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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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Update on Miami Valley Feed and Grain spill cleanup efforts

The Sutherly family owns Miami Valley Feed and Grain in New Carlisle where a grain tank collapsed late on Jan. 21, spilling around 365,000 bushels of corn worth over $1.25 million. The wave of corn knocked out power and buried State Route 571. Sam Sutherly was kind enough to offer an update on the progress since the spill.

OCJ: What is the status of the cleanup effort?

Sam: The corn was cleared off of the road on Wednesday, Jan. 24, but State Route 571 remains closed by the City of New Carlisle. They decided that it would be easier for the utility companies (AT&T and Dayton Power & Light) to reset the utility poles without the normal flow of traffic. With the extra days, the machinery and semis had better access to the corn nearest to the road. The corn is being loaded quickly and safely to be shipped. The road is supposed to officially open for public use on Jan.

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The raw deal with raw water: Fears of a few can lead to the doubts of many

I was recently in the midst of a battle with a broken water softener. I was made aware of the problem via an aggravating beeping sound coming from the basement — the “error” alarm on the water softener.

Within hours I discovered that my thrice-filtered well water had gone from clear to an unsettling iron orange color. I determined the problem, ordered the part and got the water softener issue resolved as quickly as possible. Filtered, treated, softened water is a very good thing that I really appreciate.

In the midst of the multiple-day water softening fiasco at my house, I read an article about the rise in popularity of a new, trendy beverage craze — raw water. According to the New York Times, raw water contains probiotics or “healthful bacteria” not found in city water or bottled water subjected to filtration that removes beneficial minerals. The “raw water” is said to be sourced from pristine natural springs and sells for staggering dollar figures of up to $60 a gallon.

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Mr. President, do not take farm vote for granted

I know that many people involved in agriculture, myself included, were thrilled to see President Donald Trump take time out of his very busy schedule to visit the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Nashville in January.

In that speech, we found out that the President is hearing about and working on so many issues that will affect farm country. From a new farm bill, to NAFTA, immigration reform, infrastructure, or countless regulations that are currently hindering progress in our industry, Mr. Trump mentioned the many woes facing agriculture as he spoke directly to thousands of farmers and ranchers from that stage in Music City.

The elephant in the room when it comes to rural America and politics at the highest levels of government is whether President Trump will truly take into account why he holds the title of Commander-In-Chief. If not for farm country, the oval office décor would have a completely different vibe.

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Top 10 stories of 2017

Our web site keeps track of the stories that generate the most interest and at the end of the year we like to review the top stories 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, look for “2017 top stories of the year” on the right side of this web page. In addition to these top posts, other noteworthy drivers of web traffic in 2017 included the Ohio and Pro Farmer crop tours, the Ohio State Fair livestock show results, and Between the Rows. Weather challenges, the tough farm economy, and all things draft horse also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months. Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2017.

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Top videos of 2017

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Christmas unexpected

Franklin had a far off look in his eyes as he sat there amid the wrapping paper piles from his Christmas morning present opening frenzy. While he had certainly gotten a good haul, the big present — the pinnacle of his Christmas gift hopes for the whole year — was not what he’d been wanting.

At the top of his wish list had been the newest video game system. He already had one, but it was for kid games and in Franklin’s estimation he was beyond ready to move to the next level of video games. After all, he was 10 now, not just a kid. He’d been less-than-subtle with the hints dropped to his parents.

When he’d scanned the offerings under the tree he spotted what he thought was a box just the right size for the video game. He wasn’t allowed to open that one until last.

Finally after opening packages of socks, underwear, some books, new pants, and a video game for his old game system, and watching his younger brother and sister open all of their presents, Franklin’s dad (with an excited gleam in his eye) pointed to that last package.

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