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At the heart of agriculture is a helping hand

This picture is a stump of a Christmas tree I cut down last December on my family’s farm in northwest Ohio. My niece noticed the heart-shape and asked me to take a photo. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it caught my attention later as I scrolled though my phone photos.

As I looked at the photo more, I began to see it as a symbol of the farm that is more than just a place of labor or source of income. My heart is in it. The family farm — the soil, weeds, trees, buildings, wet spots, the critters that roam it, all of it — is a part of me. And no matter where I go or what I do, that farm will always be there. I know that most of you feel the same way.

Now, imagine that this piece of you — your farm — was devastated despite your best efforts to save it.

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Everyday heroes

I am unbelievably fortunate to have many heroes in my life, some who have been top of mind as of late. I thought I’d share with you a bit about these “everyday heroes.” I am sure you know some too.

 

Uncle Mike

I grew up beneath the gaze of this picture hanging on the wall of our school. One day in late junior high I was looking up at it. Another student stopped and asked, “Who’s that.”

“My uncle.”

The other kid looked up at the demigod staring down at us from the photo and then looked at me (uncoordinated with big glasses) with obvious and warranted skepticism. Uncle by marriage…not blood, but certainly an uncle to be proud to know both then and now.

In his formative years J. Mike Inniger was the epitome of a small town football hero that lives on in that picture and will long (and deservedly) be remembered for being a leader of the undefeated and unscored-on 1968 State Champion team in the hallowed halls of Cory-Rawson High School.

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Planting corn on February 20th, 2017

Michael Schmidt figured out how to win the internet for a day. The Illinois farmer posted a video of corn being planted in February!

As if the world wide web isn’t slow enough in rural America, something as crazy as this would cause such a stir among farmers all over the Midwest that the whole thing might just shut down!

Schmidt, the owner of Central Illinois Ag, was helping one of his customers test out his brand new Case IH 2150 planter, with all the precision planting bells and whistles on it.

“We were fortunate enough to have perfect weather conditions, so we brought out our precision specialists out, along with the farmer and his hired men,” Schmidt said. “It was the perfect day to get the planter out there and test it.”

The corn was over 2 years old and if it did happen to come up, Schmidt said the farmer would tear it up and wait for the important crop insurance dates, like everyone else in the area.

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The ups and downs of this winter in GIF form

This winter has been everything from warm, cold, beautiful, dreary, to just plain strange in every way. To look at it so far, we take a recap of the winter in an equally odd way.

via GIPHY

First of all, a quick lesson in computers. A GIF ( as seen above) is an electronic image file type, standing for Graphics Interchange Format. (Fun fact: The GIF acronym pronunciation is currently in a heated debate across the internet. Its creator pronounces it “jif” while many talking heads on the interwebs say it should be pronounced “gif” because of the g standing for graphics. It’s a silly debate.) GIFs are unique in that they support animation without audio, making it easy to share small video clips. In this blog, we’re looking at our reactions from each week of weather with entertaining pieces of media brought to us in GIF form.

Let’s take a look at the historical weather information for each week since November 27, 2016.

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Who’s the rabbit now?

Early this year Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would be shutting down with the final installment of the “Greatest Show on Earth” this May. This is at least partially a result of one final trick from the wildly popular Barnum & Bailey performing elephants — they disappeared.

Tickets sales for the circus really slumped after the touring elephants were retired in mid-2016 to the point that, when paired with high operating costs, the business became unsustainable. Of course, animal rights activist organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), were behind the push to pull elephants from the circus.

The event attracts roughly 10 million visitors a year who will now have to seek new venues to get their fix of exotic animals and human oddities galore. There is no doubt that the circus that ran for nearly 150 years will be missed by many, but as the legendary  Barnum & Bailey fades from our memories in the name of “progress,” will the thought of performing elephants one day be as foreign as phones with cords that hang on the wall and 8-track players?

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A barn full of Internationals and not a tractor in sight

I often find myself driving through rural Ohio and wondering what is hiding, purposefully or not, behind the rotted walls of centuries old barns in the countryside. There are surely stories those structures could tell and who knows what treasures that might lie within — most with more value of sentiment than monetary.

But never judge a barn by its cover. That is a lesson that I recently learned in northwest Ohio as I made my way to a crop insurance meeting in early February.

That is where a found an incredible collection of vintage International cars and trucks in a newer 100 by 160 barn, owned by Rich Kleinoeder.

“I became friends with an International dealer and we started with one truck that we paid $1,000 for,” Kleinoeder said. “We have a hard time selling anything because we become attached to what we have bought over the years. They’re like our kids now.”

The 60-car collection spans from the first International cars made in 1908 to the manufacturer’s last efforts with trucks in 1980.

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My Plate My State puts Ohio-grown foods on cafeteria trays

Though my metal, rusting Adam-12 themed lunchbox of yesteryear was a far cry from the insulated designer lunchboxes my children use today, the challenges remain largely the same. Times have changed, but for a host of reasons, schools continue to struggle to provide high-quality, low-cost nutritious meals that finicky students actually want to eat — though it is not for lack of trying.

Certainly a legacy of the Obama Administration will be Michelle’s oft-discussed school lunch requirements and I know plenty of hard working school cafeteria folks that really try on a daily basis only to be labeled with the notorious “lunch lady” moniker. But all of the many efforts that have taken place from my childhood until now have done little to slow the endless amounts of homemade PB&J or lunchmeat sandwiches and pudding cups carried to school each day.

Another challenge in places like Ohio with strong farm roots and diverse agricultural production is to connect the local food producers with the needs of the school system.

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Be on the lookout for prognosticating groundhogs next week

Early spring hopefuls will soon flock to the nearest prognosticating groundhog to gain meteorological insights into the weeks ahead. Known as Groundhog Day, the U.S. tradition builds upon old German lore associated with predicting the spring weather on Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple on Feb. 2.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Winter has another flight.

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Winter will not come again.

Somewhere along the line someone added the hibernating groundhog and its shadow to the Candlemas tradition and Groundhog Day was later adopted in the U.S. in 1887. While Pennsylvania has the longest running tradition, Ohio is home to two groundhog meteorologists.

From Ohio History Central: “Buckeye Chuck is one of two groundhogs in Ohio known for predicting the arrival of spring.

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2016 1-75/I-71 Crop Tour follow up

To follow up on our I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour, we got some of the actual yields from the fields we sampled in August. Below you can see how well (or how poorly) we did with our yield estimates.

County, Actual yield, Crop Tour estimate in August

Allen, 160, 136

Auglaize 150, 150

Darke, 205, 152

Fairfield, 206, 169

Hardin, 158, 150

Hancock, 180, 140

Henry, 185, 146

Miami, 196, 151

Morrow, 161, 142

Preble, 218, 180

Putnam, 150, 100

Richland, 175, 164

Ross, 168, 157

Wood, 152, 152

Warren, 165, 193

Williams, 203, 195

Here is our August report from the 2016 I-75/I-71 Crop Tour

The 2016 growing season started wet and cool then turned hot and dry in many areas — a classic worst-case scenario for corn and soybeans. There were certainly some examples that showed up in fields on the 2016 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour displaying evidence of those challenging conditions.

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Mink in the house!!

A mink is surely among the top few creatures that roam the wilds of Ohio that you do not want to encounter in close quarters. Minks are rarely seen but widely known for their beautiful pelts. They are also cunning, ferocious and have a musky odor that almost rivals a skunk. In short, a mink is not something you hope to find in your home.

My sister-in-law got home this week to find my brother holding two brooms with a look of sheer terror on his face after a mink was discovered in their house. The theory is that the mink came in to the basement through the sump pump drain tile that leads to the creek on their wooded property in northwest Ohio, but they don’t really know for sure. The mink was discovered when my five-year-old nephew opened the basement door to find it running up the steps at him.

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Finally! A trophy worth bringing home

On my son’s window sill sit about six trophies from his days of playing anything from soccer to baseball, basketball to flag football. But the newest addition to his collection is the one that should mean the most.

Two years ago, Calvin decided he wanted to join the Cub Scouts. At that time our lives were already busy and adding another weekly meeting to our schedule seemed more like a chore at first. So to be sure it would be time well spent, I ask Cal if he would stick with it once he got started. He was so excited that we were even thinking about letting him join, that the answer to that question was easy to see by the wide grin on his face.

I can’t say enough about what Cub Scouts has done for my little guy. He sees the world much differently after the lessons learned and the good deeds done.

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Longest National Anthem delays lunch, but highlights reasons to be thankful moving into the politics of 2017

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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Top stories of 2016

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 “2016 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 2016 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, all things draft horse, and farm technology also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months. Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2016.

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A Farmer’s Christmas List

Dear Santa,

I’m not sure what I have done wrong, but corn prices seem worse than a lump of coal these days. Am I on your good list this year? Just in case, here is a list I hope you find me worthy of.

#1 A normal growing season (I don’t know what normal is but a little rain in July will be appreciated)

#2 A mild calving season (I know the timing is all my fault but anything above 25 degrees would be great)

#3 I like my iron dealer and all, but if I didn’t have to call him for service more than once next year that’d be alright.

#4 Please be sure that part needed for #3 is in stock.

#5 For an understanding landlord that knows I am doing my best for them and me, in that order.

#6 Please change “landlord” to “consumer” for this one.

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Frozen rain barrel? Don’t get caught out in the cold — like me.

“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” –Mark Twain

It got pretty cold this past weekend. When it gets cold, water freezes. When water freezes, things break. That was almost the case with a large rain collection tank at my home recently, though a bit of rushing around helped get things thawed.

In the back of the barn sits an old farm chemical tank that’s been repurposed to collect water from the barn’s gutters. Now this isn’t your everyday lean-to — this barn is a classic lofted tin-roofed, red-painted barn of old. Abundant roof area means abundant rainwater. Why not take advantage of that naturally condensed source? It’s amazing how much water a quick shower has in it when collected across a large roof.

Before things froze over a week ago, I was toying with the out spout connection of the tank ahead of the freeze hoping to get it off completely.

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The wilds of Ohio

As the end of the year draws near, we take a look back at the web posts that have done well over the last 12 months. Since the initial post about the possibility of crossbred coyotes that grow larger and could be more aggressive in Ohio’s fields and forests in 2014, it has become among the most popular on our web site. We continue to get comments and photos sent in from interested Ohio residents. Among them is Aaron from Southern Ohio Trail Cam Videos in Clermont County who has captured these incredible pictures of a large coyote in the area. Check these out and keep us posted about the residents of the wilds of Ohio.coyote

coyote2

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The ugliest Christmas tree

‘Tis the season for cutting Christmas trees on the Reese family farm.

We work very hard on our farm to grow nice looking Christmas trees, but anyone who has searched for the perfect tree knows that not all trees are created equal.

I spend many hours this time of year with families carefully pondering their perfect Christmas tree choice, strolling through the rows of manicured trees on the farm. I see families who let the youngest pick out the tree; for many families mom has 51% of the vote; other families alternate from year to year who picks the tree. None of those perfect trees are really perfect, but they are perfect for the families that pick them (unless they get one that is too big for the room). In the end, the decorated trees are all beautiful not because they are decorated perfectly, but because of the process of the decorating, the people who participated and the home in which it resides.

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Hot dog! Consumers want to know how the sausage is made

I am all about transparency. I have said for years that the agriculture industry should be run like a Subway shop. Let me see how my food is being made and let me have a say in how its made.

But how far can this transparency idea go. What is the limit? Well, I think we’ve found it.

For years I have enjoyed, as millions of other Americans have, a hot dog right off of the grill, nestled in a bun and doused with ketchup and mustard. If you are a bit adventurous maybe add some relish and if that doesn’t faze you put a little chili on that puppy! But, for please don’t tell me what is in that thing!

As a kid, I didn’t care what the ingredients of a hot dog were. I ran as fast as I could after every T-ball game to get that delicious reward.

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A Farmer’s Thanksgiving Prayer

The harvest is finally done

The bins are packed full

Same can’t be said for my wallet

After this year that’s for sure

 

But the bills are all paid

And the equipment is clean

It’s getting hard to stay awake

But I’m still just living the dream

 

It may not be worth it

To fight the bad luck and weather

But those things don’t matter much

When the family is back together

 

After living in the field

Through the harvest and the chores

There’s no better place to be

Than through that front door

 

I do have quite a lot

Considering how I make a living

My prayers have all been answered

But I’ll save one for Thanksgiving

 

Dear Lord God in Heaven

Not sure exactly what I did

For a hard working, loving wife

And this house full of kids

 

Please don’t think for a second

That I have what I deserve

Just know that I am thankful

And it’s You that I’ll continue to serve

 

Amen

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Poultry documentary filmed at the Ohio Expo Center debuts this week on CMT

“Look at you. You are a warrior,” is not typically a phrase one would utter to a chicken, unless, that is, you are considered Chicken People.

There are few places where more of these birds of a feather flock together than the Ohio National Poultry Show held at the Ohio Expo Center each November — the PERFECT place to film portions of the new Chicken People movie that will have its broadcast premiere on Wednesday, Nov. 23 on Country Music Television (CMT) at 8 p.m.

The film is described as a “charming, critically acclaimed CMT documentary about the colorful and hugely competitive world of champion show chicken breeders…A real life ‘Best in Show,’ but about chickens, the film follows the struggles and triumphs of both humans and their feathered muses on the road to compete at the Ohio National Poultry Show, considered the Westminster of Chickens. Chicken may be just food for most people, but raising the perfect chicken is an all-consuming passion for some.”

Indeed. 

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