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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Times are changing faster than ever

By Matt Reese

Imagine for a moment you and I are sitting at your local coffee shop enjoying some delicious brunch back in February of 2020. I am just enjoying a bite of my hash browns and you get really serious and look at me across the table.

“Matt, I have a couple of things I have got to tell you. You may not believe me at first, but I promise they are going to happen,” you say.

“Alright, what’s up?” I reply in between sips of coffee.  

“Well, first, in the next couple of months, every church in this country is going to shut its doors to visitors,” you tell me leaning in and lowering your voice a bit.

I’d guess that my eyebrows would rise with surprise and skepticism at your statement.

“But that’s not all Matt. You may not believe this, but I’m telling the truth when I say that essential food items and things like toilet paper are going to disappear from store shelves within  just a few weeks,” you tell me in a hushed tone. … Continue reading

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Celebrate 30 years with us!

The first issue of Ohio’s Country Journal was nearly 30 years ago in September of 1992. It featured Stark County dairy farmer Mark Thomas and his tireless promotion of ethanol through his success on the race track behind the wheel of an ethanol-powered hot rod. 

By 1992, Thomas had won three International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) world championships and always promoted his favorite fuel — corn ethanol. From there, Thomas’ racing career and ethanol took off. Since 1992, ethanol has been among the greatest success stories of agriculture in Ohio. 

In 30 years there have been plenty of other industry-shaping developments. I have been perusing the OCJ archives in recent weeks as we work our way through year 30 and have been amazed at the massive changes that have shaped Ohio agriculture. Along with the rise of ethanol, here are some others.

Genetically modified crops

There is not much in the last three decades that has had more impact in crop fields than this topic. … Continue reading

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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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