Blogs

January advocacy

By Matt Reese

My 4-year-old nephew Michael is well versed in the subtleties of personal advocacy. On a recent stay at his grandparents, Michael had apparently seen evidence of the need for his grandfather to deposit some checks at the bank in the near future. He asked his grandpa if he needed to make a trip to the bank that day with the checks. Delighted with the opportunity to enjoy the company of his grandson on a mundane trip into town, grandpa of course complied with the request. While it is certain that Michael enjoyed the time with his grandfather, he expressed no hesitation whatsoever in his hasty acceptance of the sucker offered up by the bank’s drive-through teller. 

The world is full of people who see problems and complain about them to no avail. Michael saw a problem: no sucker. He took the steps necessary to actually amend the problem.… Continue reading

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Enjoying the view

By Matt Reese

As I write this I’m listening to the cold January wind whistle in around one of the last couple of old windows in my old farmhouse. Most of the windows in the house have been replaced, but this one has not, for a couple of reasons. 

Foremost, the picture window is the largest in the house and the most expensive to replace. And, well, I have been raised by generations of frugal farmers trained to make do with what you’ve already got (my grandfather was known to wear 30-year-old dress pants patched with strips of duct tape rather than purchase new farm work pants). 

There is also some sentimentality with the old window not lost upon me. Years ago an older gentleman who grew up in this house long before I owned it stopped by and asked if he could come in and see the old place, and how it has changed since his time here.… Continue reading

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Top 10 web stories of 2021

By Matt Reese

There were plenty of surprises in 2021 in general, and some surprises for me with regard to the top 10 web stories of the year. There are also some very 2021-type stories in what was, in many ways, a very surprising year.

  1. No days off: Stover puts in work to prepare for football and the farm

Big congrats to OCJ field reporter Brianna Gwirtz for the top web story of the year! She did a great job writing. And what’s not to love about combining Ohio State football with some good old farm boy charm? Watch for more big things in the future from both Brianna and Cade Stover.  

2. Rural landowner rights being voted away by Ohio’s legislators

I admittedly got a bit fired up with this one. Solar development continues to be a huge and divisive issue with many pros and cons. An issue that should not be divisive, though, among Ohio agriculturalists is the preservation of landowner rights.… Continue reading

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Five fields and back: A Christmas story

By Matt Reese

John opened up his eyes to a splitting headache. After staying out late and driving home when he shouldn’t, he’d ended up sleeping in his truck in his driveway, forehead on the steering wheel. Again.

Harvest had wrapped up by late October and it had been a good crop. It seemed like cause for celebration. But the bad decisions of the previous night had been foreshadowed by countless bad decisions of so many nights before. The downward spiral over years had led to John, in his late 30s, losing everything but the truck he slept in, his diminishing share in the family farm and an empty tenant house on the farm where he lived. 

It was time for change. He started up the truck and pushed the button behind the steering wheel to reset his trip to 0. He started driving until he saw what he was looking for, right at a grass driveway splitting two fields on the farm. … Continue reading

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Elevating the status of animals

By Matt Reese

There was a stretch where the Reese children were really into a television show called Secrets of the Zoo. For the most part, I really enjoyed watching the reality show covering the daily trials of the impressive veterinarian staff at the Columbus Zoo. It included plenty of valuable, educational information in a way the kids found to be entertaining. 

As we binge watched the show, though, an underlying theme started to bother me. I could not quite put my finger on it at first, but it gradually started to dawn on me that the general premise of the show elevated the status of animals to a level approaching (or exceeding) human status. Now, I should point out, that even once this did occur to me, we continued to watch the show due to its value, but we also had a number of discussions about the hierarchy of things and my concerns with some of the themes of the show. … Continue reading

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Can good neighbors and solar projects go together?

By Matt Reese

I am not sure Jesus had Ohio’s solar debate in mind when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” but I think it certainly applies to what is happening right now on both sides of the issue. 

Changes in utility scale electric generation and transmission systems have created a situation where Ohio landowners are being approached to consider leasing large tracts of ground for solar development through contracts ranging from 25 to 50 years. Certainly a loving neighbor would want financial success for others in the community. And those neighbors, if similarly loving, would of course want to do right by the wishes of those around them for the benefit of all. The current situation, though, in many unfortunate cases, pits neighbor against neighbor and is actively tearing communities and families apart. 

“We have a division occurring across Ohio: Those who stand to benefit financially from a lease that would allow for solar and wind development on their land and those who don’t want it — at least not in their area,” said Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program.… Continue reading

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The “cow tax” chain of misinformation

By Matt Reese

For a few days in October, many of us take great delight in making things a bit spookier than they really are, but this type of misinformation is now immediately available year round — and it can go well beyond spooky to dangerous. 

With a constantly updating news cycle featuring various media outlets vying to lure in massive advertising dollars, social media making everyone a preacher/news anchor/columnist according to their own whims and a truly vicious political climate from both sides of the aisle, gross misinformation has the opportunity to flow freely with few checks and balances.

I have gotten some questions about the rumors surrounding a “cow tax” being proposed for methane emissions. First, these rumors are not true. Second, this story is an excellent illustration for the way information can be twisted to lead to conclusions not based on reality.

It all got started with legitimate concerns regarding the possibility of the murky and confusing issue of agricultural methane emissions being targeted with taxes through federal legislation, specifically in the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate this summer.… Continue reading

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Treasured (and not-so-treasured) Century Farm memories

By Matt Reese

Have you ever wondered if you could make it on the earliest days of some of Ohio’s historic family farms? I love the chance to look into Ohio’s past that accompanies every visit to an Ohio Century Farm, or in the case of this issue, a Bicentennial Farm. Every time I get to hear new stories about old Ohio farm days, I can’t help but wonder if I could have survived and thrived as they did.

This summer I had the chance to speak at a couple of events and my topic was, “A Century Farm perspective.” In my presentation I shared some of my very favorite Ohio Century Farm stories and the details of the lives of great toil lived by our forefathers seeking to make a better life for themselves and their descendants. We are the incredibly fortunate beneficiaries of those efforts and I believe these stories of yesteryear really can help to shape our modern perspective and help us to move forward with a bit more gratitude, humility and grace towards others. … Continue reading

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Remember Sept. 12…

By Matt Reese

So, where were you when the world stopped turning that September day? That darkest of blue sky days 20 years ago forever changed the lives of Americans and, in many cases, inspired many in our great country to take positive individual action for the sake of others. 

Chris Edwards was certainly inspired to action. Edwards is a retired New York City firefighter who served for 17 years as a member of E42 and E81 in the Bronx. Though Edwards was not officially on duty that day, he was a first responder during the tragedies that surrounded the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. He spent two weeks digging through the rubble of the World Trade Center following the attacks. Edwards has also served as a member of the Disaster Assistance Response Team that deploys during disasters to assist individuals, families and communities.… Continue reading

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Grand Drive shines spotlight on breeding exhibitors

By Matt Reese

The Ohio State Fair was very different this year. One radical 2021 departure from years past was the creation of two Grand Drive events, showcasing all the grand drives for each species in the same event. 

Taking a cue from other national caliber livestock shows, the events are designed to showcase the youth with a bit more pomp and circumstance while drawing a larger crowd and some extra bells and whistles. The State Fair featured a Grand Drive for the junior breeding livestock exhibitors on July 31 and a second Grand Drive for junior market exhibitors is coming up this weekend on Aug. 7. The events took a huge amount of planning and extensive coordinated effort from the barn staffs of the different species.   

It was a tremendous amount of work, but in the end the Breeding Grand Drive event accomplished its lofty goals. There was plenty of positive feedback from Ohio State Fair barn staff and exhibitors alike.… Continue reading

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HB 349 takes the next step eroding landowner rights with agriculture

By Matt Reese

On July 12, Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 52, which limits landowner’s abilities and opportunities to have wind and solar projects on their property. This is a concern, partly due to the precedent it sets — government taking of landowner rights without the consent of the landowner. 

Of greater concern for agriculture is the recently introduced House Bill 349, which takes a cue from SB 52 with direct agricultural application. HB 349 enacts “section 903.021 of the Revised Code to prohibit the construction of a new or modification by expansion of an existing concentrated animal feeding facility under certain circumstances.”

These circumstances as spelled out in the bill are:

      (1) The facility is located in the Maumee watershed.

      (2) The director [of agriculture] determines that, in the preceding calendar year, the spring load of total phosphorus exceeded eight hundred sixty metric tons and the total dissolved reactive phosphorus exceeded one hundred eighty-six metric tons for the Maumee river as specified in the 2015 western basin of Lake Erie collaborative agreement.Continue reading

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Of bugs that jitter and the Yo-Zuri 3DB Jerkbait 110…

By Matt Reese

One of my very first memories of catching a fish was with my grandpa sitting on the bank of the family farm pond. I was using a simple cane pole with a hook, bobber and worm we’d found under a rock. I was very young, but I believe my first-ever catch was a bluegill I hauled in (likely with a fair amount of assistance) after my bobber bounced a couple of times before it “ran.”

Fast forward roughly 40 years to when my son and I were strolling through the hunting/fishing store to determine how to best spend the several gift cards he’d gotten last Christmas. The vast number of options for lures was overwhelming — divers, spinners, triple-hook rubber worms, surface lures, poppers, spoons, jigs, jitter-bugs, bass assassins, and so on. We picked out a few options to try out on and got a few other tacklebox staples. … Continue reading

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Rural landowner rights being voted away by Ohio’s legislators

By Matt Reese

If you own land in Ohio, your rights are being taken away at the Statehouse by your elected officials with Senate Bill 52. SB 52 has passed the House (on June 28) and the Senate (on June 2).

Here is the language from the bill

The board of county commissioners may adopt a resolution designating all or part of the unincorporated area of a county as a restricted area, prohibiting the construction of any or all of the following: 

      (1) An economically significant wind farm;

      (2) A large wind farm;

      (3) A large solar facility.

This gives county commissioners the authority to take away the rights of landowners to develop wind and solar development without the consent of those landowners. Even worse, they are not required to notify affected landowners directly. Let me reiterate, they are not asking, lawmakers who voted yes on SB 52 are TAKING. … Continue reading

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Digging parties and drainage

By Matt Reese

My 11-year-old son really enjoys inviting some of his buddies over to dig in the dirt in the backyard. So far this spring, they have already had a couple of “digging parties.” The mud was particularly extensive on a recent digging party where they went so deep they dug right through the waterline going from the house to the barn. 

“I had to hit it with the shovel three or four times before water started shooting out,” one of my son’s friends told me, covered head to toe in dripping mud. 

Fortunately, the hardest part of fixing a leaking water line is digging the hole, and that was already done. After baling out the hole the next day, my son and I were able to get it patched up pretty quickly. All digging party participants now know how deep is too deep to dig and that they need to bring an extra change of clothes if they want to come in for dinner. … Continue reading

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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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