products that have any association with contamination from water. None of the above statements about water are in any way untrue, but because everyone has first-hand experience with water every day, they know better. There is significant potential for the generation of fear, however, when spin-laden scare tactics are applied to things people are less familiar with, including genetic modification, pesticides and large farms.

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Enjoy a delicious burrito without the side dish of ag negativity

I confess. I really enjoy Chipotle (hence forth referred to as Chi___le) burritos. What can I say? They are pretty darn tasty, but with that said, enough is enough.

With each round of anti-agriculture, negative advertisements, my stomach soured a bit more for the Mexican restaurant giant in spite of those tasty salsa options and sautéed veggies. The last set of ridiculous videos they released finally sealed the deal for me — no more Chi___le.

I have talked with others in agriculture who share the same dilemma. Though I will not name any names, I know of those who try to hide the Chi___le wrappers in the bottom of the trashcan of their farm shop or make lonely trips after twilight so no one notices their farm truck in the parking lot. I even know one Ohio agriculture VIP who sends his children to get the burritos for him. By doing so, he can honestly say he does not personally support the business if his kids buy the food.

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Honoring a century of service

This spring, my family had the honor of celebrating the 95th birthday of my grandfather, Frank Deeds. Much has been said about his generation that has seen agriculture go from horses, to horsepower to satellite guidance in one amazing lifetime. He endured the Great Depression and survived service to our country in World War II. He farmed, taught agriculture and served as an FFA advisor for many years. He educated a generation of students, helping them to be better farmers and, more importantly, better people. He worked tirelessly (and successfully) to provide a better life for his children and grandchildren.

With folks like my grandpa and so many others from his generation serving as role models and examples, it should make us all pause for a moment to appreciate what we have today and how we got here. Grandpa’s generation changed the world in ways that were previously unimaginable, even though we may not always take notice.

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The turkey and the crows

I recently found myself clad in camouflage, nestled motionless among briars, crawling ticks and mounds of poison ivy when I embarked on my first turkey hunting expedition.

We were hunting on a beautiful, hilly, hay and pasture covered farm in Harrison County. We tent camped for two nights and the weather was generally rainy and cold despite the mid-May calendar date. (It is a bad sign when you see the farm owner covering her garden plants with blankets headed into evening when you are tent camping outside.)

I never saw a turkey, but despite the general unpleasantness of the weather, ticks, briars and poison ivy, it was still a wonderful experience. We cooked our food over a campfire and shared many stories of the turkeys we thought we might have heard crying out from the depths of the wooded hollows. One person in our group, an experienced turkey hunter, got a large gobbler.

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Vigilance required this year for clean fields in the future

While my four-year-old son is a notorious dinner table food waster, there are some notable exceptions. He loves berries. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries — he loves them all. He especially loves to slather them in homemade whipped cream in a berry parfait. In a “no berry left behind” policy, he is consistently a berry parfait “clean plater.” With great tenacity he seeks out every last berry until they are all devoured.

A similar “clean fielder” approach appears to be a necessity this growing season for farmers dealing with the notorious palmer amaranth outbreaks that are springing up in crop fields around the state. When it comes to this problematic weed, they need to be as scarce as a berry parfait on our table after dinner to prevent years of future weed problems.

OSU Extension weed control specialist Mark Loux emphasized this point in this week’s CORN Newsletter after some troubling findings in Ohio fields already this season.

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Oil storage rules changing again (or are they?)

Even though we are typically in close agreement on most parenting strategies when it comes to our two young children, differences in the details of the rules my wife and I set from day to day are not uncommon.

“Brush your teeth…”

“But Mommy said we could read a book first and THEN brush our teeth…”

“No ice cream tonight after dinner…”

“But Daddy promised we could have ice cream with chocolate if we ate all of our food…”

While neither of us would argue that the other is wrong about the proper order of book reading and tooth brushing, it can be a bit confusing when different rules from different parties are being issued. Timelines can change and details may differ but when in doubt, I strongly advise my children to “do what Mommy says.”

I feel like farmers are experiencing a similarly confusing situation with the wishy-washy details and timelines of the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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Will April showers bring the EPA?

When puddles form in the yard,

I now get frustrated,

Because if we let down our guard,

That water will be regulated.

Ditches, and springs, and puddles,

Are a source for great alarm,

If the Clean Water Act is muddled,

To further regulate your farm.

April showers bring May flowers,

That’s what they’d always say,

But now I fear when it rains for hours,

I’ll get the EPA.

The Clean Water Act started in 1972 as a way to control water pollution from a single source in navigable waters without a federal permit. The proposed rule will expand the scope of “navigable waters” subject to Clean Water Act jurisdiction by regulating ditches, small and remote “waters” and ephemeral drains where water moves only when it rains. The EPA proposed rule changes are open to public comment through July 21 by visiting the website at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm, or through the American Farm Bureau at: http://capwiz.com/afb/issues/alert/?alertid=63192396.

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GMO-free fails to boost Cheerio sales

Amid great fanfare and celebrating, General Mills boldly announced early this year that their flagship cereal, Cheerios, was going to be produced without genetically modified ingredients. From the clamor that it created, one would envision consumers rejoicing in the streets and celebrating heartily by cracking open new boxes of GMO-free Cheerios by the millions.

Then it seemed that all was going well for anti-GMO efforts when, soon after, Grape-Nuts made a similar announcement. The revolution had begun — more rejoicing and fanfare.

Media outlets pretty much everywhere (including the OCJ) covered these announcements for what looked like a social foodie consumer-driven sea change in the big food industry. It appeared that change was inevitable as General Mills tried the GMO-free marketing ploy.

Except, though, once the initial buzz died down, there really was not that much of a revolution. The excitement of dancing in the streets and consumer choice celebrations faded into the much more benign practice of buying generic “toasted oat rings” in the grocery aisle because they were 27 cents cheaper.

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Fourteen cents of insight on the BLM cattle roundup, shootout and desert tortoise debate

In a desolate landscape that is probably most widely thought of for its use as a former government nuclear testing site, national attention is being focused on the ranch of Cliven Bundy, a 67-year-old rancher in the Nevada desert. The Bundy family has been on the land since the late 1800s.

Bundy owes more than $1 million in fees to the government that have accrued for more than 20 years since the oft-maligned government goliath Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) changed the land use rules at least part in an attempt to benefit the endangered desert tortoise. In response to the mounting fees Bundy owed, the government decided it was time for a good old-fashioned roundup to take possession of the cattle.

The BLM started the process of rounding up Bundy’s 900 cattle roaming 600,000 acres of public lands that almost led to an Old West style shootout between armed militia members and BLM agents, grabbing headlines around the country.

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Is a barn owl box worthwhile?

When I was growing up, we had a few ducks that stopped by the old farm pond outside of our old farmhouse as they were passing through. They never stayed too long, but one morning I noticed that there was a duck or two missing from the group.

I asked my dad about this and he speculated that the missing waterfowl had fallen victim to a great horned owl that kept a nightly watch over the farm from a perch in an ancient oak tree. Though this giant bird of prey was seldom heard and rarely seen, there was ample evidence of its presence with the absence of missing chickens, barn cats and other creatures on the farm that disappeared in the night.

Since then, owls and their mysterious habits have fascinated me. The recent story from OCJ field reporter Mike Ryan re-inspired me to look into the possibility of adding a barn owl box to our property.

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Tofu, Wagyu and interested Ohioans at Mitsuwa Marketplace

Tofu or not tofu? That was the question for several Ohio food grade soybean growers on a recent trip to House Foods in New Jersey where they were invited to taste the fruits of their labor.

Several of the farmers in attendance circled a couple of times and warily eyed the tofu offerings — a plain silky (or extra soft) tofu and a cabbage salad with seasoned tofu cubes — served along with a diverse lunch spread in the tidy meeting room at House Foods.

When thinking about traditional Ohio farm foods, tofu does not typically make the list. But, in many ways, I learned on this trip that tofu is as much of a genuine farm food as sweet corn, meat, or fresh garden tomatoes that serve as more traditional Ohio farm meal fare.

This group of northeast Ohio farmers produces the high quality food grade soybeans that are trucked to the House Foods plant in New Jersey where they are processed into tofu.

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Is a spring wedding bridesmaid-cicle a predictor of a late planting season?

The last of the four Reese brothers is married.

We were getting ready for my brother Jeff’s wedding last week in northwest Ohio, hoping for a bit of pleasant early spring weather. Friday March 21 was the first full day of spring and we were scrambling to get everything ready for the big event the next day. When I got up Friday morning, though, I was greeted with an unfortunate coating of snow outside.

The afternoon temperatures warmed into the 50s, which was nice and we were hoping for more of the same on Saturday for the wedding. It was at a beautiful church in Findlay and there were many opportunities for wonderful outdoor photos. The northwest winds howled, however, and sent the mercury falling. Teeth chattered and there were almost some bridesmaid-cicles as we stood outside in the bitter wind for extended photo sessions. (I will point out that the Reese gentlemen did let the girls wear our coats whenever possible.)

Winter’s chill is still holding strong as we close in on April.

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Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

I routinely have to dispatch this advice (or any number of variations) to my four-year-old son in response to the many questions he asks throughout the course of a day.

“Can I put my meat into my glass of milk?”

“Can we build a moving drawbridge to the hay fort for the barn cats?”

“Can I hook a bungee cord up to the dog and my sister?”

“Can I put orange juice on my cereal?”

“Can I put orange juice on my waffle?”

“Can I eat this play dough?”

“Can I get permanent markers out of mommy’s cabinet?”

“Can I take my toy combine to church?”

“Can I wear my tractor shirt to church?”

“Can I ride the sheep dog?”

“Can I ride the ram?”

This list questions could go on for several pages, but you get the point. There are plenty of things that we can do, though there are often numerous reasons that we should not do them.

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Historically noteworthy winter still hanging on as planting time approaches

My formerly grand woodpile has been nearing its end since the calendar switched over to March, which was by design. I want to run out by mid-March or so and put winter behind me. By this time of year, my wife and I have grown weary of the late nights and early mornings of keeping the fire going in the wood burner, and I am ready to switch gears as the weather warms. Winter, apparently, has other plans.

The bitterly cold temperatures that continue to hang around, however, have wiped out my wood supply a bit sooner than the end of the cold weather. Without a doubt, the winter was a rough one.

“Winter will go down as much colder than normal with above normal snowfall and slightly above normal precipitation. Temperatures across Ohio for winter will end averaging 3 to 9 degrees below normal from southeast to northwest. Precipitation will average 100% to 125% of normal,” said Jim Noel, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service.

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Christmas tree growers celebrate in February

Our son recently got an ear infection and had to take medicine twice a day for 10 days. My wife’s keen perception caught the malady very early and the ear infection was not bad, but the twice-daily battle that followed was quite serious.

I would guess the problem is fairly common in four-year-old boys — our son detests taking any type of medicine. So, twice a day for the last 10 days, we have engaged in an epic struggle of daily wrestling matches, impromptu games of hide and seek with a subject not interested in being found, medicine spills and sprays aplenty, and bribery of every kind. Of course, we don’t want to give him the medicine that he so despises, but it is obviously the proper course of action in the big picture to prevent a number of problems.

Even though it is best for him, our son does not necessarily see this (or agree with it).

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Winter beauty

As always, it was a busy morning at the Reese house. My wife had a meeting to get to, there were frozen water buckets in the barn, cold animals to care for, children to dress for school and then bundle up in hats and gloves, breakfast to make (and eat), a wood burner in desperate need of a refill, vehicles to warm up, and the list goes on. The unbelievably persistent cold makes every normal daily challenge take much longer, it seems. Yet, the magical frost on the trees and the colorful sunrise just begged to be photographed. The thermometer had dipped down to -11 this morning, but I took a few minutes and braved the cold with bare hands to take some photos this morning. I need to invest in some of those removable finger gloves so I can wear them when taking winter photos. Here are some photos from this morning and some other favorite winter photos.

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Celebrate winter!

Earlier this week on Groundhog Day, Buckeye Chuck and Punxsutauwney Phil disagreed about the timing of the spring of 2014. Punxsutauwney Phil forecasted 6 more long weeks of cold winter from Pennsylvania while Buckeye Chuck, in Marion, did not see his shadow and predicted an early spring for Ohio.

After being blasted by numerous bouts of frigid temperatures, abundant snow and just plain COLD Ash cave 3 weather this winter, it could be that the forecasts from the meteorologically inclined groundhogs garnered a bit more attention than usual, as many are really wishing for warmer weather.

As my woodpile dwindles, I too am temped to wish for an early spring, though I do enjoy winter. I was reminded of this last weekend when our family took a short trip to the beautiful Hocking Hills. It was the warmest day we’d had in some time, in the low 40s. We stopped to see Ash Cave, which is always beautiful in any season, but I have never seen it in full winter splendor.

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Snow rollers showing up in Central Ohio

The windy snowy conditions left a front yard full of these unusual “snow bales” or “snow rollers” at the home of Mike and Alison Ryan in Fairfield County. The largest are about a foot in diameter and almost two feet long. They seem to be around structures and not in open fields.

According to Wikipedia, snow rollers are a rare meteorological phenomenon. The following conditions are needed for snow rollers to form:

  • The ground must be covered by a layer of ice to which snow will not stick.
  • The layer of ice must be covered by wet, loose snow with a temperature near the melting point of ice.
  • The wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not strong enough to blow them apart.
  • Alternatively, gravity can move the snow rollers as when a snowball, such as those that will fall from a tree or cliff, lands on steep hill and begins to roll down the hill.
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Interesting comparisons farming in the north verses south

My brother-in-law attended Mississippi State University and currently lives down near the Gulf. As a result, my family has made several trips down South to visit.

When spending time south of the Mason-Dixon, there are some notable cultural differences.

I do not eat much fast food unless I am travelling. On trips to the South, I have found that fast food is no longer fast and sweet tea is REALLY sweet. I have to drink half sweet and half regular. A pop is a Coke in the South but a Coke is a pop up here.

My northern fish out of southern water tales, though, are quite limited in comparison to those of the Purdy family. They farm in Ohio and expanded their operation down on the Mississippi Delta in Arkansas a few years ago. The Delta, with its sticky weather and sizable insect, snake and rodent populations, is home to many wide-open acres of farmland and very few people.

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The crooked icicle

The crooked icicle is shaped in a storm,

With the cold winter wind forging its form.

It is outlandish, unique, glaring, and bold.

It takes center stage hanging there in the cold.

It is more prone to breaking and the first one to fall,

Though it clearly stands out from them all.

By its vertical brethren it is a bit fickle,

But such is the life of the crooked icicle.

crooked icicle small

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