Baltimore family wins video contest
BALTIMORE – Each farm is important, no matter its size, said Baltimore farmers Matt and Kristin Reese, who earned the Ohio Farm Bureau’s “Best Farm Family” Judge’s Choice Award for their video “The Reese Family: Our Farm Story,” which showcased their small family farm, their two young children Campbell, 4, and Parker, 2, a dedication to local foods, and a well-rounded view of world food production.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Center for Food and Animal Issues sponsors the “My Ohio Agriculture” video contest, which requires entrants to submit a one to three minute video describing their connection to Ohio agriculture. The Reeses were one of four entrants named winners of the contest.
“We need to have farms of all sizes,” said Matt Reese, adding that owners of small farms sometimes criticize larger agricultural operations as being colder and less personal than small farms. “We feed a well-fed population,” he said, explaining that small farms usually cater to consumers who have access to supermarkets, but enjoy the quality and uniqueness of locally produced products. The large farms, on the other hand, must feed thousands to millions of consumers.
“What we do (as small farmers) is great, but we can’t feed the world,” said Kristin Reese. She said the family actually didn’t create the short video solely for this contest, but to portray food production accurately. This is a goal of an organization for which Kristin volunteers called CommonGround, whose members believe that consumers aren’t hearing the real story about American agriculture. CommonGround’s charter is to start a conversation between women who grow food, and the women who buy it.
Matt said CommonGround is part of the National Corn Growers Association and the United Soybean Board. The organization selects three farm ladies in every state to speak at events, use social media and other tools to reach consumers with accurate information about the origins of food and agriculture. “This video was part of a farm bureau contest, but we did the video with the goals of CommonGround in mind,” he said. Along with the farm bureau exposure for the video, Matt said it has also been picked up and used around the country through the CommonGround program.
The Reeses are busy. In addition to their passion for farming, Matt and Kristin have “real jobs,” Kristin said. Matt works as an editor, writer, and photographer for Ohio’s Country Journal and Kristin is a realtor for Real Living HER. In addition, Kristin said Matt writes a freelance column distributed free for newspapers to use around the state to promote awareness of agricultural issues. He has also written and illustrated two children’s books, to promote youth safety in work and play on a farm. Kristin said that as a realtor she regularly works with farmers selling or buying land as well as individuals looking to buy and sell homes, land, and investments.
Matt and Kristin both grew up on farms. Matt had a dairy operation when he was young but has since switched to a 30-acre Christmas tree operation and Shiitake mushroom production called Kaleidoscope Farms near Findlay. The couple is active in every aspect of the family’s Christmas tree operation including planting in the spring, mowing, shearing and farm maintenance in the summer, and harvesting and working with customers during the sales season.
In addition, the Reeses raise and show a flock of registered Horned Dorset sheep. Kristin said most of the sheep are sold to breeders around the country or harvested and sold for meat locally to private customers and to a local market. They also raise meat chickens for local sales, laying chickens for eggs, and meat rabbits for show and for market. Basically, said Kristin, the tree farm is from Matt’s side of the family and the sheep production is from hers.
Kristin loves to cook. So much so, that she said her fellow realtors asked her to bring food to the office constantly. This inspired her to create a catering company called Local Flavor Foods, which features ingredients from local farms and producers.
“You don’t do (farming) because you have to, you do it because you love it,” said Kristin. “We have a love for Ohio agriculture.” She said the family’s agricultural endeavors pay for themselves, as opposed to turning a profit, but they’re not in it for the money. Kristin and Matt agree that they really want their children to experience an agricultural upbringing and truly understand what it means to be a producer.
“We want our kids to have an agricultural experience,” said Matt. “That’s a big motivation for what we do.”
Kristin said their children enjoy helping with lambs’ births. “They’re learning how to deal with birth and death,” she said. “They’re getting a grasp of the whole life cycle.”
Matt and Kristin can even attribute their meeting to their love of agriculture. “We met in a sheep barn,” she said. In 1999, Kristin was Ohio Lamb and Wool Queen and representing the industry around the state.
“I was interviewing queens,” said Matt, reflecting on one of his more enjoyable writing assignments. After they met, Kristin said their first few dates were spent at banquets where Kristin was speaking.
Today, the Reese family has no staff and they manage their busy lives on their own, although Kristin said her father helps raise the sheep and she and her husband are both able to do much of their work from home. In the future, Kristin would like to see the family sheep operation grow, as well as Local Flavor Foods. But, for now Matt and Kristin are happy watching their children grow and spreading the word that meat sold locally and through supermarkets is safe and nutritious.
A link to the winning video is available at www.reesefarmroots.com.
“We hope the video puts a face on farmers,” said Kristin. “People are very disconnected from their food supplies.”