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

Read More »

It’s Not About The Money

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

Ohio Ag Still Butters the Bread

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

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

Read More »

Being A Man, A Sorry Excuse

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

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

Read More »

Longing for the livestock, on one bad leg

Have you ever tried to feed livestock on one leg? It’s not easy, let me tell you.

After I tore the Achilles tendon in my right foot/leg (see my Feb. 7 blog post), I attempted to go out and feed the replacement dairy heifers I raise for my dad a couple times over the next few days. I even hopped a barbed-wire fence and climbed into a couple bale rings to fork hay to the edges for the heifers to eat. While I got the jobs done, I also managed to get my crutch covered in mud and other more stinky organic matter. And, let’s just say the protective boot on my right leg didn’t smell so good afterward either.

I did these few tasks as sort of a last hurrah prior to my surgery, which would lay me up for a month or more. My doctor said the tendon was already torn, it’s not like it can tear any more, so why not, right?… Continue reading

Read More »

Farmers Union spirit

Ohio Farmers Union is the yin to Ohio Farm Bureau’s yang. They are the voice of the left in the often right leaning politics of Ohio agriculture. So many times it seems that if Ohio Farm Bureau has a position on something, Ohio Farmers Union (OFU) is just the opposite – often a lone swath of blue amid a sea of Republican red.

This voice of Ohio’s blue-collar farmer, though, has been mostly silenced in recent years after the OFU’s former Secretary/Treasurer was caught embezzling money from the organization. The bottom fell out for OFU in spring of 2009 and the organization scrambled to maintain the viability of their insurance programs and other necessities. The tremendous financial loss from the crime severely crippled the OFU and forced the organization to cut staff and close its Columbus office. Heroic volunteer efforts of OFU president Roger Wise and others managed to keep the Ottawa office open, though their work in the Statehouse was all but eliminated.… Continue reading

Read More »

Even in bad times, goodness can appear

For as long as I can remember, basketball has served as my escape from the stress of everyday life. Once on the court, the concerns of work, finances and relationship issues went out the window, and the thrill of competition and teamwork took over.

To scratch this itch, ever since I was a student at Ohio State in the early 1990s, I have gone to the recreation center on the Columbus campus to play basketball several days a week. At first it was after classes were over for the day. Then, after graduating and getting at job working for the OSU College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, I’d head to the rec center after the work day was done.

After moving on to Ohio’s Country Journal, I was still able to get in some basketball at Ohio State, because our office is in Columbus. Although, as my family began to expand, my time for basketball began to diminish.… Continue reading

Read More »

Long Lost Brother

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

In my blog this week, a video that I put together for my Grandpa last year. It’s a story he wrote as he reflected on the lives of two vintage tractors in his collection.

Continue reading

Read More »