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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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Good old days on a Century Farm

I love to visit farms recognized through the Ohio Department of Agriculture Ohio Historic Family Farm Program each year for many reasons. There is usually fascinating history, there are always great family stories and there are generally some impressive historic structures to gawk at when you think about how they were built so long ago. Another reason Century Farm visits are so valuable is the perspective they provide.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busy schedule of today’s society. It seems that we have so much to do these days compared to those tales of yesteryear that are always so prevalent in my visits to Century Farms. Why is that? After years of learning about Ohio’s agricultural history, I continue to arrive at the same answer to that question: food.

Just a couple of generations back, whether they lived in the city or the country, people spent significantly more time and resources on food than we do today.

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Farm Science Review 2018 photo highlights (and memories)

“Welp, we’re going to try and get around the grounds pretty quickly today so we can get you boys back to school before the end of the day.”

The two third grade boys in the back seat looked at each other with genuine concern.

We were on our way to the 2018 Farm Science Review with my friend Jon Miller, his son, Carter, and my son, Parker. This was the first time visiting the show for the two excited farm boys.

Jon took the boys around the exhibit area in the morning before working an afternoon shift in the Ohio Corn and Wheat building and then I took the boys out to the harvest demonstration area in the afternoon to help me with taking photos. The boys helped me find good ears of corn and the best-looking combines in the field for picture subject matter. They also provided entertaining commentary about their differing paint colors of choice, rooting on the combines accordingly.

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My favorite Farm Science Review memory

By Joel Penhorwood

My favorite FSR memory beings with the doldrums of school that start in September.

Pretty much one thing kept my attention — that special day when Dad would keep me home and instead of going to school, we would head to Farm Science Review.

We got up early (which never seemed to be a problem on this day in particular, though every other was a struggle) and headed to London. We made sure to leave enough time to stop at the same restaurant every year, the now-defunct Amish Kitchen, a Der Dutchman style restaurant where we would have the breakfast buffet. For some reason, it always tasted better than any other breakfast I had.

We sat in the same area by the same fireplace and had the same conversation — things we were looking forward to seeing during the day ahead.

I always preferred seeing all the exhibits and ending up lugging around about 50 pounds worth of freebies by the time the day was through.

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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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