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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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We’ll always have Paris…oh wait, never mind

President Donald Trump again sent the left wing aflutter when he fulfilled another campaign promise by announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that laid out a framework for countries to adopt clean energy and phase out fossil fuels in a global effort to address climate change.

The Paris Agreement seeks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

This, to be sure, is a noble goal, but in the world of climate science (and much more so in the world of climate politics) there are many ifs, buts, unknowns, and educated guesses that can render even the best of intentions ineffective. At its best, the Paris Agreement is something that makes people who are terrified of climate change feel good that we are collectively doing something to address the challenge.

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Pollinator prose

Floating through meadows with charm,

Buzzing ’round flowers on farms,

Pollination facilitator,

Everyone loves a pollinator,

Until one lands on your arm.

In March it was made official: the rusty patched bumble bee is the first wild bee in the continental U.S. to gain federal protection on the government’s list of endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) listed the rusty patched bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) effective on March 21, 2017. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 11, 2017 with an effective date of Feb. 10, 2017. The effective date was subsequently extended to March 21, 2017 by the Trump Administration.

President Donald Trump, though, lifted the hold that had been placed on a plan for federal protections for the bee proposed last fall by the administration of Barack Obama.

“Our top priority is to act quickly to prevent extinction of the rusty patched bumble bee.

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Sun: A farmer’s friend…and enemy

Here in the office of Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio Ag Net, it is painfully clear that I’m the youngest employee around. From the jokes about millennials to the life stories I have yet to relate to, let’s just say the age gap is, well, noticeable.

Now that my inexperience is on full display, let’s talk something I have faced that’s unique for my age. Skin cancer has been found on my body twice in my life so far. Both times it was melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The discovery is a bit out of the ordinary for a 23-year-old like me as the average age for melanoma diagnosis is 63, according to the American Cancer Society. We’ve kept a close eye on it ever since and that vigilance has brought me a better understanding of the dangers and precautions associated with sun exposure, something we should all keep in mind.

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Raising hands for 4-H

Ohio is winning and I decided I want to try and keep it that way.

As part of its “Raise Your Hand” campaign, National 4-H wants alumni to sign in at 4-H.org/alumni. The state with the most registered alumni by the end of June will bring home $20,000 to use towards 4-H programming. On May 23, Ohio led the national competition with 10,501 alumni. Coming in second was Indiana with 7,677. Texas was third with 4,495.

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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Goat Crossfit is sweeping the nation

When I find farmers that I want to feature on Farm & Country Radio, it’s easy to find a corn, soybean or wheat grower. As much as I enjoy visiting with them about crops and such, I equally enjoy introducing listeners to farmers that they may never get to meet otherwise.

DaNelle Wolford is a prime example. She and her family have a 1-acre working farm in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. Wolford’s Weed ‘Em & Reap Farm has your typical urban garden that the family harvests fruits and veggies from daily. She also has some livestock on the farm, including chickens and lambs that are raised for meat.

One of the first animals on the farm was a goat that Wolford hoped to keep around for its milk. When that goat arrived, Wolford had no experience with farm animals and didn’t even know how to milk a goat. So, she used the only tool she could think of that was readily available…her breast pump.

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Why are we hog wild over bacon?

While growing up my brothers and I had a running joke that, when asked how much bacon we wanted, we would answer, “Yes.” The idea was that whatever amount of bacon that was available is the amount that we wanted. The Reese brothers (and our father) REALLY enjoyed bacon growing up, and still do. Apparently, we had cutting edge culinary tastes, because bacon has since become quite trendy.

“Bacon is hip. It’s cool. It is kind of the Band-Aid of the kitchen. If you burn a roast, you wrap it in bacon and you’re good to go. Bacon just works. It is a super food in terms of how it can be utilized,” said Quinton Keeran, bacon fan extraordinaire. “I’m a backyard BBQ warrior kind of a guy and I have yet to make one thing that I couldn’t improve vastly by wrapping it in bacon.”

Keeran has, to some degree, built a fair portion of his professional career in Ohio agriculture around bacon.

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Earth Day offers opportunity to showcase stewardship

On April 22, the broad Earth Day Network will recognize the concerns and the work of dedicated scientists by co-organizing the March for Science Rally and Teach-Ins on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“This year’s theme for Earth Day worldwide is climate and environmental science literacy, which is why the rally and teach-ins on the National Mall are particularly meaningful,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “It is fitting that once again this year, Earth Day serves as a vehicle for mobilizing concerned citizens — not only on April 22nd, but throughout the year.”

This Earth Day can actually be a great opportunity to not only support scientific literacy but also promote understanding of agriculture’s role in environmental stewardship. Terry Fleck, executive director of The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) said most consumers aren’t completely convinced farmers are doing enough to protect the environment, according to the latest CFI trust research.

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The written and unwritten rules of “Five Dollar Baseball”

Playing sports with family seems to be an undervalued commodity in the marketplace of life these days. Athletics themselves — their competitiveness, sweat equity, failure, success — create a bond among contenders found few other places.

Today, we look at a fun backyard game my family and I recently found ourselves playing while celebrating Easter — part baseball, part football, and all fun. Not sure if it has an official name, but we know it simply as “Five Dollar.”

Growing up as farm kids, we’ve found an open pasture or open farm field seem to be the best places to play such a game. You might remember a similar game played amongst your own family in years gone by.

Note: Five Dollar Baseball is not an illegal action Pete Rose was accused of in the  80s.

Equipment needed:

  • 3+ people
  • Baseball
  • Baseball bat
  • Baseball gloves
  • Courage
  • Skill (optional)
  • Brass knuckles (just kidding)

IMG_9158Official rules:

The game consists of one batter and a varying number of catchers in field.

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Easter candy to avoid this weekend

In the Reese house we grew up hunting for Easter baskets then scarfing down as much candy as we possibly could before heading to church. And, while I do enjoy some delicious Easter candy, I recently stumbled across some types that are definitely worth steering clear of with regard to inclusion in a youngster’s Easter basket. Here are some to avoid this Easter and I’ll think you’ll see why.

 

marshmallow_creeps

Creeps

For those who don’t know, the Easter basket staple of Peeps marshmallowy candies has developed a sort of sub-culture of fanatics. There are Peeps speed eating contests (which I don’t recommend) and countless crafty masters of destruction have found a myriad of unique ways to explode Peeps in microwaves and record the act of brutality to post on the Internet. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes but some version of the Peep is a must-have for many Easter candy connoisseurs as they are the fourth most-popular Easter candy.

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Passing the time and waiting for #Plant17

I have started many a blog in the spring with the phrase “this is my favorite time of year”. It truly is. I love to see trees green up, flowers bloom and dust fly.

With the periodic rains lately, only 2 of those things are happening as we approach mid-April. Farmers are waiting for Mother Nature to give them a dry window to get the ground just right for the 2017 planting season to begin. We all know how patient farmers are this time of year and by now the tractors are shined up and the planters are set up. So, how are they passing the time?

I asked that very question on my Facebook page this week and found out from the pictures and comments from all over Ohio just what growers are doing, short of sitting on their hands, to keep their minds off of not being able to get into the fields.

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Ohio relief efforts sweeter than the meadowlark’s song

A western meadowlark garbled its charming call, watching over me from a charred tree limb as I rolled up strands of ruined barbed wire crossing through the bird’s former grassland home. In the place of the endless stretches of native grasses and forbs waiting on rains to burst with spring growth, blackened hillsides sprawled out in every direction. Despite its pleasant sound, one would have to guess that the state bird of Kansas serenading me was none to happy, having lost its home and livelihood in the few minutes it took the fires to sweep through the area driven by fierce March winds.

Like that lonely meadowlark, many ranchers in the area lost everything in a matter of minutes and we were there to offer a helping hand. In March, I had the wonderful privilege of travelling with a group of Ohioans to deliver supplies and get some work done in Clark County, Kan.

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