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Blog: Matt Reese

When grandpa’s not around

I have written about my grandfathers several times. I lost my last one in March. He was 98. My brother, Jeff (an OCJ marketing specialist) is taking on the writing duties this time. Jeff is helping to fill in on the farm now that Grandpa isn’t around and he had this to say about the first spring planting season in almost a century without Grandpa Frank Deeds on the farm.

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This is a busy time of year for everyone involved in agriculture. If you are not in a field working you are most likely in some form of support role. I have never been directly responsible for the helping with the grain farming but since the loss of my 98-year-old Grandpa two months ago I have felt a pull to the farm.

My uncle has been the “farmer” in our family for as long as I can remember but my grandpa was always there with him. His brother has been a major piece of the puzzle but my grandpa was always there. With the loss of Grandpa things are just a little different.

My wife and I have joked that maybe between the two of us we can help to fill the void Grandpa left helping my uncle on the farm. She can be the brains and I can try not to break things. The truth is that because my Grandpa was always there we didn’t grow up in the tractor or in the field. Things are just going to be different now that Grandpa isn’t around.

It was with this in mind that I called my uncle up on a beautiful Monday evening and asked what I could do to help. What I really wanted to do was sit out in the sun and wait for the groundhog that had been digging up our tree fields. Visions of me triumphantly slaying this irksome beast and then hunting for mushrooms had me wavering on my promise to help. Ultimately my desire to help my uncle won the day, and that groundhog will have to wait until the crops are in the ground. Priorities are just different now that Grandpa isn’t around.

My anxiety to help in the fields is real. My fear is that I will break or mess something up and cost more time than I am saving. But things have a funny way of working out. What my uncle really needed help with was tilling the garden. This is a job I can confidently accomplish! The scope of the garden was not something I had taken into consideration, though. See, my Grandpa loved sweet corn, he loved squash, he loved tomatoes, he loved onions and he loved potatoes too. My Grandpa had a prolific garden and even at 98 he was planning on growing enough for him, my uncle and the surrounding community to share. It was not unusual to see asparagus exchanges in the church parking lot on Sunday mornings or coolers full or sweet corn dropped on a neighbor’s porch. I have fond memories of hot summer mornings husking corn in the shade so that we could freeze enough to last through the winter. It may be different without my Grandpa but maybe I can help keep his memory alive in my own small way this year.

As I fired up the tiller I had visions of perfectly straight lines with no footprints in the freshly tilled garden soil. I fought to keep the tiller in line and make everything perfect. I wanted to make Grandpa proud. Then something dawned on me, Grandpa wasn’t about doing everything perfectly. He was about doing it right. Grandpa worked this exact ground with a horse drawn plow as a child. He has kept it in his family for his 98 years. Clearly he was doing something right. Being a part of the farm can take on many different shapes. Each job requires a different set of skills, but they all take a level of determination to do it right, to the best of your ability. I realized that maybe I can’t do everything the way he did and it will take time to learn the best way to do things. I just hope, in one small way, that maybe things didn’t have to be so different even though Grandpa isn’t around this year.

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Author: Matt Reese

I grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio and spent most of my youth writing, doodling, taking pictures, reading and exploring the surrounding farmland. With a family full of teachers, I also grew up around a culture supportive of education. I was active in athletics in high school before graduating from Ohio State University where I studied agricultural communications. This led to my career in agricultural journalism.

I continue to work on the family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. I married my wonderful wife, Kristin, in 2002. We live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. We have a daughter Campbell Miriam who was born in the fall of 2007 and a son Parker Matthew born in August of 2009. We are active in our local church and with numerous other organizations. I help with the agricultural program at Ohio Christian University in Circleville as well.

I have worked for Ohio’s Country Journal since 1999. I also write a column for numerous newspapers around Ohio, Fresh Country Air and do freelance writing and photography work. I have written and self-published six books to date. To find my books, visit lulu.com and search for “Matt Reese.”

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