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. My wife, Jenna, and I live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. I have a daughter, Campbell, and a son, Parker. We are active in our local church and with numerous other organizations.

National Dairy Month

By Matt Reese

In the heart of this National Dairy Month, I just heard about another dairy farm in the area shifting away from milk production. Never for the faint of heart, the rigors of maintaining small- to mid-sized dairy operations are continually proving to be too much for producers to maintain. Ohio now has 251,000 cows on just 1,450 dairy farms. Our state was home to well over 3,000 dairy farms just 10 years ago.

Victims of their own success, dairy farmers just keep getting better at producing milk from their cows to the point that, despite continually increasing market demand, milk prices are not steadily high enough for smaller dairies to continue with the rigors of the demanding profession. Growing demand, though, does continue to be a bright spot for Ohio’s dairy producers, said Scott Higgins, president and CEO of the American Dairy Association Mideast in an interview with Joel Penhorwood.… Continue reading

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The Commerce Clause and Prop 12

By Matt Reese

The Commerce Clause is outlined in Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. The purpose of this clause is to give regulatory power over commerce to Congress. Based on this clause, Congress can regulate commerce, including commerce between states. It gives Congress broad power to regulate interstate commerce and restricts states from impairing interstate commerce. It also prohibits any regulations or laws at the state level that would interfere with Congressional authority.

Early Supreme Court cases primarily viewed the Commerce Clause as a limit to state power rather than as a source of federal power. In more modern times, it has been viewed as either a way to grant broad additional powers to Congress, or a way to limit state government economic authority.

The many debates surrounding James Madison’s Commerce Clause in the Constitution were a big part of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling favoring the State of California’s Proposition 12 over arguments made by the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau.… Continue reading

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Gators and a grenade

By Matt Reese

A couple of noteworthy rural Ohio happenings occurred recently. Levi Haselman, owner of Next Gen Organics in Hancock County, (who joined Ohio Ag Net for a Cab Cam last year), found an antique hand grenade in his recently planted corn field. On May 21, Haselman picked up what he thought was a piece of rusty metal from an old tillage tool to discover it was a grenade, estimated at between 40 and 100 years old. No one is quite sure how it got in a farm field. He called the sheriff, who contacted the Toledo bomb squad. Haselman and his unsettling corn field find were featured on WTOL11 in this segment.

Not to be outdone, Auglaize County officials turned up two alligators swimming in the St. Mary’s River. The pair of reptiles was first spotted on May 7. One was shot and killed by a Division of Wildlife officer.… Continue reading

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Egg farms fighting hunger heading into Easter

By Matt Reese

As I child I did not necessarily look forward to getting up early for sunrise Easter service at our small United Methodist church in northwest Ohio, but I did always look forward to several aspects of the event. These things included beautiful Easter hymns (often played by my mother on the piano), the most important message of the year and the delicious potluck breakfast/brunch between the sunrise service and regular service on Easter Sunday. Those Methodist ladies knew how to cook! I’d go through the line once to get a little bit of everything and then make a second pass to re-sample my favorites. 

Food plays an important role in our culture and is often a staple of many of the events we look forward to with family and friends each year. Many families around Ohio, though, do not enjoy such luxury because they face food insecurity issues.… Continue reading

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Good weather, plenty to see, but plenty of work too at Commodity Classic

By Matt Reese

I cannot deny the weather was pleasant in Orlando for Commodity Classic, but that does not mean I’d want to live there. My Uber driver Patrick took me from the hotel to an industry event at Downtown Disney. On the way, we discussed the beautiful weather, which Patrick was sure to highlight.

“The Florida weather is nice in March, but I sure wouldn’t want to live here in the heat of the summer,” I replied and Patrick agreed that the heat and humidity were tough to take. 

“Plus,” I said, “We don’t have giant snakes, insects and alligators in Ohio trying to eat us, so I am perfectly content there.”

With this statement Patrick explained to me with great zeal the tale of an elderly women walking her little dog that had been eaten by a Florida alligator just the previous week. 

“Wait…the alligator ate the woman or the dog?”… Continue reading

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David Brandt: The man, the meme, the legend

By Matt Reese

David Brandt did not even know what a meme was until he found out he was one. 

“I didn’t know anything about it until I went to the bank, probably a year and a half ago or so, and one of the tellers says, ‘You’re a meme.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Brandt said. “She showed it to me on her phone and she says, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘Well I guess somebody took my picture. I should have got it registered or something. Maybe I could have made some money off of it.’”

For those not familiar, a meme is a cultural piece of media that is shared online, often with the intention of invoking certain emotions, usually being humorous. For those who use them, memes are immediately recognizable ways to convey different spins on a common theme or thought. 

A meme featuring a photo of Brandt taken at a Natural Resources Conservation Service event on his farm in 2012 with the phrase “It ain’t much but it’s honest work” has become a global symbol of traditional values and work ethic. … Continue reading

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Farmland preservation gaining urgency

By Matt Reese

The concern around keeping Ohio’s best farmland in agricultural production is not a new one. Our state has a long history of paving over productive soils in favor of “progress” in the form of parking lots, strip malls and whatever other whims developers dream up. Certainly, some of this (or maybe even most) development has real value and benefits to the state and local communities. Each acre of productive farmland lost, though, erodes our society’s future ability to produce food, fuel and fiber, along with the agrarian heritage of the community.

Agricultural lands sequester carbon, produce oxygen, allow for water infiltration, provide wildlife habitat, have aesthetic appeal, and offer value to communities in ways which rooftops, concrete and asphalt cannot. Farms generate tax revenue with low costs to the community. Development brings additional burdens to existing infrastructure such as roads, schools and water systems.

While this has been an issue for many generations, the topic of farmland preservations seems to have gained some urgency in ag circles in the last couple of years.… Continue reading

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Do farmers have the right to repair equipment?

By Matt Reese

It seems like a simple question with an easier answer: do farmers have a right to repair their own tractors?

We do live in a complicated world, though, as indicated by the answer to this question: maybe, sometimes, it depends. And, in some cases, as it turns out, the answer is no. 

This right-to-repair issue becomes particularly challenging for the many farms that have invested heavily in the ability to wrench on equipment on-site to save valuable time and money when inevitable issues arise with farm equipment. Those farm shops, tools and know-how do not come cheap, but have been built by generations to set the stage for necessarily quick and cost-saving equipment repairs, especially during planting and harvest. The increasingly challenging task of on-farm equipment repair in the wake of rapidly advancing proprietary technology has been a growing source of frustration in recent years. 

The fantastic Leisa Boley-Hellwarth covered the ins and outs of right-to-repair in a great article last spring.… Continue reading

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New book from “Bob the barn guy” showcases round barns

By Matt Reese

I have long enjoyed travelling Ohio and admiring the beautiful historic barns dotting the state’s rural landscape. They are simultaneously symbols of our agricultural heritage, a demonstration of incredible human ingenuity and uniquely nostalgic. Maybe the most notable examples of this are the rare round barns, of which Ohio has several. 

I know a trip to the Fairfield County Fair is not complete without a stroll through the round dairy barn. At least as impressive, though much less visited, is a 16-sided, 60-foot-tall barn on the Workley farm in Harrison County, nestled in the Appalachian woodlands. And no Ohio round barn conversation can be complete without referencing the incredible structure on the Manchester farm in Auglaize County. 

My friend Robert Kroeger, who I call “Bob the Barn guy,” has been hard at work again documenting round barns to help preserve their historic significance through his painting and story-telling.… Continue reading

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The twenty-third Christmas card

By Matt Reese

Another layer of dust had gathered on the aging shoebox full of unopened Christmas cards, 22 in total. His wife got the box out and left it on the kitchen table this time of year, waiting for the arrival of the next one and watching with pleading eyes in the hope that Mack would finally open them. 

The dusty box added to the gloom of Mack’s dismal day. Earlier in the week he had to sell off another chunk of the family farm at auction. Some investment group out west bought it online. 

He had sold a couple small parcels in recent years, both to local farmers. This one really hurt — 250 acres of the best ground he had — but he got a really good price and he did not have another generation coming along to farm it anyway. He knew selling it was the best thing to do as his days farming were winding down, but he still didn’t feel good about it. … Continue reading

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OCJ/OAN family update

By Matt Reese

We are a tight knit bunch at Ag Net Communications. You may have noticed some staff additions recently, which is kind of like a second family for me. We welcomed back Joel Penhorwood, who has been helping with video, radio and print. We also added two new marketing specialists we are very excited about working with: Joe Everett and Kristin Flowers.  

At the same time, OCJ and Ohio Ag Net Marketing Specialist Risë Labig has announced her upcoming retirement. During the last 10 years, Risë has re-invented the job description for our sales team, always going the extra mile for her clients and thinking outside the box for ways we can better serve them. Most days my email in-box contains a note from Risë on something I can do to help better serve her clients in some way. And with her persistent urging we have done just that.  … Continue reading

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Classic hats at FSR!

By Matt Reese

It was a year of traditions and anniversaries at the Farm Science Review.

First, the event itself celebrated an impressive 60 years of highlighting the latest in agricultural innovations.

“The Ohio State University has been involved in the development and research of many practices — including no-till planting and implementation of the round bale — that are widely adopted on farms today,” said Nick Zachrich, FSR manager. “While many attending Farm Science Review this year will not remember farming as it was 60 years ago, we hope this is a year to reflect on how much the industry has advanced so that excitement will build for the future knowing how rapid technology is shaping many areas of our industry.” 

I would think attendees at the first FSR could scarcely image the technology on display including an amazing flying ATV, a giant variable rate application manure spreader and innovative seed treatment technology (highlighted in some of the Latest Videos on ocj.com).… Continue reading

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Cultivating relationships with legislators

By Matt Reese

It’s all about relationships — even your farm. Whether it is with the brother, son, or daughter you work side-by-side with, the neighbor at the coffee shop, the mechanic you trust to work on your equipment, the seed dealer, the agronomist, the banker — it all boils down to relationships. On a farm, it is easy to get bogged down within the boundaries of the ground you farm, but there is so much beyond those borders that has a direct impact upon it. Relationships matter there too.

For this reason, relationships formed through involvement in farm organizations and advocacy also matter. This is at the heart of the recent trip by the Ohio Farm Bureau to Washington, D.C.

Finally, after the trip was cancelled last spring due to COVID restrictions, the Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents were able to meet with legislators and lobby for Ohio agriculture in our nation’s capital.… Continue reading

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OCJ celebrates 30 years!

By Matt Reese

Wow! This September marks 30 years of Ohio’s Country Journal, a publication that, from the beginning, has been focused on Ohio agriculture. Right from the start, many recognized that, to be part of the conversation amongst Ohio’s farmers, OCJ needed to be included in the discussion. For recently retired John Sites, there was no question about it.

“I started with Great Plains in 1990. At that time, if you listened to the radio, you definitely wanted to be involved with Ed Johnson and Bart Johnson. All the farmers and dealers and everybody I was working with at that time, they knew Ed Johnson, and everyone understood you had to be part of his program. Great Plains was excited to get on board really early with the OCJ and the advertising in print because that was what the farmer was reading and we wanted our name in that paper when it got to his mailbox for sure.… Continue reading

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“No solar!!” does little to preserve farmland

By Matt Reese

I just drove by another cardboard sign duct-taped to a wooden stake with the words “No solar” scrawled out in black magic marker along the road. I wonder if the maker of the sign considered the implications of the sign’s request for local landowners. 

Make no mistake, I have no great love for solar (nor do I own enough land to have a stake in the game). The battle for the preservation of farmland is a crucial issue, and Ohio is on the front lines. Houses, strip malls, solar panels, wind energy, landfills, industry, roadways, waste treatment — the list of potential demands for land could go on almost endlessly. There is a valid need for each use, but in reality, there is only so much land.

American Farmland Trust (AFT) recently released a new report, Farms Under Threat 2040: Choosing an Abundant Futuretaking a look at the loss of farmland around the country.Continue reading

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Ice cream!

By Matt Reese

Ahhhh ice cream!
June is dairy month, so it seems like an excellent reason to enjoy ice cream with a bit more regularity than usual. And, in 1984, President Ronald Reagan decided July should be National Ice Cream Month, with the third Sunday of the month being National Ice Cream Day. As such, it seems perfectly reasonable that June’s increased ice cream consumption should obviously be continued thorough next month as well.
As it stands, ice cream is a dietary staple for many farms around Ohio. I know for many years the Schwan’s delivery guy had a standing weekly order with my grandpa to refill the deep freeze in the old summer kitchen on the farm. Grandpa was not an agrarian outlier.
Carrying on the family tradition, I am a guy who certainly enjoys ice cream as well. Growing up (and still) my personal favorite is Dietsch Brothers Ice Cream in Findlay.… Continue reading

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Ohio’s brewery boom

By Matt Reese

Ohio has a unique history with breweries and the agricultural production to supply them.

OCJ field reporter Brianna Gwirtz wrote a great story about hops production — a formerly fairly common crop in the state to supply a once prolific brewing industry. The ups and downs of Ohio breweries and growing conditions often ill-suited for quality hops production eliminated commercial hops in Ohio (though I will say my mother always had a hops plant in the garden when I was a kid). That has changed though, in recent years as Ohio’s brewing industry has seen a remarkable resurgence.

In doing her research for the story, Brianna also talked with Mary MacDonald, the executive director of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association and wrote up the following: When McDonald started her job in 2013, the state had a total of 58 breweries. Today there are 398 breweries in Ohio and today’s craft brewing industry employs around 9,000 people in the state.Continue reading

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A few ethanol facts…

By Matt Reese

There are plenty of good-natured (and sometimes not-so-good-natured) debates within agriculture. In the current climate of jaw-dropping fuel prices and skyrocketing corn prices, though, few discussions generate stronger feelings within agricultural circles than ethanol. 

President Joe Biden recently announced that the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to allow E15 gasoline to be sold this summer through an emergency waiver as part of a broader plan to address soaring fuel costs. Ethanol proponents, of course, are pushing for much more, suggesting that bumping up a third of the nation’s fuel supply from 10% to 15% ethanol would help lower prices at the pump, address air quality concerns and replace oil previously imported from Russia. Ethanol opponents have come forth with the typical concerns.

Here are some facts from both sides of the debate to consider as ethanol discussions are sure to continue in 2022.

• At current prices, E15 can save about 10 cents per gallon of gas on average, and many stations sell E15 at an even greater discount. … Continue reading

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We’re all in this together

By Matt Reese

I thought it was worth mentioning here that the phrase “we’re all in this together” came up twice in two separate interviews, said by two different people in different stages of life and their careers. As a result, the phrase is included in two separate, recent stories about topics focused on very different parts of the world. 

Matt Reese

Joe Everett

I just met Joe and I’m looking forward to working with him throughout the 2022 growing season as one of our Between the Rows farmers. He farms with his family in Shelby County, the subject of a recent story. Joe was the winner of Ohio Farm Bureau’s Excellence in Agriculture Award for 2021 that recognizes successful young agricultural professionals who are actively contributing and growing through their involvement with Farm Bureau and agriculture. Joe works with his father, uncle and cousin on the family cash grain operation where they raise corn and soybeans on around 4,000 acres.… Continue reading

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Who is getting paid to kill our planet? Ask an otter

By Matt Reese

In 2021 a beaver dam was discovered on my family’s farm in Hancock County in Ottawa Creek, which is in the Blanchard River Watershed and part of the Western Lake Erie Basin Watershed. Since then, we have yet to actually see a beaver, but we have video and photo evidence of a river otter who seems to have moved in to the dwelling. 

A regular deer hunter on the property got video footage and photographs of the otter, which has caused quite a stir locally. On Jan. 28 I posted the otter video (which is really quite charming) on the farm’s Facebook page and it has gotten nearly 12,000 views. We even had a guy show up at the farm asking to go see the otter. 

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, North American river otters are semi-aquatic mammals that were historically distributed throughout much of North America, including Ohio.… Continue reading

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