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State Fair gives fodder for proud parents

By Matt Reese

For me, the Ohio State Fair is a very busy stretch with my work schedule and two children showing a variety of livestock projects, but those long hours are quickly forgotten when replaced by proud parent moments that will last a lifetime. There were certainly plenty of those for mothers and fathers around the state at this year’s Ohio State Fair.

At an event bursting with proud parents, auctioneer Kevin Wendt had to be right up there as the proudest papa in the building as he watched his daughter Riley parade her Reserve Champion Market Barrow around the ring in the Sale of Champions. For the last several years, Kevin has been the Sale of Champions auctioneer for the cheese, turkey and goat sales that kick off the event. This year, though, Kevin stayed off the auction block to focus on just being a dad. Seeing the look of the purest joy as he stood ringside and watched his daughter’s barrow sell for a record-setting $35,000 in the Sale of Champions made it apparent his decision was the correct one.

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Will the Lake Erie algae bloom forecast come to fruition in 2019?

By Matt Reese

Last year I hopped on the boat and made the trek to the fantastic Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie for the announcement about the predictions regarding the 2018 algal bloom.

The boat ride was quite pleasant, the presentations at the event were very sciencey and impressive, the folks doing the research being presented were extremely intelligent — and the forecast was totally wrong.

In July of 2018, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its research partners predicted western Lake Erie would experience a harmful algal bloom (HAB) of cyanobacteria of a 6 on the severity index, with a range between 5 and 7.5. In late fall, NOAA reported back that the actual harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie for 2018 had a severity index of 3.6, indicating a relatively mild bloom far short of the predicted severity.

Now, I don’t know what the total budget is for this forecasting system, but I would guess it is not a small price tag over the years of developing models, conducting extensive research, paying numerous staff members and researchers at various agencies and entities, and hauling curious farm reporters to the island on boats.

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A heartbreaking early June wedding…

By Matt Reese

It was an early June wedding in central Ohio. The brother of the beautiful bride was, of course, in attendance, though his troubled mind was a couple of hours away. He was thinking about his still unplanted farm fields at home.

He had been fortunate last fall that he and his parents had been able to get the crop out of the fields in a fairly timely manner. Since then, though, the precipitation had been relentless. The window to plant will always come, his father had said. This year, though, it hadn’t. Other than a few test passes with soybeans in early April (none of which emerged) no crops had been planted. No hay had been baled. No fieldwork had been done in his northwest Ohio fields of his family’s farm. He had waited. He had hoped, prayed, prepared, planned, and re-planned. None of it had worked out.

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Quorum sensing and it’s impact on your soil health: Plant diversity is the key

By Matt Reese

OCJ publisher Bart Johnson once asked the staff during an office lunch: if you could only drink one thing for the rest of your life what would it be? His answer: root beer. I think mine would be water. This led to a long debate of the merits of root beer versus water.

The discussion then turned to food. I think I could eat pizza just about every day. I am guessing that most of you (other than Dale Minyo who really does not care for pizza) may feel the same way. Now, if you just had one pizza ingredient to eat every day, what would that be? For me I think it would have to be the cheese (it is dairy month, after all).

Christine Jones, who served as the keynote speaker at this spring’s Conservation Tillage Conference in Ada, is a retired soil ecologist from the University of New England in Australia.

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Transparency, care for animals and honesty one-sided in undercover animal rights video release

By Matt Reese

Whether they are specifically written down or not, most farms and agribusinesses operate on the foundation of a code of ethics or principles. The core values of one of the nation’s top agritourism destinations recently came under intense scrutiny when an undercover video was released.

Indiana-based Fair Oaks Farms has been all over the news after Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) released a video depicting animal abuse on the large dairy farm. In the aftermath of the video release retailers pulled Fair Oaks’ Fairlife products from their shelves, three people from the video were charged with animal cruelty and Fair Oaks temporarily suspended delivery service to protect delivery service drivers who have been harassed. Fair Oaks Farms is also being sued for fraud citing the Fairlife milk labels promoting “extraordinary care and comfort” of the cows.

Going into this, Fair Oaks had clear standards for animal care, but employees featured in the video did not adhere to those standards.

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20 years??

By Matt Reese

I recently had a rare couple of free hours and some jobs to do around the house. I got my laptop out and clicked on my music list to enjoy some tunes while I worked. Things were going great. I was rocking out and getting stuff done for about three songs before it happened.

I am not especially tech savvy, and a few weeks prior I had plugged my phone into my computer to transfer a file and I unknowingly transferred many of the audio interviews I have done in my career over to my laptop. They intermingled with my music. As a result, my randomly selected mix of songs now includes randomly selected interviews I had conducted with countless farmers and agribusiness professionals from years gone by.

The first interview started playing over my laptop speaker and I sort of groaned. I stopped what I was doing (I think it was caulking the shower) and went to skip to the next song so I could resume rocking out and tackling more chores.

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Farm takes proactive steps to address undercover activists

By Matt Reese

On these wild weather spring days we’ve had, if I see the western sky darkening and the winds start picking up, I’ll run out and close the west-facing barn door, secure anything that might be prone to blowing away and put items under cover that I do not want to get wet. The coming storm is out of my control, but I can be proactive by taking measures to try to mitigate the damage it may cause.

The same strategy should be used with an impending public relations storm.

Animal agriculture is once again bracing for a storm in the form of possible fallout from an undercover video effort seeking to portray livestock production in a negative way. This time, the deceptive work of animal rights activists recently took place at Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, one of the top agritourism destinations in the country. The working farm was designed with transparency in mind to showcase modern dairy production to curious consumers.

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Raise your hand for Ohio 4-H!

By Matt Reese

Albert Belmont Graham, known as the founder of 4-H, was born March 13, 1868  and went on to help change the lives of countless young people by starting the now internationally known program in Clark County near Springfield. As the home of 4-H, Ohio has been well represented during the previous years of the National 4-H Raise Your Hand Campaign, winning both years.

Through its “Raise Your Hand” campaign, National 4-H wants members, advisors and alumni to sign up for their state. The state with the most weighted votes by May 15 will bring home $20,000 to use towards 4-H programming.

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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Proverbs 3:27 at work as Ohio agricultural relief efforts head to Nebraska

By Matt Reese

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. That is the very clear message from Proverbs 3:27.

It can’t be certain this verse is top of mind for the many in Ohio’s agricultural community who are dropping what they are doing to donate, travel, work, and serve their fellow farmers across the country, but they certainly are demonstrating it.

Terrible flooding in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri has left farms swamped and devastated generations of work on the land in recent weeks. One Ohio group of six tractor-trailers and 11 trucks and trailers filled with food, clothes, hay, feed, and hygiene products donated from farmers, businesses and church leaders from the Norwalk, Monroeville, Ashland, and Mansfield areas left earlier this week for Verdigre, Neb. An additional group from Ohio plans to leave next week. Another group leaves March 29 in an effort being organized by Greg and Rose Hartschuh in Crawford County through Ohio’s Rural America Relief.

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What’s a picture worth? The time is now to share your story

By Matt Reese

A few weeks back I got nominated to do this “farming family challenge.” I groaned out loud at the thought of it. Basically, the challenge required that I post an image on Facebook every day for 10 days showcasing farm life without any explanation.

This challenge was posed during the very busy stretch of mid- to late-winter meetings. A 10-day picture posting challenge on social media was not a welcome addition to the already heavy work load that time of year. I issued forth another audible groan later that night when I opened up the “Reese” file on my laptop and began sorting through many family and farm pictures. I surely didn’t have time for this.

About an hour later, though, my mood had changed. I’d gone from sort of grumpy to a bit misty-eyed as I scrolled through pictures highlighting generations of my family, many showcasing work on the farm.

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Hey Toledo: The lake don’t care

By Matt Reese

There is no doubt the people of Toledo care about Lake Erie — and they should — though it could be argued that some of this caring is misguided and counterproductive. This is certainly the case with the recently Toledo-voter approved, and fairly bizarre, Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). I do believe that no small amount of genuine caring went into the effort to get LEBOR passed, but I am also pretty certain that Lake Erie itself most definitely does not care.

Now with a Bill of Rights like a person, Lake Erie (whether it cares or not) can take legal action against parties who could damage it.

“[The lake] now has legal rights, but they would say that the lake is an indefensible entity, so therefore it needs help defending itself. Help is granted to the lake by passing the LEBOR law and allowing the citizens of Toledo to come to the lake’s defense as a legal entity,” said John Torres, with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.

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Ohio Pork Rock Stars

By Matt Reese

Ohio is so blessed to have incredible advocates in every sector of agriculture and I’m very lucky to get the opportunity to work with many of them as a part of my job. I recently got to emcee the Ohio Pork Congress luncheon and had the chance to help highlight some of these fantastic Ohio Pork Rock Stars (and there are plenty to pick from).

There were few bigger Ohio Pork Rock Stars in recent months than the now world-famous Bacon Vending Machine on the Ohio State University campus. It went international and was featured in USA Today, on ESPN and Fox News Network (among many other media outlets, including the prestigious Ohio Ag Net podcast). The incredible success of the Bacon Vending Machine was a group effort that included Meghann Winters, who had just started working at the Ohio Pork Council a couple of weeks before meteoric rise of world-renown for the Bacon Vending Machine.

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I was not a state officer (and that is why FFA is so great)

“When were you a state officer?”

That’s a common question I get when it comes to my time in the National FFA Organization. I take it as flattery that somebody thinks I have what it takes to have once been a leader in the state organization. The bar is high for the job and we see each year a new set of young people take on the roles with diligence and excitement.

Yes, I have gotten far because of FFA. It opened up opportunities for me (current job included), plus cemented life-long friendships through all the professional and personal development the organization advised.

Now before we go any farther, let’s understand that for many students, being a state FFA officer is viewed as the pinnacle of the FFA experience. You see your peers standing on stage talking to tens of thousands in the crowd, wearing the blue corduroy with pride and class, and being a leader for the premier agricultural youth organization in the world.

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Super Bowl corn syrup controversy commentary

By Joel Penhorwood

Very few things in life can bring people together like a well done Super Bowl Commercial. The top topic on the Monday after the game each year is more often than not, “What was your favorite commercial??” Just look at that “So God Made a Farmer” commercial from Ram in 2013. They have enjoyed a very loyal customer base because of that commercial alone.

Well this year, you could say nearly the opposite happened.

I’ll be the first to admit, your social media feed is probably not the best place to equally hear opinions on a topic, but nonetheless the topic was forefront on my page Sunday night.

Early on in the game, Bud Light kicked off their latest installment of ‘Dilly Dilly’ commercials with a fairly funny concept. For the unfamiliar, these commercials revolve around a renaissance-era Bud Light kingdom that is very devoted to the beer.

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Soggy 2018 sets records

By Matt Reese

Looking back on the previous year, I think I spent more time in 2018 outside in the precipitation than any year I can remember, probably more than the last 5 years combined. Remember those wild April snows? I do. Then, of course, there were steady rains with occasional deluges throughout the growing season and the soggiest autumn harvest in recent memory that kept combines out of the fields and the crops in them for much longer than usual. In 2018, there was not really a spring or a fall. It just went from long, cold, snowy winter to wet, muggy summer to soggy, muddy winter.

Vowing to avoid more time spent in the rain, I waited until fairly late in the day on Dec. 31 to go for one last 2018 4-mile run. The rain had finally stopped around 3:30 or so and it looked like the skies cleared a bit by around 4 p.m.

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Ohio’s quirky Christmas

By Matt Reese

There is definitely something special about Christmas on a farm, but Ohio’s small towns and cities know how to spread a little holiday cheer as well. Here are some fun (and quirky) Christmas happenings in small towns around Ohio worth celebrating.

 

Portsmouth

This Scioto County seat has had its share of struggles in recent years, but efforts are underway to turn the city around in a positive direction. Those efforts include spreading some Christmas cheer in 2018 with a month-long Winterfest. The Market Square in the city’s Boneyfiddle District has been transformed into a winter wonderland with outdoor ice skating, thousands of lights, and a modern take on an old-fashioned, downtown Christmas. On Dec. 15, Portsmouth is looking to break the world record for the most people simultaneously caroling. The current record is 1,822 held by Waukesha, Wis. The folks in Portsmouth are looking for 2,000 carolers at 7 p.m.

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What do you get when you cross Queen, a Baby Shark and a school bus?

By Matt Reese

I may be banned from chaperoning school field trips in the future.

My daughter is 11 and, while I think she still likes hanging out with her dad, I fear her age will soon dictate me falling into the “definitely not cool” category. Because of this, I try to take as many opportunities to hang out with her as possible, hence my day spent on a recent school field trip.

The bus ride there was around 40 minutes or so and I sat in the back seat of the bus with my daughter and her fifth grade friends, learning the girls’ favorite hand clap games, getting the scoop on all of the boys’ antics and learning the latest happenings in their junior high world. From there, the field trip was very fun and all went quite smoothly.

Minutes into the bus ride home, some of my new back-of-the-bus friends had resumed their hand clap games.

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What’s your No. 1?

By Matt Reese

First, let me say that this blog is 100% guaranteed to NOT help commodity prices or the overall farm economy. It also should be noted that I am NOT a: preacher, doctor, researcher, PhD, or anything other than your friendly farm writer.

With these important disclaimers out of the way, please read on. As I continue to hear about more farms being sold, mounting economic stress for farms and very bad things occasionally happening within the agricultural community when things go wrong, I feel compelled to share some thoughts on how to handle the inevitable challenges of life, including these tough agricultural times.

First, when tough times come about on the farm, it is important to understand that the only thing you can actually control is what you do. You can influence/manipulate/orchestrate many things, but you can only truly control your actions.

So what shapes your actions? I believe that everything we do is driven by our guiding set of principles or priorities.

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Thoughts from Facebook’s down-time

On Monday afternoon, our office, like much of the world, experienced problems with Facebook crashing. This brought about various thoughts from my coworkers and I, all of whom apparently spend too much time on social media when we should otherwise be working.

“Is your Facebook working?”

The initial recognition of something gone wrong. This of course was followed by various bellows of “yes, mine is working” and “only Facebook on my phone is up”, trailed by the inevitable, “oh, wait, yeah mine is all down now too.”

“This could be the big one”

At the time you’re reading this, the big blue website is back up and running. While it was out, conspiracy theories rose to the extreme. Plus, this isn’t just a simple couple of minutes of it being down. Quick searches on CNN for articles explaining the situation are pointless. True entertainment is found on Twitter where the top trending hashtag #FacebookDown has the deep and meaningful memes that really help to solve the problem.

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President Trump, politics and the FFA

By Matt Reese

Are you ready for an FFA kerfuffle? It’s been going on all week.

I must confess I was totally in the dark about this until I read an odd comment on the post at ocj.com about President Donald Trump speaking this weekend at the National FFA Convention. Here is is:

(From September)

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Kari Hanson and I am the advisor of the FFA members you have referenced in your letter to me regarding their attendance at the September 6, 2018 President Trump rally for Matt Rosendale. I want you to know that I am deeply sorry and regretful for how my students have been portrayed and the impact that this has had on each of them, my chapter, my school, the Montana FFA Association, and National FFA Organization.

I know that some that read my response will find no value in any justification I attempt to provide.

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