Blogs

Farmland losses far outpace preservation

By Matt Reese

Ohio farmland is a long taken-for-granted resource providing the very basis for our society, economy and culture; and we continue to rapidly pave over it with dreams of improving our society, economy and culture. 

With this in mind, I may be the only person who thinks about farmland preservation every time I hear the classic song “Just my imagination (running away with me)”by The Temptations. Specifically, the second verse of the song shifts my imagination to, in my opinion, the biggest challenge facing Ohio agriculture:

Soon we’ll be married and raise a family (Oh yeah)
A cozy little home out in the country
With two children, maybe three. 

The Temptations beautifully croon about part of the challenge of preserving farmland very clearly. It seems almost foundational to the American Dream to leave the confines of the city to build a home for a better life in the country.… Continue reading

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A decade of the 4Rs

By Matt Reese

Though I can get there if I really think about it, it is hard for me to remember a time when I did not know what the 4Rs stood for. It seems for a while, the program founded on the principles of applying fertilizers at the right source, right rate, right time, and right place was an ever-present staple of just about every story I wrote.

Leading up to the Toledo water crises in August of 2014, the groundwork was already being proactively implemented by the agricultural community to address the role of excess farm nutrient runoff into Ohio waterways. Now commemorating 10 years of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program, the simple, science-based 4Rs have proven to be effective as certified retailers have been working with farmers and crop consultants to put those principles into practice.

Among the first retailers to gain 4R Certification was the Legacy Farmers Cooperative with five agronomy locations in the Western Lake Erie Basin.… Continue reading

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AI: New v. old

By Matt Reese

I was recently giving a presentation to a farm group and a question came up about AI. Maybe for the first time ever, my mind immediately went to the 2024 definition of cutting-edge AI technology in agriculture instead of the 1938 definition of cutting-edge AI technology in agriculture.

In the 1920s and 30s, Russian scientist Ivanovich Ivanov developed the earliest techniques for artificially inseminating horses, cattle and sheep. By 1938 the practice had gotten started in the United States. Ivanov’s AI, of course, dramatically changed the future of animal agriculture. It was not that long ago I could safely assume that a reference to AI meant this one very specific practice in agricultural circles, but that, of course, has changed.

While the new AI has yet to eclipse the agricultural importance of the old AI, Artificial Intelligence is becoming a growing part of daily life for many people, including farmers.… Continue reading

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Food security is national security

By Matt Reese

I recently saw an old tin sign hanging in a friend’s house that said: Farm — a piece of land and the buildings upon it used for the production of crops and the rearing of livestock.

This simple definition is the base layer building block of our society. Law, order, entertainment, fashion, art, music, organized religion, politics, sports, events, education, and pretty much everything else all fall apart pretty quickly in the absence of food. This makes each farm, and the agricultural industry as a whole, greater than the sum of its parts.

With this in mind, over the winter the U.S. Department of Agriculture released some unsettling numbers. In fiscal year 2023, the United States was a net importer of agricultural products, meaning the country imported a higher value of agricultural products than were exported.

While the United States typically exports more agricultural goods by value than it imports, the value of imports has grown more rapidly than exports over the past decade, contributing to a negative trade balance in some years.… Continue reading

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What’s the plan for April 8 on your farm?

By Matt Reese

On April 8, there will be a rare total solar eclipse visible in the United States from southwestern Texas northeast through Maine. Among the very best viewing locations in the world is a 124-mile-wide swath across western to northern Ohio, which is expected to attract a half million visitors to the state on eclipse trips. 

Some farms are planning on hosting eclipse watchers from afar while others are doing everything possible to deter them.

How are you planning on managing the eclipse on your farm?

What precautions have you taken?

Are you hosting any unique farm specific events?

Let us know how you are spending your April 8 for the rare solar eclipse coming to your farm. Either way, farms need to be prepared for large potential crowds looking to view the eclipse in Ohio’s rural areas. In terms of the specific timeline, the 2024 total solar eclipse in Ohio will last less than five minutes, while a partial solar eclipse will be visible for much longer before and after the total eclipse. … Continue reading

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Unique and weird

By Matt Reese

There is something special about farmers.

Jack Irvin will be the first to tell you he has no farm background to speak of. He grew up in northeast Ohio with an interest in politics and lobbying. Early in his career he got a job working in the Statehouse in Columbus. It was there — on the occasions he would work with them — Irvin first noticed that there was something different about farmers. They may not have always had much political polish, sometimes they wore boots instead of nice dress shoes and ties were optional. What they maybe lacked in smooth talking, though, the farmers at the Statehouse made up for by being authentic, well-reasoned and straight forward — a stark, and pleasant oddity in the political realm.

Though he did not really know the difference between a corn stalk and a cover crop, the uniqueness of farmers encouraged Irvin to shift his lobbying efforts toward agriculture.… Continue reading

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The beauty in the response

By Matt Reese

As long as this old world continues to spin, terrible disasters will happen. Each one of the disasters we have seen unfold in recent weeks has been devastating in its own way, but amid the loss are the uniquely inspiring efforts of the people who step in and help. The glory, the beauty and the kindness of the situations are demonstrated in the hearts, hands and generosity of those who respond. 

Severe weather moved through central Ohio early in the morning of Feb. 28, 2024, causing significant damage in several parts of rural Ohio and the Columbus area. With wind speeds up to 135 miles per hour, the National Weather Service reported several tornadoes touching down, including two EF2 tornadoes and damaging straight line winds. Some of the worst damage was in Clark and Madison, Franklin, and Licking counties. In Clark and Madison counties, homes and barns were severely damaged on the tornado’s path over 19 miles.… Continue reading

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Has the farm bill lost its oomph?

By Matt Reese

Though farm country frustration with the federal government is nothing new, the floundering farm bill seems to be rousing less agricultural interest than in the past. Even with an astonishing $1.5 trillion price tag, there are some in agricultural circles questioning the relevance of the 2024 farm bill being debated.

“We were in D.C. a couple of weeks ago with the National Association of Wheat Growers and we were having a meeting with one particular office within the Ohio delegation and as we started the conversation the staffer said, ‘Yes we’re looking at a baseline of $1.1 trillion for this bill.’ Then about 5 minutes later he said, ‘Yeah this is a $1.2 trillion bill’ and then as we kept going, every few minutes tacked on another .1 trillion. By the end of the meeting we were talking about a $1.7 trillion farm bill,” said Luke Crumley, with Ohio Corn & Wheat.… Continue reading

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Get prepared for eclipse trips

By Matt Reese

On April 8, there will be a rare total solar eclipse visible in the United States from southwestern Texas northeast through Maine. Among the very best viewing locations in the world is a 124-mile-wide swath across western to northern Ohio, which is expected to attract many visitors to the state on eclipse trips.

solar eclipse occurs when the moon casts its shadow on the earth as it passes between the earth and the sun. In the upcoming total solar eclipse, the moon will appear to totally obscure the sun.

A solar eclipse generally happens somewhere on earth every year and a half or so, but the last total solar eclipse visible in Ohio was in 1806 and the next total solar eclipse in Ohio will be in the year 2099, according to TourismOhio of the Ohio Department of Development.

Here are some other interesting facts from TourismOhio about the upcoming total solar eclipse:

• The 2024 total solar eclipse in Ohio will last less than five minutes, while a partial solar eclipse will be visible for much longer before and after the total eclipse.… Continue reading

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Faith and a heart of service

By Matt Reese

Back in 2019, when Dave Shoup of Wayne County was serving at the Ohio Pork Council president, he had this to say about the group of award winners being recognized at the Pork Congress that year.

“Every year we present these awards and we’re fortunate in the state of Ohio to have such deserving people. There are so many people the young folks in this industry can look up and strive to be like in the years to come and serve the industry in a tremendous way,” Shoup said. “None of these families or individuals do this for the award. They do it for the industry. That is what has made them what they are — humble people promoting pork, watching out for the best interest of the industry and trying to help the industry move forward to represent ourselves very well to the consumers.”

Shoup’s comments were accurate back in 2019 and have now come full circle as he is being recognized as this year’s Industry Excellence Award winner on Feb.… Continue reading

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Don’t wish away winter

By Matt Reese

From a practical standpoint, a good hard winter freeze does Ohio agriculture well.

“We’re going to have a good freeze this winter. This is the first farm show I’ve been to in 3 years where it’s actually been cold outside,” said Jacob Lewis of Mercer Landmark in an interview with Ohio Ag Net’s Joe Everett at the Fort Wayne Farm Show in January. “We can take advantage of some of that disease and nasty stuff getting killed and maybe get some freezing and thawing action in our soil and get it leveled out nice.”

Like it or not, the cold, dreary weather of winter has many positives for agricultural production, setting the stage for a great Ohio growing season. The cold and snow have numerous benefits, though this winter got off to a warm, dry start.

“For Ohio, December 2023 ranks as the second warmest December on record since 1895 and caps off the fourth warmest year on record over that same period,” said Aaron Wilson, State Climatologist with Ohio State University Extension.… Continue reading

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Big faith, little seeds

By Matt Reese

As the last glaciers advanced south into what is now Ohio, there is evidence that a continuous stand of beautiful fir trees extended from Canada south to North Carolina along the Appalachian Mountains. As the climate warmed, much of this unbroken forest of fir was replaced with other tree species in the lower elevations, leaving only isolated pockets of fir stands on the mountaintops and in mountain bogs.

These trees stood, unknown by mankind for thousands of years, until Jim Brown, who would later become a professor and associate chair of forestry at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) took notice in the late 1960s. Over the next two decades Brown conducted extensive research into this newly discovered type of fir tree with the hopes of finding a tree suitable for Christmas tree production. He found this unique tree that was not a balsam fir and not a Fraser fir, but with characteristics of both, in four separate and isolated areas within around 50 miles of each other in West Virginia.… Continue reading

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Standard of perfection

By Matt Reese


The crowing, cawing sea of poultry at the Ohio National is truly something to behold, especially at the 2023 event commemorating 150 years of the American Poultry Association (APA). More than 900 exhibitors from around the United States and Canada brought almost 11,000 birds representing every shape, size and color of poultry and waterfowl to the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus the second weekend in November. The constant roar of the widely divergent bird calls packed wall-to-wall in the Voinovich Livestock & Trade Center made it difficult to have a conversation without shouting.


All the hubbub is built around one book: The American Standard of Perfection.


“All of the standards for all of the breeds are covered in a book that is called The American Standard of Perfection to give an example of what you are trying to accomplish with your breeding. Each breed and each variety, or the color, is represented in that book, which has all the specific parameters on each bird — the size, the height, the comb, the right curve, the correct number of points.… Continue reading

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Ohio agriculture continues to address mental health

By Matt Reese

Hopefully, a bountiful, safely harvested crop from a growing season’s worth of work has paid off. The hay is made. The bins are full. The combine is back in the shop. Preparations for livestock have been taken care of for the winter. It is a good feeling as 2024 draws near to reflect on the blessings resulting from the year’s labors with the promise of a chance to rest and relax after the long hours of harvest. Now is the chance to reap the rewards of agricultural efforts sewn in 2023.

While this time of year is wonderful for so many to celebrate so much, it can also be a very difficult time for those whose efforts in 2023 did not turn out as planned. Weather, pests, diseases, interest rates, commodity markets, equipment breakdowns, and countless other factors can make the best efforts fall short on the farm.… Continue reading

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A virtual success

By Matt Reese

Our food chain connecting farms to consumers is remarkable — a true modern miracle — but it is often not very transparent. This confounds people seeking a more intimate connection with the origins of their food and leads to a whole host of challenges between producers, consumers and the many steps connecting them. As this knowledge gap only seems to be widening, it is more important than ever to find innovative ways to connect the people who eat with the farmers who produce their food.

With this in mind, the Ohio Pork Council teamed up with Springfield-based Shift•ology Communication back in 2015 to start Virtual Field Trips to bring farm visits into classrooms. Virtual Farm Trips use technology to mitigate farm biosecurity and school budgetary issues while allowing students to visit farms and talk with a farmer in real time to learn about agriculture. Virtual Farm Trips hit an impressive 1 million student milestone with a virtual dairy farm visit, hosted by United Dairy Industry of Michigan on Oct.… Continue reading

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Making a harvest connection

By Matt Reese

Harvest is here. Even in our modern world of Internet, unprecedented technology and cell phones in everyone’s pockets, the autumn leaves and crisp air have a way of making people yearn to reconnect with the farm. As crowds flock to corn mazes and dream of hayrides beneath the harvest moon, Ohio agriculture is hard at work to help make that connection in some fun, innovative ways.

Franklin County Farm Bureau members are uniquely positioned to find ways to bridge the agricultural gap with their urban neighbors and communities. On Sept. 10, the Franklin County Farm Bureau hosted the Taste of Franklin County event at Waterman Farm on the Ohio State University campus. Attendees toured the various gardens, the Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Complex, the dairy, and the pawpaw patch. Along with the tour, guests got to make their own pizzas with local ingredients provided by the Master Gardeners of Waterman farms and Miceli Dairy Products.… Continue reading

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Tillie’s ire

By Matt Reese

Stuart Heavilin lives with his family in a home built around a cabin moved to the farm by his ancestors around 1875. The old cabin had some notable upgrades through the years. In 1913, the cabin was expanded into a house, with upstairs bedrooms and one of the first in-home bathrooms in the area. The house got another upgrade after Stuart’s grandfather bought the property from his cousin at an auction in 1989. Stuart moved into the home in 2011 and, with his wife Tara, has done significant improvements and renovations, including adding a basement to the structure.

When Stuart’s grandparents Eugene and Matilda “Tillie” Heavilin bought the family farm with the house back in 1989, most people, including the auctioneer, assumed the house and 173 acres would sell for development or recreation to capitalize on nearby Tappan Lake. Eugene and Tillie, though, hoped they’d saved up enough to buy the family farm.… Continue reading

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Tough times, good life

By Matt Reese

Through hard work and good fortune, Charlie Reffitt had ascended through the ranks and was managing nearly 3,000 acres and a high-end Wagyu beef operation at Hondros Farms based in Delaware County. He and his wife, Crystal, lived in the home on the farm. 

As it sometimes does, though, life took a dramatic turn for Charlie 5 years ago. 

Charlie Reffitt was paralyzed from the waist down 5 years ago, ut has continued managing Hondros Farms in Delaware County.

“It was a cold, snowy January day. I had been hunting a big buck up on a farm we have in Morrow County. I hiked back in a ways off the road to his bedding area where I thought I might have some pretty good luck at getting him. I got up to my tree stand and saw one of the welds was snapped and the other one I could see was just popping apart.… Continue reading

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More than counting kernels

By Matt Reese

Of course, the outward goals of the 2023 Ohio Crop Tour are to get an idea of what is actually out there in the corn and soybean fields around the state of Ohio in terms of yields, pests and diseases. And, in general we have accomplished just that in the 11 years since we started the effort. We have been quite a bit off on the final yield a couple of times, but we generally get within a handful of bushels of the final USDA average yield numbers for Ohio released in January. We also typically succeed in getting a good handle on pest issues and statewide trends in crop development and challenges. So, in terms of the obvious goals of the Crop Tour, I think we do pretty well, maybe an A- or a B+ most of the time.

But, like most everything else we do, the Crop Tour is not really about corn yields, Japanese beetles or leaf disease, it is about people.… Continue reading

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Thanks to county and state fair leaders for your efforts in 2023

By Matt Reese

As we work our way through the 2023 Ohio fair season, I can’t help but think about the immeasurable resources that go into each one of these events, especially the Ohio State Fair. Think for a moment about the investment of time, money and labor that goes into just one of the livestock projects at the fair, and there are thousands of them. Beyond that, consider the number of volunteer hours spent by fair board members, fair staff, barn staff, judges, donors, sponsors, buyers, farm organization members and staff, vendors, ride companies, and the list goes on. Each individual who participates has their own role to play and their unique piece of ownership of the fair experience. Every person involved in every component of each fair is vying for a place and role in the overall event. There are countless moving parts, all with a need for organization and a set of challenges to be addressed and managed. … Continue reading

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