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Should metropolitan Toledo and Cleveland be designated CSO Watersheds in Distress?

By Matt Reese

There is no question that nutrient contributions from agriculture are a piece of the water quality puzzle in Lake Erie. But, it is also a certainty that agriculture is not the only contributor.

Earlier this year, www.sciencedaily.com reported research clearly linking harmful algal blooms in Florida’s St. Lucie Estuary and human waste. In a yearlong study, water samples provided multiple lines of evidence that human wastewater from septic led to high nitrogen concentrations in the estuary and the awful algal blooms. (Note, for the salt water in the estuary, nitrogen is the key nutrient for harmful algal blooms. In freshwater, the key nutrient is phosphorus). Human manure has significant quantities of both nutrients, to the tune of about 10 pounds of nitrogen and more than a pound of phosphorus per person per year.

From www.sciencedaily.com: “It has long been thought that the algal blooms found in Lake Okeechobee, which are caused by pollution such as runoffs from farms, were solely responsible for driving the blooms and their toxins in the St.

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4-Hers tackle Tractor Day

By Matt Reese

 

Years ago, we were just finishing the last windrow of rich alfalfa hay. The remainder of the field only amounted to about half a wagonload. Despite the small amount of hay, we were scrambling to get done because, even though the weather forecast for the day said there was no chance of rain, black storm clouds were racing towards us from the western horizon.

As I pulled the last couple small square bales from the chute, the first fat, wet raindrops pelted me in the face. We were done with the hay, but we still had to get the half load in the barn or hay-baling timeliness would be in vain.

Most of the crew left to move the equipment to another field and I was left with an old tractor, a half load of hay, two young workers, and the task of backing that four-wheeled hay wagon in the barn before the skies really opened up.

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Support Dairy Farmers & Your Community with the #10GallonChallenge

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

As a farm broadcaster, I sometimes feel helpless as I report on all of the challenges our farmers across the country are facing these days. Among those struggling the most are dairy farmers. Because of major issues beyond their control, most dairies will find it impossible to make a profit this year. I realized there is something we all can do to help that will mooove milk and help others around our community in the process. I hope you will join me in taking the #10GallonChallenge!

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Friendly Fair faces: Gerald Harkness

By Matt Reese

With delicious fair food, hard working youth exhibitors, extensive entertainment options, and countless other attractions, there is plenty to enjoy at the Ohio State Fair. Among my very favorite things, though, is seeing the familiar faces each year and stopping for a few minutes to chat in between livestock shows and the many other happenings of the Fair.

For those in the draft horse barn, there are not many faces more familiar than Gerald Harkness, who has exhibited Belgians at the Ohio State Fair for an astonishing 72 years.

“My grandpa and dad started showing in the late 30s or early 40s. I was born in ‘38 and I started showing horses at 8 years old,” Harkness said. “It was great to show horses and back then the draft horse people would have a big barn party. The people who showed draft horses were great people.

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A multi-hybrid symbol of patriotism

By Ty Higgins, The Ohio Ag Net

It must have been quite a sight for Joe Singleton and his son as they flew over the beautiful mid-season landscape of Darke and Preble Counties, but among the thousands of acres of lush corn and soybean fields, something extraordinary caught their eyes — a multi-hybrid American Flag.

After they posted the picture on Facebook, I had to find out who this field belonged to. It didn’t take long thanks to some social media friends.

“We have a John Deere corn planter that was capable of doing something like this and I have seen other farms do some creative things with it,” said Bill Meyer, who farms the 50-acre field all decked out in stars and stripes. “I was pretty confident with this particular field’s performance and I thought we could do something fun and the American Flag was the first thing that popped in my head.”

Meyer didn’t know how long it would be until somebody noticed.

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Fireworks, tall corn, and short people don’t mix

By Joel Penhorwood

If you’ve met me, chances are you’ve noticed I haven’t been bestowed with the gift of height. The Good Lord above saw it fit that I was more “down to earth” in a very realistic sense.

My lovely wife and I were at a friend’s house for the Fourth of July, enjoying pool time and waiting for dusk before the local fireworks appeared on the horizon. Keep in mind this house was just slightly out of town, close enough to have a good view of the pyrotechnics.

As 10 o’clock rolled around it came time to migrate to the front yard to see the rockets. Lightning bugs floated on the breeze while the corn was softly swaying. Then as the fireworks began, we realized “Hey, wait a minute — we can’t see a dang thing!”

Knee high by the Fourth of July my foot! This corn had tasseled and was full steam ahead into reproduction stages when our motley crew gathered behind it to view the fireworks on the other side.

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Fair and 4-H season has arrived

By Matt Reese

With summer here it is time for Ohio’s youth to shine through the many opportunities afforded to them through 4-H. The meetings, projects, camps, leadership roles, and other activities through 4-H can help set the stage for a bright future for young people.

As I get older and see more young people grow up involved with 4-H (and not in 4-H), it becomes easier to see the difference that the program can make in their lives. That difference shows up in maturity, work ethic, respect for others, leadership, and many other positive qualities that can be hard to quantify, but extremely valuable. As the home state of 4-H, the program has certainly instilled those qualities in generations of Ohioans.

Fair season kicked off this month and it is always exciting to see 4-H exhibitors rise to the occasion when competing at the county and state levels in a wide array of projects.

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Of bedtimes and biofuels…

By Matt Reese

Summer is here and as far as the Reese children are concerned, the structure and discipline of the school year schedule disappears. This is most obvious at bedtime, or a lack thereof.

I have a system for playing with the children, coaching their sports, general dad stuff, and getting things done. I work while they are at school and when they get home we do chores/fun stuff/homework/sports practice. They go to bed and then I can get some more work done until midnight or so.

The problem with my system is that as they get older and the bedtime gets later, my window for getting work done in the late evening gets smaller. And, as I get older, I am also finding that I can’t work as late as I used to.

During the school year the bedtime used to be a hard 8:00, but over the last year or so that has evolved into more like 9:00.

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As you go north in Ohio, things go south


By Ty Higgins

For the past two weeks, I have been contacted about the woes that farmers are facing in northern Ohio. Cold and wet conditions well into May have pushed back planting progress in a part of the state that is becoming use to this type of pressure.

“We are just about a week later than last year,” said Wood County farmer Kris Swartz on his Cab Cam video earlier this week. “We have seen this type of spring so much over the past 4 years that I think this is becoming our new norm.”

Swartz has made some nice progress since getting started with his planting season late last week. He is finished with corn and about halfway through with the soybeans. But as you drive around his area it is easy to see that many producers have not been so fortunate.

As I made my way to Swartz’ farm on May 30th, I decided to do a mini crop tour, of sorts, so I stopped in each county on the way up Route 23 and I-75 to compare just how things deteriorated the further north I headed.

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Red states, blue states and green water

By Matt Reese

I have been doing this writing/reporting/interviewing job for a while now. One of the first things I learned was, even at the risk of making myself sound dumb, I always try to admit my lack of knowledge about something and ask the questions needed to amend it. This is a good general policy and, in my case, it is important for very selfish reasons.

If I don’t know something and ask a dumb question to get the answer, I look silly to that person. If I do not ask the question and write about something I do not really know about, then I instead end up looking silly to thousands of readers. A lack of understanding has a way of compounding problems moving forward. In short, if you don’t know, do the leg work to find out the answers before you take action.

Thus far, Ohio agriculture has been pushing (fairly successfully) for this very strategy in terms of the ongoing water quality challenges in the state.

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Young farmers gaining ground

By Ty Higgins

One of the most popular statistics thrown around about agriculture is that the average age of the American farmer is 58. Although this figure is causing some anxiety in the industry, my journeys throughout the 2018 planting season has me focusing on another stat. After hopping into tractor cabs all over the state, I realized that my random stops had me, a 40-year-old, feeling a little older than I normally do on a given day of hanging out with producers.

After riding along with Roger Tobias (25), Reggie Rose (26) and Owen Niese (23) it would be hard to convince me that only 2% of established farmers in America are less than 35 years of age. Equally as difficult would be to convince these young farmers that there is no future for them in agriculture.

“The past 3 to 4 years we have really taken off in the size of the operation,” said Tobias, who farms in Pickaway, Madison, Richland and Ashland Counties.

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Equine opine

Uuuugh…horses. I have a daughter who enjoys occasional horse rides, but she has an aunt with horses (which is just fine with me). Yes, I can see and understand the appeal. Horses are beautiful, graceful, powerful and really nice to observe grazing in pastures from afar — as long as those are not my pastures and I am not paying for their feed/veterinary/tack/saddle/etc./etc./etc. bills. In my estimation, horses are sort of like the boats of the animal world — they are kind of fun as long as they are owned, cared for and maintained by someone else.

Despite numerous equine challenges, though, there really is something special about pairing young people with animals and in some cases horses are the perfect fit. And, when horses and young people are combined with some caring expertise (along with ample funding and many hours of hard work) some really amazing things can happen.

Such is the case with Riders Unlimited, Inc.

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Soil is more valuable than gold

In terms of civilization, it is more valuable than gold. The soil is the foundation for food and stability required for organized, structured society. Without good, productive soils, everything else starts to erode away. The loss of productive soil is a sad tale that shows up over and over throughout the history of mankind.

This repeated trend throughout the earth’s millennia of agriculture intrigued David Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who spoke at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in March.

“As a geologist I started looking at soils and studied erosion around the world. A decade ago I got really interested in how soil erosion affected ancient civilizations. That culminated in a book that looked at the role of soil degradation in the decline of ancient civilizations. There is a depressing component to that because you see the same story play out in society after society.

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Dancin’ dairy style (makes me smile)

It is no secret that dairy prices are in the dumps, and have been for a while.

It can seem sad/frustrating/stressful/scary/challenging/daunting/hopeless, among other things. Nope, there’s not much to smile about there. But, like all challenges in life, it is how each dairy farmer or farm employee responds to the situation that can make the difference in not only the specifics of their future but also the perceptions of others who are watching.

When things are grim (no matter the details) we have a choice about how we can respond. Dairy farmers Katie Dotterer-Pyle and Jessica Peters decided to respond by dancing and encouraged others who share their first-hand dairy woes to do the same.

Dotterer-Pyle is from Cow Comfort Inn Dairy in Union Bridge, Md. and Peters is from Spruce Row Farm in Meadville, Pa. The two young ladies decided to rock out lip syncing and dancing to “Shake it off” by Taylor Swift on video.

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The mystery of the Ohio FFA jacket in Italy

There are many diverse paths that lead Ohio FFA members to the organization and even more paths that will take them far beyond their FFA years. The one thing they will all have in common, forever, is the pride of donning that signature blue corduroy jacket.

As we get ready to highlight thousands of these young people next month at the Ohio FFA Convention, I found out about one of those legendary jackets that may have chosen a path all its own.

One of my friends on Facebook posted about her brother-in-law taking a trip to Florence, Italy, and noticing a fellow walking the streets in what wouldn’t be an unusual sight here in the U.S. — an FFA jacket. What made this jacket even more fascinating was where it was from. The back of the jacket had the great state of Ohio embroidered on it and below the FFA logo was the same exact school where my Facebook friend had graduated, as well as my Mom and Dad — Northridge High School in Licking County.

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Endless March: When will spring arrive?

Brrrrrr!

I consider myself a fairly cold tolerant person. I spend my early winters outside for many hours a day in the Christmas tree fields in all kinds of weather. I grow facial hair. I wear flannel, stocking caps and coveralls. I cut many cords of firewood and I really do truly enjoy winter, snow and cold weather. I handled (and even enjoyed) winter’s worst this season, but these chilly March winds and damp conditions made me yearn for warmer spring days ahead.

It seems as March wears on each year, I am ready for spring to arrive just a little sooner. My daughter and I were discussing the continually unpleasant weather in early March. I passed along some sage wisdom from my youth: “They always used to say if March came in like a lion it would go out like a lamb.” But after multiple appearances of the early March lion, my daughter and I are still eagerly waiting on the late March lamb.

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The best first car? A 1992 John Deere Ford Ranger

When I see newly-licensed young people with fancy cars, my blood boils — not because they’re undeserving of such a ride or that they won’t take care of it. In fact, I’ve found the pride of a first car means it is the best maintained vehicle a person may ever have. No, my anger stems from the said young person never knowing the lessons and freedom an old beater has under its rusty hood.

This is the story of my first automobile and why it still holds a place in my heart as the perfect first car.

I must confess I have already lied to you as in fact this car was not a car at all, but rather a truck. Well some would call it a truck, others would call it a glorified golf cart. My first vehicle was 1992 Ford Ranger.

When it was time for me to find a first car, I delved into my years of money saved from selling livestock through 4-H and FFA.

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A farmer’s promise and a farm wife’s revenge

When corn was up above the eight dollar mark,

Our relationship still had a red hot spark.

Cash was a flowin’ and the bank account full,

The markets kept feeding that corn hungry bull.

 

One day my wife asked if we could knock down a wall,

And add to our house which she thought was too small.

I told her we would but first things come first,

We needed new farm gear, since ours was the worst.

 

I will build you more room, I told her with glee,

After we get that tractor, I thought honestly.

But after that buy, I must’ve been bored,

‘Cause I then built a place for the tractor to be stored.

 

Those new wheels have a nicer place than me to reside,

My wife yelled at me, thinking I had lied.

I promised again about the addition,

Which would include a new porch and a chef’s dream kitchen.

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Salamander hunt!

Every year there are a handful of days in Ohio this time of year where it seems the last of winter has faded. Balmy temperatures warm your bones and the welcomed sunshine pushes the last of the winter doldrums away. There are a just a few of those days in Ohio this time of year where it is simply a pleasure to be outside just for the sake of being outside.

This was not one of those days.

I got an invitation to go check some salamander traps that had been set out a couple of days prior on a central Ohio property not far from where I live. Not knowing quite what to expect, I thought it would be interesting to check out along with some salamander aficionados, including the fine folks from MAD Scientist Associates, LLC, a full-service ecological and wetland-consulting firm based in Westerville.

Thus, I found myself clad in mud-covered boots slogging through the fields and forests of central Ohio after steady rains saturated the landscape.

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Winter Olympics will showcase agriculture (and curling)

Not too long ago I was with some friends at a local eatery watching the television intently. The featured sport was curling.

I do not claim to know much about the sport of curling, but here’s the gist. Players slide 44-pound, polished stones with flat bottoms on ice toward a target area (sort of like winter shuffle board). Each team has four players and eight stones and they try to get the stones positioned in the highest point categories. The stone is pushed down the ice by a curler and then sweepers vigorously sweep the ice with brooms to influence the path of the stone with hopes of bonking their opponents stones to lower scoring areas and putting theirs in the highest scoring positions.

The place I was eating was very small and pretty much everyone present ended up watching curling very intently. I must say it was the most thought I’d ever given to curling, but that may change soon as it is time once again for the Winter Olympics and curling is, of course, among the many events.

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