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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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Where are the “You Been Farming Long” boys now?

This picture is one of the most iconic pictures in the history of agriculture. Back in the early 80s you couldn’t go to a farm house, implement dealer or sale barn without seeing this poster somewhere on the wall. Seeing it recently for the first time in a long time piqued my curiosity and I wanted to know what ever happened to these two boys (who are in there 40s now)? So I Googled it. Here is what I found.

One of the first links that popped up was a Pinterest posting from 2009. The mother of the two bib-donning photo stars, Deni Overton, wrote about how the picture came to be and the interest it garnered for years to come. She wrote:

Have you seen this picture before?

I took this picture of my twin sons in September, 1978.

Did you know that it is one of the most recognized posters in history?

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Big cats, badgers and coy wolves: Will a snowy winter offer wildlife tracking opportunities?

As we settle in for what many believe will be a cold winter, I am ready for some snow.

After limited snowball fights, almost no opportunities to take the kids sledding and nary a snowman in the last couple of winters, I am hoping for some snow and frosty weather in the months ahead. Along with opportunities for some outdoor fun, I always am fascinated to walk the fields surrounding my house to look for wildlife tracks with the children.

What seem to be empty fields during daylight hours turn into wildlife highways by night around my house. I never realize how much critter traffic there really is until I pull on my boots and take a crisp winter stroll in the snow and see the vast array of tracks from opossums, raccoons, skunks, mink, fox, and coyotes (among other things) that have traveled the landscape the previous night. My son, especially, loves to find and identify the tracks, and I am always surprised about the volume of them out there.

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National Anthem delays feast, but offers one more reason to be thankful

Last Thanksgiving, some of you may recall the football game that kicked off with what may be the longest-ever version of the National Anthem. Though it is typically around two minutes, legendary singer Aretha Franklin stretched the song to a full four minutes and 35 seconds before a matchup between the Lions and the Vikings.

On that day I was at the end of the line for a Thanksgiving feast and very hungry. The television was on in the background leading up to the game when I had finally gotten my massive plate full of Thanksgiving food and sat down to eagerly feast.

I didn’t even notice what was on the television across the room, and neither did anyone else, except for my seven-year-old son. I shoveled the first heaping fork full of food into my mouth to kick off one of my favorite meals of the year.

I quickly scooped up my next fork full but stopped with the food halfway to my mouth when I saw my son, sitting up on his knees in his chair beside me with his hand over his heart watching the waving American flag on the television.

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Of steak and sizzle (and antibiotics)

It has always been the case, but is amplified by social media and the 24-hour news cycle. Society demands — and rightfully so — that those in positions of accountability to others do what is generally believed to right, good and honorable. This is the steak.

In the case of the social capital for U.S. agriculture, there is plenty of steak, in both the literal and figurative sense. For generations, agriculturalists have built their businesses based on what they best believe to be right, good and honorable. The general story of agriculture, across the board, has steak aplenty. I know first hand as I have spent almost two decades finding good stories to highlight and I never have to look too hard to find them.

As the general populace has grown further removed from grandpa’s farm, though, the details of agriculture’s “steak” start to get a bit hazy. As a result, not only do those involved with agriculture have to really be right, good and honorable, they also have to demonstrate this to others in a tangible way.

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We’re converting Agri Country to digital

I take great pride in being a farm broadcaster, an opportunity in no small part thanks to the rich history of agricultural communication in Ohio. A huge figure in this industry was the remarkable Ed Johnson, the founder to our company today. It’s hard to go around and not hear people reminiscing of his name or seeing the great pride someone has as they say, “You know I was interviewed by Ed back in the day.”

We’re now getting a glimpse of just how many interviews there were as our crew at Ohio Ag Net & Ohio’s Country Journal has undertaken a new endeavor — converting all the Agri Country episodes from their current tape form over to digital to preserve them for current and future generations.

Agri Country was a weekly television show that appeared across Ohio (and parts of surrounding states) featuring agriculture and the unique people that made it happen.

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FFA traffic jams worth stopping for

I recently found myself inescapably trapped in a traffic jam in Indianapolis. It wasn’t cars and trucks, but a sea of blue jackets that prevented me from moving. I was in a hurry to meet with some folks for an interview and was being temporarily delayed without any hope of moving. The reason: the National Anthem.

I was riding up the escalator just outside of the arena prior to the start of a session. All of the televisions in the hallway featured a lone corduroy-clad FFA member singing a beautiful, respectful version of the National Anthem then switched to a picture of the flag. The escalator was packed with FFA members trying to get to their seats for the start of the Session and everyone (to a person) stopped in the places they were standing with their hand over their heart, respectfully watching the flag on the multiple televisions in the vicinity.

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A bit of OCJ history for you (Part 2)

Things have certainly changed both for Ohio’s Country Journal, and the farms that were featured since our Vol. 1; Issue 1 came out in November of 1992.

The Crops Section from November of 1992 included a story with Tom Ramsey, of J. M. Hiser Seeds in Ross County. Things have really changed since then. The 1992 story covered the challenges of the growing season for the seed corn production that only averaged 30 bushels per acre, down from 40 bushels per acre the previous year. The planting of the male corn plants in the spring was hampered by wet conditions, though the summer weather evened the crop out for what was an average seed corn yield.

“The business was started in 1937 by my wife’s grandfather. I was the junior partner in 1992 and now I own Hiser Seeds and my son Greg works for me. We got out of hybrid seed corn production when all of the traits got so intricate back in the early 2000s.

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A bit of OCJ history for you…

Nov. 1, 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Ohio’s Country Journal with Issue 1 Vol. 25. The very first OCJ was a trial issue that came out in September of 1992 featuring Mark Thomas and his ethanol-powered hot rod on the front cover. The first official issue, however, (Vol. 1 Issue 1) was in November of 1992 and featured pumpkin production (and some fancy painted pumpkins) on the cover.

Things have certainly changed both for Ohio’s Country Journal, and the farms that were featured since our Vol. 1; Issue 1 came out in November of 1992.

CCrds1The front cover featured John and Carol Blatter who ran Blatter’s Truck Patch on Route 40 in West Jefferson in Madison County. Neither were raised on a farm but the Blatter’s started selling fruits and vegetables from a card table in their garage in 1978. By 1992, they had grown the operation to 63 acres with a focus on pumpkins and autumn sales.

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How farmers and their cyclops sheep led to a cancer treatment breakthrough

Lessons of life are sometimes found in the strangest of places. That was the case for a group of Idaho ranchers in the 1950s that found a mysterious case of cyclops lambs among their sheep. That’s right — one-eyed mutant lambs were being born.

An interesting video on the subject from the folks over at TED-Ed (the same group responsible for TED Talks) goes into further detail. It’s available below and I encourage you to take a moment to watch it.

Long story short — the effort by the farmers to report their deformed lambs to scientists at the USDA led to a long line of discoveries that eventually resulted in the identification of a relationship between a plant compound — cyclopamine — and proteins instrumental in the biological development process. With the mystery of the cyclops sheep having been solved, scientists took the lessons learned and applied them to humans.

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Oh, to be that farmer

Recently, I was riding along with a young farmer in his old pickup truck. The one he fixed up as a project in college, but didn’t have the heart or the funds to let it go. The only difference between now and when he bought it is what’s in the bed. It was mostly empty, until toys and sports gear from his kids started to pile up back there.

We were traversing through a part of his county that I had not been through before. I was fixated on the dust trail behind us from a rarely traveled township road and he was looking straight ahead. That is, until he caught sight of a farmstead that would draw any farmer’s attention.

Two humongous grain legs connected more bins than one could count while driving by, with a few more possibly tucked in behind the monstrous ones.

“Oh, to be that farmer,” said the young farmer as he looked at me.

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Harvey’s agricultural impact and an Ohio relief effort

Anyone involved with agriculture cannot help but be moved by the terrible pictures and videos coming out of the devastated region of Texas where crops have been lost, livestock has been lost and cattle are being moved to higher ground after massive flooding in the area from Hurricane Harvey.

According to The Weather Channel, heavy rains in Texas from Aug. 24 through Sept. 1 may total as much as 50 inches of rain in some areas. The average annual rainfall in Houston is 49.76 inches. Combined with the estimated sustained winds of Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 25 were 130 miles per hour, Hurricane Harvey could be the most costly natural disaster in United States history.

“The economy’s impact, by the time its total destruction is completed, will approach $160 billion, which is similar to the combined effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy,” said Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather.

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2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour summary

After an extremely wet growing season for Ohio we were not sure quite what to expect in the 2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour. We had heard about dry weather, but were surprised how dry some fields were, especially in the northwestern part of the state.

There were certainly some examples that showed up in fields on the 2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour displaying evidence of those challenging conditions. We found some corn still pollinating to dented after the spread out planting season for many this spring. But, at the same time, we saw many more examples of how solid farm management practices made the most of some challenging weather situations and others capitalized on timely rains. The Tour was sponsored by AgroLiquid.

In the West, the I-75 group had an average corn yield of 169 bushels on Day 1 and 183 bushels on Day 2. The Eastern leg of the Ohio Crop Tour averaged 180 bushels on Day 1 and 166 bushels on Day 2.

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State Fair legends

Quietly whistling to himself, the judge strolled by Mike’s steer, giving it a long look. Mike was nervous, but he’d had a good day. He was in the hunt for champion — the last paring down of more than 350 steers. He clutched the halter of his clear favorite, the one he’d had his eye on all year.

Mike’s father started a 4-H club with a focus on showing cattle and he and his brothers had done just that from their earliest 4-H days. They were like most 4-H families and there was always the issue of who would get what animal and Mike had spent his show career picking and choosing with his older brothers. This year, though, was different because Mike’s brothers were older and off to college. Mike got first and last choice.

The steer he led around the show ring at the command of the whistling judge had come from South Dakota.

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Unified efforts are productive for agriculture

There is tremendous power in teams or organizations to accomplish goals. Ohio is blessed with many wonderful agricultural organizations (checkoff-driven, commodity specific, and general) and there are many truly wonderful people working on behalf of farmers in Ohio within them. I consider myself blessed to have the chance to regularly work with the many fine folks employed by the organizations of Ohio’s agriculture.

Yet, inevitably, as budgets tighten and volunteer hours get harder to come by, it can sometimes seem like a turf war within the tight community of agriculture. Farm organizations need to spend increasing amounts of time explaining why you should be a part of that particular organization for simple self-preservation.

Though there are clearly challenges in this situation, there can also be great success when the organizations of agriculture focus each of their unique strengths on a common goal — an organized effort between organizations. Several recent stories prove just that.

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The exhibitors are the champions

When the Ohio State Fair recently put out the list of exhibitors from every Sale of Champions since the first one in 1968, I really enjoyed taking a few moments to read through the list. Johnny Regula, auctioneer for the Sale, did too.

“I have always felt the SOC is Ohio production agriculture’s chance to showcase our products — our boys and girls and our livestock. You take the list and look at the names of these exhibitors from the beginning and look now at what they are doing in agriculture, they are all leaders. That is what this program does,” Regula said. “You see these little dynasties. Here recently one of those might be the Banbury family. Going back you had the Westlake family do the same thing. In cattle you had the Shane family and in hogs you had the Islers and the Jacksons and then you had Rusty Coe.

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