Country Life

Do banded woolly bears predict winter weather?

By Joe Boggs, Ohio State University Extension

Bristly “woolly bear” caterpillars commence their annual crawl-abouts in search of sheltered winter quarters in the fall. You may see noticeable numbers crossing roads with some unfortunates becoming laminated onto tires. Their crawl-abouts may start as early as late September and continue until early November in Ohio. It depends on the weather.

Woolly bears (woolly worms in the south) are the caterpillar stage of medium-sized moths known as tiger moths (family Erebidae; subfamily Arctiinae). The caterpillars are so-named because of their short, stiff bristles. The sharp-pointed bristles serve to defend the caterpillars. However, they are not stinging hairs; they do not inject venom. Still, some people suffer severe localized reactions if the hairs penetrate their skin. 

Woolly bears will roll themselves into a tight ball when disturbed to bring to bear their defensive bristles. Their resemblance to hedgehogs is referenced by the alternate common name “hedgehog caterpillars.”… Continue reading

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CFAES outlook meetings

Farmers in Ohio and across the Midwest might have reason to be optimistic this year.

Prices for soybeans, corn, and wheat have risen in 2020, and total net cash income from farms in the United States is expected to be up this year by 4.5%. That’s partly because of an increase in government payments to farmers.

Those payments will make up 32% of this year’s net cash income from all U.S. farms — more than double the portion those payments typically account for, said Ben Brown, an assistant professor of agricultural risk management at the The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Traditionally, government assistance to farmers has made up about 14% of the annual net cash income from farms in the United States. Net farm cash income is a measure of profit generated from all U.S. farms by adding all sales of agricultural commodities and farming-related activities, plus direct government payments, and subtracting cash expenses.… Continue reading

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More than $7 billion paid in second round of USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that in the first month of the application period, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) approved more than $7 billion in payments to producers in the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. CFAP 2 provides agricultural producers with financial assistance to help absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These payments directed by President Trump will continue to help this critical industry recoup some of their losses from ongoing market disruptions and associated costs,” said Secretary Perdue. “This program builds upon the over $10 billion disbursed under the first round of CFAP. Agricultural producers who have been impacted by the pandemic since April 2020 are encouraged to apply for assistance.”

Since CFAP 2 enrollment began on September 21, FSA has approved more than 443,000 applications.… Continue reading

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Iowa trip by Ohioans offers helping hands and hope

By Matt Reese

Ted Blohm and his wife, Sue, were kicking around vacation ideas when she said, “How about we plan a trip to Iowa and help the farmers?” 

The Blohms had been part of a similar effort back in the 90s on a trip to Missouri to help the flooded farmer victims with great success so they decided to give it a shot. They contacted the Iowa Farm Bureau and got in touch with a Linn County representative who told them they could essentially go down any country road in the area and pull in a driveway and be received with open arms. They were told the destruction of buildings, homes, and fields was devastating due to the derecho and high winds that swept through the area on Aug. 10, 2020.

This conversation led to a connection with Lana Robison from the area, who has been coordinating people with places to go and help.… Continue reading

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The importance of mast

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

The 2020 acorn abundance survey conducted on 38 wildlife areas throughout Ohio shows an above-average year for red oaks and a below-average year for white oaks, according to the Ohio of Wildlife (ODOW). This is important. Ohio’s fall acorns are an important food source for more than 90 forest wildlife species, and mast crop distribution can influence hunting plans. The acorn mast crop is the number of nuts collectively produced by trees.

Division of Wildlife employees scanned the canopies of selected oak trees on wildlife areas to determine the percentage of trees that produced acorns and the relative size of the acorn crop. The results showed that an average of 27% of white oaks and 70% of red oaks bore fruit this year. Over the past five years, acorn production has oscillated. For the second year in a row, red oaks were well above the 16-year average, while white oaks were below average.… Continue reading

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Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2.0

By Chris Zoller, Ohio State University Extension educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County

Farmers are encouraged to contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2.0 (CFAP 2.0). The application deadline is December 11, 2020.

President Trump and USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an expansion of the original CFAP intended to provide support to farmers who suffered losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following information is sourced from USDA and available at


Any individual or legal entity who shares in the risk of producing a commodity may apply for CFAP 2. Producers must be in the business of farming and producing commercially produced commodities at the time of submitting their application to be eligible. Commodities grown under a contract in which the grower has ownership and production risk are eligible for CFAP 2.

To be eligible for payments, a person or legal entity must have an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 for tax years 2016, 2017, and 2018.… Continue reading

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Farming and parenting can be tough to balance

Raising children on a farm might sound idyllic, but in a national study, most farmers with children under 18 said childcare was a challenge.

Over two-thirds of first-generation farmers, people who had not grown up on farms, reported struggles with childcare, from finding affordable options nearby to finding providers whose childrearing philosophy matched theirs. 

Even multigenerational farmers, many who live near relatives, said childcare’s affordability, availability, or quality was a problem. Just over half of those farmers reported some type of childcare challenge.

“This is going to come as a surprise to a lot of people who don’t think childcare is an issue for farmers,” said Shoshanah Inwood, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and the lead researcher of the study. “Finding quality, affordable daycare affects young farmers and their ability to stay in agriculture.”

The four-year study began with a survey taken in 2014 among farmers in five metro areas: Columbus, Ohio; Burlington, Vt.;… Continue reading

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Is it pica or just an adventurous palate?

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Pica is an eating disorder, or persistent desire in cattle, other ruminant livestock, dogs and even humans, to eat things not normally considered food and that have no nutritional value. This could include wood, soil or hair, for example. This can have dangerous health consequences. Pica is often observed in malnourished children in developing countries.

In cows, pica commonly occurs with “nervous ketosis.” Ketosis is a condition that can also occur in humans who are on a diet to lose weight or increase their energy. Undoubtedly a few dairymen reading this have observed nervous ketosis in a cow or two and have had to call their vet.

The nervous form of ketosis occurs when a cow has a severely negative energy balance during early lactation. This produces a chemical (beta-hydroxy-butyrate), which is toxic to the cow’s brain, leading to bizarre behavior such as chewing dirt, rocks and door frames, to the extreme of attacking caretakers.… Continue reading

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First freeze hits Ohio

By Aaron Wilson, Ohio State University Extension

Much of Ohio experienced frost or freeze conditions this past Friday and/or Saturday night. In fact, many locations dropped below 30 degrees F, with unofficial observations as cold as 26 degrees F!

How does this compare to typical first freeze dates? Ohio’s dates vary widely, as early as the last week in September in some of the colder valleys of the northeast hills (light blue) to as late as the first week of November (brown) in the far east. However, much of Ohio experiences first freeze during the second and third weeks of October. So, this year’s first freeze appears to be right on schedule across the north and a bit early for areas of southern and southwest Ohio.

A stalled boundary is currently draped across Ohio. This boundary is providing a focus for shower activity, bringing the heaviest widespread rainfall that we have seen in Ohio since Labor Day.… Continue reading

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Finding perspective and better life balance

By Robin Kinney, senior director, member engagement at the American Farm Bureau Federation

Let’s just admit it: 2020 has been a real challenge. It all seemed to happen right around the time when we reset clocks in mid-March. Now, as we prepare for the end of daylight saving time in early November, and after recently spending some valuable time away, I’ve found a renewed energy, positive perspective and several new memories that will keep me focused.

I take pride in a strong work ethic. Being raised on the farm, vacation was a novel concept because there was always work that had to be done. But I made a promise to a friend two years ago to really “unhook” and I’m glad I did. Doing so can provide a different perceptive on what is important in your life, helping you recognize priorities.

This year after my pause, I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the abundance in my professional and personal life.… Continue reading

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Cover crop or cover photo, sunflowers are finding a fit on more farms

By Brianna Gwirtz, OCJ field reporter

For use as cover crops, sunflowers have a robust root system allowing them to scavenge nutrients and they are also good for mycorrhizal fungi growth in the soil. The loftiest blooms around attract numerous beneficial insects and can lead to excellent honey production in nearby beehives as well. Their tall and strong stalks offer opportunities for vine plants in a cover crop cocktail to climb.

Dave Brandt in Fairfield County had a 2020 field of sunflowers planted in 30-inch rows after harvesting triticale as part of a cover crop mix. He harvested the sunflowers with the corn head. He also has beehives next to the field and has removed around 450 pounds of honey. Photo by Randall Reeder, OSU Extension.

While more farmers are finding a fit for advantages of sunflowers as a useful component of a cover crop blends in their fields, the crop has also seen a recent explosion in popularity with photographers and their subjects seeking to brighten up their Instagram accounts.… Continue reading

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Facing uncertainty in bio-based industries

By Ajay Shah and Mary Wicks

Plant-based products and fuels have the potential to decrease U.S. dependence on petroleum feedstocks, improving energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating new industries. However, the pandemic and other uncertainties have significantly impacted the U.S. economy, from the availability of funds to the ability of businesses to survive. For bio-based industries, which often face challenges due to their use of unconventional feedstocks and processes, these further constraints can have a significant impact.

Typical challenges the bioeconomy faces are related to system logistics and conversion of biomass. Biomass feedstocks require many steps, including harvesting and transporting bulky materials, preventing decomposition during storage, and pretreating to improve conversion. Each step can have unique costs and inefficiencies that can result in increased costs for the entire system.

Plant-based materials need to be competitive on both performance and price. Conversion of biomass to chemicals that can be used in place of petroleum-based ones or to create unique products can further increase costs.… Continue reading

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Future even brighter for Lake Erie angling

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

Results from late summer surveys in the western basin of Lake Erie offer some more great news for Ohio anglers, where the 2020 walleye and yellow perch hatches are both above average and continue an exceptional era of fish production in the western basin of Lake Erie.

“Each August, Ohio contributes to lake-wide efforts to survey the hatches of walleye and yellow perch,” said Kendra Wecker, Division of Wildlife Chief. “Our fisheries biologists survey nearly 40 locations between Toledo and Huron. The information collected is compared to the results from previous years to gauge the success of the walleye and yellow perch hatches.”

The 2020 August walleye hatch index was 48 per hectare, a standard measure of catch per area. This is the eighth-highest value on record for Ohio’s waters of the western basin and well above the rapidly increasing prior 20-year index average of 32 per hectare.… Continue reading

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The art of disagreeing without being disagreeable

By Leisa Boley Hellwarth, a dairy farmer and attorney near Celina

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month at the age of 87. She famously advised “in every good marriage it helps to be a little deaf.” She attributed the advice to her mother-in-law. Ruth and Marty Ginsburg, a respected tax attorney, were married 56 years, until his death in 2010.

            Regarding marriage, Justice Ginsburg noted “if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it. I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.” She added that “Marty was an extraordinary person. Of all the boys I had dated, he was the only one who really cared I had a brain. And he was always, well, making me feel that I was better than I thought I was.”… Continue reading

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Are those mosquitoes on steroids…No, they are just crane flies

By Curtis Young, CCA, Ohio State University Extension

Crane flies (a.k.a. daddy longlegs and mosquito hawks) belong to the insect Order Diptera (the true flies) in the Family Tipulidae. There are some 15,000 species of crane fly throughout the world. Crane flies and mosquitoes belong to a common subgroup of the flies and crane flies do look superficially like giant mosquitoes. Crane flies fortunately do not possess the mosquito piercing/sucking mouthparts for taking a blood meal. Therefore, they do not bite other animals for blood. Some adult crane flies do not eat in their short life span or feed on liquids from plants. Adults live for upwards of 10-14 days.

The larvae of crane flies are maggots called leatherjackets because of their tough, leathery outer covering (exoskeleton). Depending on the species of crane fly, the larvae may be aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial living in soils that are high in organic matter and relatively moist for most of the year.… Continue reading

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Is the future of Ohio farmland preservation at stake in Union County?

By Matt Reese

Arno Renner predicted the future for his farm and he did not like what he saw. He decided to take action to preserve his farmland near Marysville in Union County and in the clear path of potential development. To protect his farm for perpetuity, Renner donated the development rights to his 231.25 acres of land valued at over $3.5 million on Nov. 5, 2003. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) accepted the donation. At the time, the ODA Office of Farmland Preservation entered into an agreement with the Union Soil and Water Conservation District to monitor the easement on the land.

The Agricultural Easement Donation Program (AEDP) is one tool for landowners to protect their farm’s soils, natural resource features, and scenic open space. It provides landowners the opportunity to donate the easement rights on viable farmland to the ODA. In addition to the donation program, the State also has an easement purchase program using Clean Ohio Conservation Fund.… Continue reading

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Trade talks

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff.

International trade discussions often take place thousands of miles away from the soybean fields of Van Wert County. That was not the case recently when U.S. Congressman, Bob Latta, hosted USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Affairs, Ted McKinney, in Northwest Ohio. McKinney participated in a roundtable discussion with area farmers at the home of Ohio Soybean Council member Mike and Kendra Heffelfinger.

Congressman Bob Latta, Mike and Kendra Heffelfinger, and Under Secretary Ted McKinney

“Ted McKinney grew up on a family farm in Tipton, Indiana, and graduated from Purdue,” said Latta. “He was a state FFA Officer, and served as the Indiana Director of Agriculture under then Governor Mike Pence.”

The Under Secretary spent about an hour taking those in attendance for a trade “spin” around the world to discuss the current status of negotiations with key trade partners.

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Purple paint to warn trespassers?

By Ellen Essman, Ohio Law Blog, Agricultural & Resource Law Program at The Ohio State University

SB 290 seems to be moving in the Ohio Senate again after a lengthy stall, as it was recently on the agenda for a meeting of the Local Government, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs Committee. 

If passed, SB 290 would allow landowners to use purple paint marks to warn intruders that they are trespassing.  The purple paint marks can be placed on trees or posts on the around the property.  Each paint mark would have to measure at least three feet, and be located between three and five feet from the base of the tree or post.  Furthermore, each paint mark must be “readily visible,” and the space between two marks cannot be more than 25 yards.  You can see the text, along with other information about the bill here. … Continue reading

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Fall agritourism operations: Safety and accessibility are key this season

By Dee Jepsen, Lisa Pfeifer, and Laura Akgerman

The fall agritourism season is in full swing — even during a pandemic. And while businesses of all kinds have met unprecedented challenges, there are recommended practices that will go a long way for agritourism operations to keep their doors open while remaining safe and accessible in this environment.

At first glance, agritourism may seem similar to fairs and festivals, but agritourism is quite different. Agritourism farms operate over a series of weeks, sometimes months. Many are open and operate pick-your-own activities or farm market/produce stands throughout the year. They are well staffed and have adopted effective tools to manage all types of customer situations, even engaging in emergency planning. Their livelihood depends on their ability to manage crowds and keep customers safe, be it a weather event or a national health crisis.

Staying safe during COVID-19

The state of Ohio requires all businesses, including farms open to the public, to follow safety protocols for preventing and managing COVID-19.… Continue reading

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Food security important during the pandemic

On Friday, the United Nation’s World Food Program was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The program was recognized for its role in addressing a growing food security challenge worldwide, including a surge in the number of victims of hunger caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and related food supply chain disruptions.

According to Nobel Committee Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

Last week, Smithfield sent a letter to local, state and federal leaders calling for prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine distribution to food and agriculture workers, along with the country’s healthcare workers and first responders.

“Food and agriculture workers are heroes. They have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food, and they should be at the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine as well….This prioritization will ensure that our employees remain as healthy and safe as possible so that Americans continue to have food,” Smithfield wrote.… Continue reading

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