Blogs

Enjoying the view while it lasts

By Matt Reese

We had friends over for dinner the other night just as the first signs of spring were really starting to show up in the landscape around our home. They live in town and, as they got out of their car, they commented several times on how much they “love it out here.”

I agree. I love it “out here” too. The old farmhouse we live in has its various issues (as old farmhouses do), but it is surrounded by gently rolling farm fields with a bit of pasture mixed in and swaths of woodlands. The view from our house is great, especially for sunrises and sunsets. 

The wonderful view I enjoy brings value to my life, my family and my home. I appreciate it. 

Yet, I have never once offered to pay the local farmers who own and manage the land around me for the value of my view.… Continue reading

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FFA dancin’ in the rain

By Matt Reese

It is impossible to replace the in-person experience of the Ohio FFA Convention for the students who participate, but this year’s virtual installment still had plenty of highlights and recognition for FFA members who worked to make the best of the situation. 

The West Holmes FFA took things one step closer to an in-person convention by hosting FFA chapters from several counties with an in-person viewing at the Holmes County Fairgrounds. Dale Minyo served as the emcee for their FFA FUNvention. West Holmes FFA even got to celebrate their own Chase Stitzlein’s Star Farmer win together.

“We brainstormed and thought we needed to do something real for the kids. We got 18 schools together in 8 or 10 counties for an event to resemble convention,” said Jamie Chenevey, the West Holmes advisor. “We had workshops, and a session, we did a community service, we had an awards night, and a tradeshow.… Continue reading

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Fill in the blank with SB 52

By Matt Reese

      A proposal to approve or reject the ______________ certificate or amendment issued for __________ in the unincorporated area of __________ Township, __________ County, Ohio, adopted on __________ (date) by the Board of Township Trustees of __________ Township,__________ County, Ohio.

      We, the undersigned, being electors residing in the unincorporated area of __________ Township, equal to not less than eight per cent of the total vote cast for all candidates for governor in the area at the preceding general election at which a governor was elected, request the Board of Elections to submit this proposal to the electors of the unincorporated area of __________ Township for approval or rejection at a special election to be held on the day of the primary or general election to be held on __________ (date), pursuant to section 519.217 of the Revised Code.

This is language taken directly from Senate Bill 52 currently being considered by the Ohio Legislature. The… Continue reading

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Barn art legacy

By Matt Reese

It was a frigid February Saturday morning when the buzzing of a string of text messages on my phone led to a sick, sad feeling in the pit of my stomach. The old family barn at my brother’s home had caught fire overnight and was a total loss.

As children, the barn — likely built in the 1870s using some of the last old growth timber in the area — was an incredible castle for play, hay fort construction and exploration. As I got older it housed 4-H projects and was the location of many hours of labor side-by-side with family. It was a place to gather with friends and a lonely perch in the haymow offered an ideal setting for youthful daydreams. As an adult, a return to the confines of the barn where generations of my ancestors toiled offered a unique comfort and cemented a deep connection with the family legacy of the property.  … Continue reading

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The Sentinel Oak

By Matt Reese

Farmers and trees have a contentious relationship. While livestock on pasture can benefit from their summer shade, there are few other practical benefits of trees on farm ground. They persistently plague fence rows, rob yields from surrounding crops and serve as highly inconvenient obstacles for farm equipment of every kind. 

With this reality in mind, I always marvel when I see a lone tree standing out in the middle of a farm field. Why is it there? Each one has a different story, I’m sure. In every case, though, a striking tree standing out in the middle of a farm field is a combination of God’s magnificent handiwork and the intentionality of generations of landowners to preserve it. 

Certainly among the more visible and spectacular specimens of farm field trees in Ohio was recently felled. The imposing swamp white oak tree was known by its owners as the Sentinel Oak and, by virtue of its impressive dimensions and location, was also well known by the local community in Hancock County, near Findlay.… Continue reading

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We all work for an audience

By Matt Reese

The after-lunch speaker for the Ohio Pork Congress was Damian Mason who grew up on a dairy farm in Indiana and now lives half the year on the home farm and half the year in Arizona. He makes a living speaking, writing, and advising about the challenges and opportunities resulting from our culture’s growing gap between consumer and producer. 

Though he had dreams of going into a career in agronomy, the ag economy in 1992 had other plans for Mason. He eventually found himself selling light fixtures in California. While living there, he won a costume contest one Halloween while dressed as Bill Clinton. This prompted an unusual transition to a career in comedy, making appearances around the country (including Ohio) as President Clinton.  

“One thing comedy taught me was the reality that we all work for an audience. We have forever been stuck in this thing in agriculture where we say, ‘Well you know what?… Continue reading

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Bring the outside up

By Matt Reese

We knew going into this basketball season that it was going to be a tough year for my daughter’s 7th grade team. They were stepping up in the level of competition in their league and the wins were not going to come as easily as they had the previous season, if they came at all. 

There were a handful of wins, but also some losses by substantive margins. As a former coach and dad watching from the stands, I couldn’t help but notice a trend develop as the season of tough losses played out. Our girls would play well for a quarter or so, then start to make a few mistakes. A few errant passes in a row would lead to sudden panic, which would lead to more mistakes, a run from the opposition and, within a few moments, the whole team would collectively lose hope and fall far behind.… Continue reading

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Lessons learned for 2021

By Matt Reese

I’m fairly certain that no single year in recent world history has had more of a universally global impact than 2020. Nationwide and around the world, if you were alive and breathing during the previous 12 months, 2020 inevitably had a significant impact on you. No matter your profession, age, socio-economic status, regardless of where you live or who you are, we are all likely heading into 2021 with an altered perspective from a year ago. Have you changed for the better?

I think one positive change in the last year was that the role of agriculture (from farms through the supply chain) gained some valuable ground in the estimation our society in general. Many of those far removed from the daily challenges of agriculture have clearly been taking our amazing food system for granted. Those folks got a sobering wake-up call in 2020. 

Ohio Farm Bureau president Frank Burkett, III alluded to this in his comments reflecting on 2020 while heading into the organization’s virtual annual meeting in December.… Continue reading

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Controlling what we can in a world out of control

By Matt Reese

In one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis has some advice that hits very close to home as we muddle our way through the astonishing early days of 2021.  

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker.Continue reading

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Top stories of 2020

By Matt Reese

Happy New Year! The top web stories from 2020, as you may guess, took quite a departure from the norm. Web traffic expanded significantly in 2020 at ocj.com but we did not have many of the normal events that typically drive our top posts, such as the Ohio State Fair and crop tours. Much of the resulting drama of not having these events showed up very clearly in the top stories of 2020. I will say there are some surprising results in here (to me anyway) from a 2020 that was never short on uncertainty and, quite frankly, insanity.

  1. Governor DeWine to Ohio Fairs: What we’ve seen is unacceptable

Kolt Buchenroth nearly broke the Internet with this story (our website actually did shut down temporarily due to the traffic) that exploded with his reporting from a July 22 meeting between Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio’s fair managers covering hot topics including COVID cases, wearing masks at fairs, and the Ohio Youth Livestock Expo.… Continue reading

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Rusty van hides a heart of gold: 2020 update

By Matt Reese

The thin layer of fresh snow crunched under the tires of the old, rusted van that pulled into the gravel parking spot between a gleaming new SUV and a big pickup truck. A lone man got out of the dilapidated van with a creak of the door and a plume of cigarette smoke. He had long hair in the back, short hair in the front, and wore only a sweatshirt with cut-off sleeves and some ragged, grease-smeared jeans.

He definitely didn’t fit the mold of the typical customers that visit our Christmas tree farm for a fun, family experience. Despite his unkempt appearance, though, there was a delighted sparkle in his eyes and he wore a crooked, happy smile on his face as I walked with him into the snow-covered rows of Christmas trees.

Our footsteps crunched through the deepening snow drifts as the man started telling me about his love of a real Christmas tree for the holiday and how he had one every year of his life but last year.… Continue reading

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Childcare a unique challenge for parents involved with agriculture

By Matt Reese

It has been really exciting at the Reese family Christmas tree farm watching the next generation step up and do more jobs in recent years. My daughter is now 13 and she runs the cash register and drives the ATV hauling trees out of the field. My son is 11 and he has started mowing between tree rows in the summer, cutting trees in the field at harvest and he is always up for giving farm tours. Their cousins are also starting to do more around the farm too. It is uniquely rewarding to see children show an interest in joining older generations of their family working for a common goal on the farm.

As great as this can be, it can also be very challenging. When the children were younger, there were many occasions where their “help” was actually much more work. It was not easy balancing babies/toddlers, an off farm job and farm work.… Continue reading

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There is no security quite like food security

By Matt Reese

This time of year farmers around the state are working feverishly around the clock (and the weather) to get the last fields of corn and soybeans harvested and safely in the bin before the harshest winter weather sets in. Along with this accomplishment, comes a special feeling of deep satisfaction unique to farms. It is the completion of a year of planning, investment and long hours. Similarly, getting a mow filled with hay in summer’s waning days feels pretty good and there is also something very comforting about amassing an impressive pile of fire wood before the first snow of the season.

Beyond the farm community, though, these things simply do not compare to a feeling of having a nice stockpile of food for your family as winter arrives. For the Reeses, the 4-H turkeys, chickens, lambs, and pigs have been processed, I just got a quarter of a steer from my brother and the freezer is full of meat as we head into winter.… Continue reading

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The day after election day

By Matt Reese

I am writing this just after returning from the polls on Nov. 3 election day to cast my votes for 2020. It is my guess that the sun will be rising in the east on Nov. 4, 2020 regardless of the election’s outcome.

This sunrise provides some perspective to the conclusion of the raucous few months of hype, promises, rhetoric, and politicking that have bombarded Ohioans. Of course, some winners rejoiced with unbridled optimism regarding the positive changes for the future and some losers lamented the disastrous outcome for life as we know it. Ultimately, the truth of the matter is that the election results will be neither as idyllic as hoped or as horrific as feared. We have a proven system of checks and balances that (for better or worse) reign in these extremes. It may be flawed, but it keeps chugging along, just like that sun crossing the sky overhead.… Continue reading

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Will Halloween be able to top the spookiness of the rest of 2020?

By Matt Reese

It is hard to imagine that Halloween could be any spookier than any of the rest of 2020, but with the holiday falling on a Saturday and a full moon (a rare second-in-the-month full blue moon in fact) this year, anything is possible.

Halloween candy sales have been trending up, but costume sales have dramatically tumbled. I guess there is no need to buy a mask when you are already wearing one.

It seems though, costumed or not, Ohioans are in the mood to get out and enjoy rural Ohio as there is clear interest in visiting Ohio’s agritourism farms this fall where any number of autumn products can be found and purchased. See the related story on page  . The year has brought tremendous uncertainly and many required changes for some operations, but business is booming as people just want to go outside and do something in rural Ohio.… Continue reading

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Century farms offer lessons for 2020

By Matt Reese

Amid all of the lunacy of 2020, I personally have found it useful to look back and see that none of the challenges we are facing are really new. All of the root causes of today’s problems have always existed and have been dealt with by our forefathers. And, in the case of those of us in Ohio’s agricultural present, our past was shaped on Ohio’s Historic Family Farms.

The Ohio Century Farm program started in 1993 as a joint effort between the Ohio History Connection, Ohio’s Country Journal and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Today the ODA’s Ohio Historic Family Farms program recognizes a farm that has been in the same family for: 100 to 149 years (Century Farm designation), 150 to 199 years (Sesquicentennial Farm designation) or 200 or more years (Bicentennial Farm designation).

Maybe you’ve seen the signs, or heard of the program, but these historic treasures of rural Ohio are often overlooked.… Continue reading

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More than just your farm…

By Matt Reese

It was getting late when my phone rang. It had been a rough day.

I didn’t know the number, but I answered anyway.

“Hello,” I said politely, but a little bit upset.

And then what I heard next, I will not ever forget.

“I got your number from a friend. Nope, you’ve never met me.

But I need someone to talk with, if you’d be kind enough to let me.

You see I’m working by myself. I’m out in my shop alone.

And I’m thinkin’ things I shouldn’t think. So I picked up the phone.”

I sort of sputtered to myself. I stood and scratched my head.

“Um, sure, I guess. I’m listening,” was the only thing I said.

He said the toil of generations was everywhere he looked,

From great-grandpa’s toolbox on the shelf to the old stove where grandma cooked.

His family looked to him now, both generations gone and yet to come,

To keep building their tradition upon the land this farmer long called home.… Continue reading

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Worries about the “D” word looming

By Matt Reese

They say a wet year will starve you to death and a dry year will worry you to death.

Well, with a rough stretch of high temperatures starting in late June combined with limited rainfall around the state, farmers are starting to worry. So far in July, temperatures in Ohio were averaging 2 to 8 degrees F above average in a lengthening stretch of 90-degree days, said Aaron Wilson with Ohio State University Extension. At the same time, Wilson said Ohio had less than 0.25-inch statewide.

“Not only are we falling short on typical rainfall (~1-inch per week), but hot daytime temperatures have led to intense evaporation rates (0.25 to 0.30-inch per day). This has caused rapidly drying soils and decreasing stream flows,” Wilson said in the CORN Newsletter.

Even by July 2, abnormally dry conditions were being reported for roughly 17% of Ohio, largely in the northwest.… Continue reading

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Catch fish…and eat them

By Matt Reese

Catch fish…and eat them. Humankind has been doing it for millennia.

I am the oldest of four boys and while we were growing up we would make occasional trips to the family cabin with our parents. While there, my brothers and I would regularly request that our father facilitate the process of helping us not only catch fish of a suitable size and quantity for a meal for six, but also fillet and cook them. Anyone who thinks conducting such an endeavor with four young boys sounds simple has clearly not undertaken the task. Nonetheless, we did this a number of times while growing up and have many fond memories of it, even if we rarely got enough fish cleaned for a complete meal.

The plan was to continue this simple Reese tradition in June when we went back to the cabin for a week of family, fishing and boating.… Continue reading

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A picture worth no words at all

By Matt Reese

To say “I love you” in sign language you must put up your thumb, index finger and pinkie finger, while keeping your ring finger and your middle finger down. Then, hold your hand out with your palm facing away from you and move it back and forth slightly.

Though you may not be able to quite see it in this photo, that is the message being conveyed by father Matt Fry on the tractor in the field and his son, Matthew, on the other (smaller) tractor in the yard. The toy tractor was Matt’s when he was a boy.

Matt produces row crops and cattle on his farm near Bellville with his father. Both Matt and his wife, Jessica, are deaf. They have two children, twins, who can hear. Jessica took the photo and Matt’s mother, Donna Smith, posted it online in late May. That’s where I saw it.… Continue reading

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