By Matt Reese
To commemorate 20 years of Ohio’s Country Journal this month, I thought it would be interesting to let the covers tell their unique stories through the years. I pulled out the binders holding a copy of each issue and stacked them up on the desk at the office and started with 1992 and worked my way through 2012.
It took awhile, as I found myself leafing through the pages to see the familiar faces and catch up on ag news of the days gone by. I was reminded how rich Ohio agriculture is in terms of the soils, the productivity and, maybe most importantly, the people. Ohio is home to so many great leaders in agriculture, promising young people and great farmers. Ohio has also been a battleground for some of the most pressing issues in food production as we have Corn Belt values colliding with East Coast mentalities all in the same great state.
With 20 years of covers to pick from to highlight in this issue, it was tough to narrow it down to a few favorites. Here are some from the second 10 years from 2002 until today.
Ed and Richard Harer are great Ohio examples of increasing globalization of agriculture. A huge change in the 20 years of the OCJ has been a growing interconnectedness of global agriculture. Another key change has been the soybean production explosion in South America. Who would have ever thought that Brazil would be the agricultural power it is today? Ed and Richard Harer did. They bought farmland in Mato Grosso to diversify their farm in a different hemisphere. This story from May of 2003 highlighted the effort.
This Mid-October 2004 cover is hard to beat with a pumpkin-cannon-mounted fire truck preparing to blast a pumpkin over a fair portion of Stark County from the Maize Valley Farm of Bill Bakan. Plus, it speaks volumes any time the mention of a three-legged calf (top right) is cover material.
The Mid-May 2005 feature story with the Spray Brothers from Knox County is one of my favorites. These pioneers in organic grain production have overcome many obstacles, including funny looks from their neighbors. The brothers’ love of the land is apparent in the face of Glenn Spray and his body language in the photo. They take painstaking care of their land through meticulous management, long crop rotations and manure management.
There was a time where it seemed that just about everything I wrote about had something to do with soybean rust. This monster of a disease moving up from the south had the potential to wipe out entire fields. Rust had run rampant in South America, but it had another thing coming when it arrived in the north. Researchers, seed companies, agronomists, farmers and ag journalists attacked the problem before it could even get a foothold. This Mid-August 2007 cover highlights a trip to the kudzu patches of Florida where Ohio agronomists and farmers braved venomous snakes, high temperatures and spicy southern cooking for training to serve on Ohio’s front line for soybean rust scouting.
The great September 2010 cover story nicely summarized many months of battle preparations, emotional highs, frustration, anger, fund raising, and, ultimately, compromise, after the Humane Society of the United States threatened a ballot measure in Ohio. The resulting “agreement” was one of the pivotal happenings in the animal welfare history of Ohio. The “agreement” built upon the formation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board that had been established. Many in Ohio ag were ready for a fight, though, and there was much frustration at the time about what seemed to many as giving up. This story helped calm tempers and bring to light all of the details of the much discussed “agreement” that put HSUS at bay in Ohio, for now.
Another favorite cover of mine is the Mid-September 2011 issue that features an old photo of Jarvis Meach, the most noteworthy of the famed Jarvis brothers who thwarted a robbery attempt on what is now the Century Farm of their family decedents. Here Jarvis Meach is sitting on his front porch holding the guns (“Old Bunty” and “Little Pet”) he used to thwart the attempts of a robbery at his home. The Ohio Century Farm program started as a joint effort between the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the OCJ under the leadership of Tim Reeves. Initially, all of the selected Century Farms were featured in the OCJ each year, but changes from the ODA a few years ago vastly expanded the number of Century Farms, so now we just highlight two each year.