Farming: On A Smaller Scale

I grew up on a farm and I still feel a strong connection to agriculture. The values and morals of the lifestyle have made me who I am today. Unfortunately, I am not part of agriculture in a way that I would like to have been, aside from being a farm broadcaster. Our dairy operation didn’t survive the farm crisis of the mid 80’s.

Now I’m not going to tell you that everything didn’t work out for the better, it absolutely did. But the one thing I regret is not being able to stay on the farm and continue doing what my Father and Grandfather did.

I now live in a very nice, quaint suburban neighborhood with my beautiful wife and two wonderful kids. We are surrounded by homes and postage stamp lawns with swingsets, but there are some obvious differences between my house and everyone else’s. One of those glaring differences is a corn field.… Continue reading

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Brush pile and tractor tales

After last week’s tornado hit our Fairfield County home, we have been busy picking up a mountain of limbs from the four large trees that blew over (two of them narrowly missing our house). My friend with a landscaping business (Priceless Landscaping) came and helped us one day and brought his tractor, which fascinated my 20-month old son. Other than his nap, my boy insisted upon being on or within five feet of the small John Deere with a loader. My friend hauled away two huge trailer loads of limbs and stumps and we used the tractor to make a massive brush pile in our pasture.

My son had a grin plastered his face as he got to ride with anyone who was driving the tractor and would protest vehemently if anyone tried to remove him, even when the cold winds picked up and it started to rain. Because his trailer was full of limbs, my friend left his tractor through the next day and parked it behind the garage when my son could not see it.… Continue reading

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Who wants some sun?

I almost feel guilty saying this, but since Saturday, my family and I have been staying at a condo at Panama City Beach, Fla. The condo sits right next to the beach, and the view from our room overlooks the pool, beach and clear, blue ocean.

We haven’t seen a drop of rain since we got here, and the temperatures have been in the mid to low 80s every day. Aside from a few occasional clouds, the sun has been shining the whole time. I’m taking orders now — who would like me to bring them some sun back from Florida? It is the sunshine state, after all, and from what I’ve experienced, it lives up to the billing.

Needless to say, from all reports I’ve heard, the weather back home in Ohio has been about as different as different can be. I read my cohort Matt’s blog the other day about the storm that drove he and his family to the basement of their house, and saw the pictures he posted of uprooted trees outside his home.… Continue reading

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Like A Punch In The Gut

By Ty Higgins

Sometimes that line between farm broadcaster and farm boy is hard to see. This thought comes to me as I watch something else that is hard to see, the new undercover video from Mercy for Animals from a livestock operation in Texas. It is not for the faint of heart, but the only way you can defend the agricultural industry that you know and love is to see what those outside of the ag community will be talking about as this video is spreading quickly. I was literally sick after watching this 3 minute clip. Heck, the first 15 seconds were more than enough. What made it even worse for me is remembering my time as a child on our dairy farm feeding the calves their bottles everyday and learning how to care for them in the best ways possible.

After watching the video I felt the need to immediately see how those in agriculture were reacting.… Continue reading

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Wow! What a storm!

Wow! What a storm last night. For the first time since we have lived at our new home, we gathered up the kids and headed to the dank basement because of a possible tornado. It sounded fierce outside and we thought it would be best to take the safe option.

I do not know if there was a tornado here or not, but the morning light revealed quite a bit of damage. Two electric poles down from our house, the pole was snapped off about three feet up of the ground. The pole and electric line are out in the field.

We had four very large pine trees that uprooted and fell over, narrowly missing the house. We had countless pieces of slate blow off of our old roof. The wind shattered an old glass window in the barn and blew off part of the barn roof. There were also several places where siding had been blown off of our house.… Continue reading

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The planting season has started for Christmas trees

While cold, wet weather persists, corn and soybean growers can only sit and watch their soggy fields hoping for sunnier days ahead. Because we plant most, and usually all, of our Christmas trees by hand, we can get out in the fields comparatively early to put our Christmas tree seedlings in the ground. We use a 6-inch auger to drill holes and then four or five of us follow behind, kneeling down in the dirt to plant the trees.

This year we are planting 2,800 trees or so, mostly Canaan fir, but also some white pine, Concolor fir, and Black Hills Spruce. We started planting in earnest on what was the first semi-warm day this season on Saturday. We worked from 8:30 to 8:30 crawling around in the dirt and got about 1,100 trees in on our drier ground. We are still waiting on our wetter ground to get fit, hopefully sometime this week.… Continue reading

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It’s Not About The Money

It isn’t very often that farmers have the spare time to stop and ask themselves why they get up every morning and do jobs and chores that not many other people would ever want to do. To most, the thought of cleaning stalls or spreading manure sounds like corporal punishment, especially with the pay scale that comes along with those jobs.

But for those that spend countless minutes, hours, days, months and years doing those exact duties, it isn’t for the pay. Obviously you have to make a living and turn a pretty hefty profit to even keep a farm operation going, but that is the reason behind the madness of production agriculture, to keep it going.

In conversation with older producers, I do not believe I have ever heard one farmer mention retirement. If they do, they laugh. Grandpa always told me that he knew as soon as he quit working, he’d quit altogether.… Continue reading

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A royal afternoon

My family had the opportunity to meet the first ever Ohio Wool Queen, Elaine Leightey, and her husband Franklin, from Upper Sandusky. Leightey was crowned in 1955 as the first queen. The dress was handmade and she was treated like real royalty, meeting celebrities including Phil Donahue and Neil Armstrong. She had number of other great stories to tell that I will include in an upcoming story.

It was fun for my wife to meet Mrs. Leightey because Kristin was the Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen in 1999 and is the current coordinator for the contest. Our daughter Campbell was extremely excited to meet the “Queen” and has royal aspirations as well, with hopes of one day being a Lamb and Wool Queen herself.

All in all, it was a very royal afternoon.… Continue reading

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Gibbs the latest in a bumper crop of Ohio ag leaders

Much to the dismay of Buckeye fans, Ohio State was not No. 1 in basketball or football. Ohio is not the top corn or soybean producers in the nation. Nor is the Buckeye State at the top of the list for the production of many agricultural commodities. But I do think a case can be made that Ohio is near or at the top of the nation in another very valuable category — farm and agricultural leadership.

From the FFA to the commodity organizations to the Federal Government, Ohio has a rich history of producing leaders with agricultural backgrounds. One of the most recent additions to this storied history is Bob Gibbs, the first-ever former state Farm Bureau president to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

Gibbs graduated from The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in 1974, and then started raising livestock at his Hidden Hollow Farms in Holmes County.… Continue reading

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Extended facility phase-out could be good veal standard compromise

As you may have noticed in a previous blog post, I’ve had veal on my brain lately. No, I haven’t been craving a finely cooked veal cut, and to be honest have only had veal a couple times in my life.

Instead, the issue of veal production and the possible standards soon to be established by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) is the reason that visions of veal calves dance in my head.

The OLCSB initially voted last November on standards that prohibited the use of tethers on veal calves and allowed the calves to be housed in individual stalls during their first 10 weeks of age after Dec. 31, 2017, as long as there was room for them to turn around. After 10 weeks, the calves would move to group pens of at least two or more.

On March 1, after a petition signed by Ohio farmers who produce about half the state’s veal said they “do not anticipate continuing to raise veal in the State of Ohio” after 2017, if those proposed veal standards were finalized, the board narrowly voted, 6-5, to amend the proposed standards.… Continue reading

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Keep focus on the value of our food

“Pork chops.”

“I think we’re going to have pork chops tonight. I love pork chops. We’ll probably have some sweet corn and some iced tea too. Mmmmmmm.”

In college, I worked for an old guy who refinished high school gym floors in the hot summers. On our long road trips to and from jobs, we would often have long discussions about one of our favorite subjects — food. Whenever conversation of the day’s work trailed off into long stretches of silence, he would inevitably blurt out the name of one of his favorite foods, usually whatever his wife was making for dinner.

I too love talking about food, and his dinner discussions would always result in resumption of lively conversation for the duration of the trip. People love talking about food and, in recent years, it has become clear that they also love to talk about the rising prices of food.… Continue reading

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Seeing what a healthy woods can be

By Kyle Sharp

A couple times over the years, the small, 10-acre woods on my family’s farm has been logged. While this is not a problem if it is done properly, let’s just say, to be generous, leaving a sustainable forest behind was not what was going through the minds of the guys who hacked through our land. I wasn’t involved with the process, so I guess I can’t really complain too much, but seeing the aftermath that is still very evident years later is quite frustrating.

Leaving large gaps in the forest canopy allowed plenty of sunlight to reach the forest floor, and the result has been large clumps of grapevines and invasive species springing up that make it nearly impossible to even walk through the woods in many places. This has made it difficult for new trees to get established because they are crowded out by the shrubs and vines.… Continue reading

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How will you celebrate Ohio Ag Week?

By Matt Reese

How will you be celebrating Ohio agriculture week?

Just last week, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 89 designating this week (the second full week of March) Ohio Agriculture Week. HB 89 was passed unanimously by the General Assembly and is intended to increase public recognition of the vitally important role agriculture plays in Ohio.

I will be spending part of the week in Washington DC with the Ohio Farm Bureau on their annual lobbying trip with the county presidents from around the state. My wife and children will be going to a couple of local elementary schools to talk about agriculture on our small farm and in the state of Ohio. They may even be taking one of our sheep with them (which has always proven to be an adventure in the past). In addition, my wife is planning an agriculture activity for our daughter’s class at church. … Continue reading

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Ohio Ag Still Butters the Bread

There is a very popular saying during Presidential election years that the way Ohio goes, so goes the rest of the Country.

Ohio is in a tough spot with a gaping deficit. Factories and small businesses are going by the wayside with every passing day. America faces these same challenges, trying to figure out how to dig out of a financial crisis and for many in Washington it is time to put a vise grip on Uncle Sam’s proverbial wallet.

Lawmakers inside the Beltway need to see what is happening in The Buckeye State as the leaders of Ohio’s government have it figured out. One of the answers to a dwindling marketplace and swelling debt has been a pillar for Ohio’s economy for decades…Agriculture.

Newly elected Governor John Kasich has taken notice and initiative, calling for a surge in Ohio Agribusiness development. Working with Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer, Governor Kasich has laid the groundwork to use Ohio’s number one industry, an industry that sustains the lives of many, to bring Ohio back to life.… Continue reading

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Ohio agriculture addresses the horror of hunger

With spring planting on the horizon after a long cold winter, Ohio’s farmers will once again plant Ohio’s rich soils to produce abundant food for the state and the world. Unfortunately, despite this unprecedented bounty of agriculture, people around the world continue to suffer from horrors of hunger, some right here in Ohio.

“[Hunger’s] cascading impact goes far beyond just the pangs and physical discomfort that accompany it. Hunger also affects the human spirit…This horror gnaws at the heart, perhaps even more than it gnaws at the stomach and it colors every other aspect of life,” wrote Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., in his book, “The hole in our gospel” (which is definitely worth reading if you have the chance).

Fortunately for many, Ohio agriculture has long been at work on this vitally important issue of local and world hunger through a variety of efforts. Here are a few recent examples.… Continue reading

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Will Livestock Care Board cave to coercion?

According to, the definition of “blackmail” is: “to force or coerce into a particular action, statement, etc.” The example given below the definition was, “The strikers claimed they were blackmailed into signing the new contract.”

The example could have just as easily been this gem from Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, following a close vote on veal standards by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB) on March 1 that didn’t go exactly how Pacelle wanted: “There is still time for the Livestock Board to restore its original and proper position. A phase-out of veal crates is a core element of the eight-point animal welfare agreement, and if the Livestock Board guts that provision by allowing calves to be immobilized for more than half of their lives, we will have little choice but to renew the effort for a ballot initiative that we had hoped had been averted through a balanced and forward-looking agreement.”… Continue reading

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Love birds?

Don’t tell my wife, but amid the extremely busy schedule of Commodity Classic in Florida, I have found another girl. This friendly female parrot gave me a kiss at a BASF event held at Busch Gardens. As you can see, she is very pretty and is quite a talker. She is also on a similar intellectual level. We were instant soul mates.
Other than this brief fling, Dale and I have been very busy compiling many interviews and quite a bit of great information to share in the next few days. Bart, on the other hand, has been more infatuated with a tall, leggy red-head giraffe he met on the Safari later that night.… Continue reading

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Words are my bailiwick

Kudos to Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin Extension soybean specialist, who presented at last week’s Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference in Ada. Conley’s energetic presentation featured volumes of great soybean information in Friday’s session of the meeting. While the presentation was well done, one of the top things I took away as a writer was his appropriate use of the term “bailiwick” — not a word typically used in an agricultural presentation.

Conley used the term in response to a question that would be covered in a later presentation by a different speaker, as the topic was that speaker’s bailiwick. The term means: An area of activity in which somebody has particular responsibility, or in which he or she has specialized knowledge or ability.

As one who has attended many farm meetings through the years, I really appreciate unique words when I hear them used amid the usual crop lingo. This also appeals to me because I too aspire to integrate unusual words in my writing on occasion just to spice things up a bit.… Continue reading

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Cooperative efforts for good and mischief

By Matt Reese

I have younger twin brothers who caused more than double the amount of parental consternation as young children through their cooperative efforts. On one occasion, the twins were around four years old and had gone upstairs to bed. My dad heard several strange noises outside and went to investigate. He was somewhat surprised to find a pile of toys, clothes, sheets, shoes, and just about everything else from the twins’ room in a pile below their open window.

As it turns out, the four-year olds, rather than going to sleep, decided it would be fun to work together to remove the screen from their window and throw the contents of their room outside. My concerned parents rushed upstairs to find the mostly empty room and the twins both straining beneath one of their mattresses that was partially shoved into the open window. They discovered early on that a cooperative effort could be very effective.… Continue reading

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Being A Man, A Sorry Excuse

As a guy, I find myself saying “I’m sorry” quite a bit. I attribute these words to a successful marriage, keeping close friends close and being able to share Holidays with my extended family. In all seriousness, those two little words have a hard time working their way out of my big mouth, but I admit when I am wrong and am always willing to face the consequences.

This past weekend, my family made a road trip to one of the best cities in America, Greenville, South Carolina to visit some friends. Taking advantage of the long weekend, we started our trek home on Monday morning. After checking out the forecast I knew that we were more than likely going to be in for it as we got closer to home as Old Man Winter decided he was not quite done with Ohio yet. After getting from Greenville to somewhere in Kentucky named after Daniel Boone (pick a town) my wife and I decided to trade spots and she would finish the trip.… Continue reading

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