Blogs

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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The high costs of lost lasts

By Matt Reese

I was a bit surprised the other day when my 10-year-old son, who regularly complains about all things related to school, was lamenting the fact that he will never get to participate in his fourth grade class talent show. The event is one of the last things the students do before the end of the school year as a sort of graduation from elementary school.

I was whisked back to a couple of years earlier when my daughter participated in her fourth grade talent show. She spent many hours with her friends preparing a unique routine that was a real hit. All parties still have fond memories of it.

While the lack of opportunity for fourth graders to develop and act out a skit, or sing a solo, or carry out a dance routine will likely not have much impact on their future (and in fact may be a small act of mercy for parents and teachers alike), it is, however, an unfortunate lost last that can never be replaced or replicated.… Continue reading

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Tough times call for heroic efforts (and maybe your best china)

By Matt Reese

Well, Ohio agriculture, this is a pretty tough one. There has been more gloom and doom recently than I really care to report. Agricultural markets, across the board, are dismal. The food supply chain is crumbling and so is the economy. Some blame the virus. Some blame the government. Some blame society. Some blame China. Some blame faulty models and calculations. All are probably partly right.

None of that blame, though, really does much to address the tough situation. Fortunately, though, agriculture is used to tough. Tough builds character and shapes heroes who rise to the occasion and make challenging situations better.

After looking at the recent dismal corn prices, OCJ marketing specialist Risë Labig decided that lunch would be dessert with coffee and her best china in the company of some of her heroes.

“I needed a few minutes to decide whether or not I’m going to let this current crisis get the better part of me, and I’m NOT.… Continue reading

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Support the businesses supporting Ohio’s essential agriculture

By Matt Reese

It has been made very clear by the DeWine Administration that Ohio agriculture is essential because of the vital importance of farmers and their service to society. But, during these challenging times, it is also important to remember those who serve Ohio’s essential farmers.

There has been plenty mentioned about getting take-out to support your local favorite dining hotspots that may be feeling a real pinch right now. It is just as important to remember other parts of the service and supply chains that allow Ohio’s essential farmers to do what they do during the coronavirus measures taken by the state and the Stay at Home Order.

“I just want to thank our customers for shopping here and supporting us,” said Larry Goodman, manager of the Rural King in Marion. “At first, for probably the first week and a half, it was off the hook here, very busy.… Continue reading

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Wise words when the world goes COVID crazy

By Matt Reese

We are currently facing a time that may offer a chance for thought and introspection. Many folks are offering up words of wisdom and I will spare you most of mine, but I do want to share some of the wiser words I’ve come across during this unique time for our farms, our state and our nation.

One of the best things I have read comes from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, and his “On Living in an Atomic Age” from 1948 where he writes about the great public concerns about the newly developing societal fears at the time. It seems there are many applications for our current situation.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”Continue reading

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Turning adversity into opportunity

By Matt Reese

In January, Mark Gardiner talked about genetics and a forward-look at the cattle industry at the Ohio Cattlemen’s Annual Meeting. He outlined the challenges and opportunities in the cattle business from his perspective at Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kan.

“Our ranch in Kansas would be very similar to many ranches around the United States. My family migrated to Kansas in 1885 and homesteaded there. I’m the fourth generation and my sons represent the fifth generation. It is a family-run operation. We were commercial cattlemen forever and then we started the genetics business back in the 70s and our first production sale of Angus genetics was in April of 1980. We’re beef cattle people first, but our main business is Angus genetics at Gardiner Angus Ranch in Ashland, Kan.,” Gardiner said. “Technology and information is available to all of us and we have used data-based selection systems to select multi-trait specialists for the traits of merit since 1980.… Continue reading

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Keep the proper focus with H2Ohio

By Matt Reese

Last year I had the opportunity to serve as the head coach for my son’s third and fourth grade basketball team. As could be expected, wrangling a squirrelly group of elementary school boys did prove challenging, on occasion. This was on full display for the community to see on youth recognition night.

For the event, all of the elementary and junior high boys basketball players in the program gather at the school before a varsity game. The players get their names announced over the loudspeaker and then form two lines facing each other to make a “tunnel” where they slap hands with the varsity players as they run out before the game. It is a nice event to showcase the efforts of the youth.

My team was there, on time, with their jerseys on, which was a significant victory. They ran out as their names were announced as planned.… Continue reading

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