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 live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. I 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 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.”


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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Top stories of 2019

Our web site keeps track of the stories that generate the most interest and at the end of the year we like to review the top stories to gain insight into how to better serve readers of our web and print content and our radio listeners. Plus, it is always fun to see which story comes out on top.

To revisit all of these favorite Web stories and videos in the last year, visit ocj.com search for “2019 top stories of the year.” In addition to these top posts, other noteworthy drivers of web traffic in 2019 included the Ohio and Pro Farmer crop tours, the Ohio State Fair livestock show results, FFA, and Between the Rows. Weather challenges, the tough farm economy, and all things draft horse also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months. Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2019.

 

  1. $65 hay bales a sign of the times

It was tough for hay production in 2018-2019.… Continue reading

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Roselyn’s last wreath

By Matt Reese

Louise was in a snit. And, an ugly snit it was. Regarded as a living saint by all in the small town community, Louise had rarely been known to be in such a state.

Louise had dedicated her life to service to others, most notably her handicapped elder sister Roselyn. Louise was talented, beautiful and extremely intelligent in her youth. She’d had unlimited potential, and she’d lived up to much of it.

She’d had a successful career in business, from which she was now retired. She had tirelessly cared for and supported Roselyn beyond what could be reasonably expected of anyone. And it was said Louise shone the brightest every year in her service to the local church. This level of service reached its pinnacle at the start of Advent. Louise coordinated the magnificent Advent Service each year four weeks prior to Christmas in the beautiful, small town church her family had attended for generations.… Continue reading

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A lesson in service

By Matt Reese

Once again this year, the day after Veteran’s Day, 100 Christmas trees were packed up and shipped off to military units overseas through a partnership between the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio Christmas Tree Association for the Operation Evergreen Program. Christmas tree growers from around Ohio donate the trees and deliver them to the ODA where nursery inspectors certify they are free from pests and disease. Both groups come together at ODA to wrap, load up and send the trees to military members stationed overseas. This is the 24th year for the program that got its start in Ohio. The trees cost $150 a tree for shipping and the expenses are covered through donations.

“This year we are sending the trees overseas to Kuwait. They leave and get to Kuwait in two weeks and then they get dispersed to the bases in the area,” said Valarie Graham with the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.… Continue reading

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Plenty of steak at stake in alternative meat debate

By Matt Reese

I can very clearly remember the dietary craze of the days of my youth regarding low fat and fat free food products. It was an oft-touted “scientific fact” back then that the fats in meats and dairy were very detrimental to our existence. Products like whole milk, butter, bacon, and red meats were scorned while highly processed low fat and no fat products flooded the market.

As I grew older I realized the “science” behind the fat free hype was greatly skewed by marketing. As it turns out, I later discovered some of those low fat and no fat products were actually much worse nutritionally than the fatty products they were manufactured to replace. The stuff added to these foods was/is worse than the actual fat it is meant to taste like. Somewhere along the line, the fine farm folks woven throughout my upbringing convinced me of the folly of following food fats.… Continue reading

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Ohio Department of Agriculture partners with Ohio Christmas Tree Association to send Christmas trees to troops overseas

Yesterday, 100 Christmas trees were packed up and shipped off to military units overseas through a partnership between the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.

State Christmas tree growers donate the trees, ODA nursery inspectors certify they are free from pests and disease. Both groups come together at ODA to wrap, load up and send the trees to military members stationed overseas. Trees will also include decorations provided by school children, churches and veterans’ groups from around Ohio.

This is the 24th year for the program that got its start in Ohio.

“This year we are sending the trees overseas to Kuwait. They leave and get to Kuwait in two weeks and then they get dispersed to the bases in the area,” said Valerie Graham with the Ohio Christmas Tree Association. “It is always great to participate in this program. They appreciate what we are doing.… Continue reading

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Great staff is like a second family

By Matt Reese

I love our staff. I am so fortunate to have the chance to work with so many talented, kind caring folks. From the late Ed Johnson to the current Dale Minyo I have had the opportunity to work with (and learn from) some of the very best. What an honor and privilege!

With so many summer events to attend around the state, we are very rarely all in the same place at once. And, with some staff changes this year, I thought the recent Farm Science Review would be a great chance to highlight our current fantastic staff and what they do for the team to keep you up to date.

 

Bart and Sheryl Johnson

We are like a family and they are kind of like the parents (or in Bart’s case sometimes an ornery big brother). Bart is the son of Ed Johnson who started the company.… Continue reading

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Testing of faith produces perseverance: 2019 mud pies

By Matt Reese

I saw so many sad farm situations this spring in what was, in many cases, the worst planting season in history. But, as it always has, life went on, and I have seen so many farmers rise to the occasion and turn the challenges of 2019 into more positive situations. There was plenty of mud this spring, but also some silver linings, or for 2019 the term mud pie might be more appropriate.

 

2019 Mud

You had prevented planting acres this spring. This was a tough decision that, after being made, led to many more tough decisions.

 

2019 Mud pies

The unplanted acres opened up opportunities for tiling, cover cropping (with cost share opportunities), an insurance payment, a potential Market Facilitation Program payment, and a chance to hay or graze those cover crops this fall. There also are opportunities to soil test and set fields up for success in 2020.… Continue reading

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Fun at the Farm Science Review

Wow! What a fun Farm Science Review! The weather was the best we have had in recent years and we really enjoyed the chance to talk with so many of you who dropped in to see us. We got to lament the challenges of a difficult 2019 but celebrate the bright future of agriculture in Ohio too. We also had the chance to talk with many great guests who will be featured in upcoming broadcasts, podcasts, videos, and OCJ stories.

This year’s late harvest boosted attendance at the farm show, which attracted 114,590 people over three days. Typically at this time of the year, many farmers are driving combines. Instead, some were eyeing brand-new combines and tractors displayed at the show, taking pictures of their children and grandchildren behind the wheel at the Farm Science Review.

Under sunny skies and welcoming mild temperatures, visitors learned about the economics of producing malting barley, legal issues associated with growing hemp, the most common mistakes made by family-run farms, and tactics to reduce the risks of producing corn and soybeans, among other topics.… Continue reading

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When we get what we ask for, will we like what we see?

By Matt Reese

There is a line from the 1989 baseball movie Field of Dreams I thought of on a summer tour of the incredible MVP Dairy near Celina in Mercer County: If you build it, they will come.

For all of the folks out there who have been demanding ever-increasing transparency of the processes required to get their favorite foods in convenient packaging to the shelves of their handy grocery store at astonishingly low prices, they built it. Now, will you come see it? Will you appreciate the amazing lengths MVP Dairy (and the food industry in general) has gone to not only provide an incredible level of transparency but also showcase it in an easy to enjoy way? I hope so, but I’m not sure.

In this era of more specific demands of each end of the food supply chain, I am not sure many consumers really know what they are asking.… Continue reading

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