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Episode 14: A Look Into What's on the Horizon for Ag Education & Research at The Ohio State University

Just north of one of the nation’s largest cities lies 261 acres of university-managed property. Conveniently nestled within the urban oasis of Columbus, Ohio, and located on the campus of The Ohio State University, the Waterman Agricultural, and Natural Resources Laboratory is the perfect environment to connect people with modern production agriculture.

Bringing together education and research has always been integral to Ohio State’s food, agricultural and environmental sciences. While its mission isn’t changing, its future architectural trajectory is, largely due in part to the pandemic.

“With what the economy and ag industry’s gone through, there’s a lot of questions out there about where our food comes from,” says Dewey Mann, Waterman Laboratory director. “We’re transitioning to a little bit more of a balance on public engagement through our programs and the way we educate and interact with the general public.”

That shift in consumer awareness is allowing for new opportunities in facilities on campus.

Within what’s being called the “Innovation District”, a series of educational and research-focused buildings are being constructed. The first of these buildings is an interdisciplinary research facility that will bring together diverse teams of researchers in the College of Medicine, Engineering, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“You need that space where researchers can come together and answer challenging problems,” says Dewey. “We’ve got researchers looking at everything from the production to the consumption of food, that if you eat certain varieties of different crops and produce, will help improve your health.”

A second facility in the works is a controlled environment research complex. According to Dewey, Ohio is a hotbed for controlled environment agriculture, such as that of greenhouses.

“Ohio is within 500 miles of half of the country’s population,” says Dewey. “Controlled environments are going to be an important piece of the puzzle to helping address a growing population and the food demands around the country.”

And the third facility, aimed at showcasing different animal production practices to the public, will be a multi-species learning center.

“People are curious, and they’re becoming more aware of what goes into the food supply system,” says Dewey. “That’s where we get to be that reliable, unbiased, third party where people can come and ask questions in a safe environment.”

Additional improvements within Ohio State’s ag facilities will also come to the Molly Caren Ag Center, a 2,100-acre agricultural production farm located in London, Ohio and home of the annual Farm Science Review.

Featuring everything from livestock and large equipment to farmer lifestyle needs, the Farm Science Review is a three-day event exhibiting the latest in farm technology, water management, and many other topics, and will celebrate its 60th year this Fall.

Matt Sullivan, superintendent of the Molly Caren Ag Center says drone technology and automation exhibits will be popular topics for farmers this year.

“One of the things we’re going to be looking at is drones,” explains Matt. “How can we integrate this new technology of spraying with drones for different types of crop management? And how can we showcase that new technology and the automation that goes along with it.”

Aside from hosting one of the top five farm shows in North America, the Molly Caren Ag Center is primarily a large-scale research farm.

“It’s pretty cool to have a farm within the university that can push the cutting edge in technology,” says Matt.

Right now, the farm’s major focus is on planting, making sure corn and soybeans get in the ground in a timely fashion.

Just like many other Ohio farmers, the Ag Center keeps a pretty strict 50/50 rotation of corn and soybeans, typically demonstrating soybean harvest during the Farm Science Review with the latest equipment and technology.

Among other practices, the Ag Center utilizes no-till and strip-till to showcase best management practices. 

“We went from about 80% tillage to a reduced type tillage practice to help us conserve the soil,” says Matt. “We only get one chance to farm it and we want to have the opportunity to make it better for the next generation of farmers.”

Overall, agriculture is one of the fastest-growing and evolving industries. The new facilities and improvements at Ohio State’s campus are just one of the many ways both farmers and consumers can engage in the latest research and conversations about production agriculture.

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [03:53] With a presence in all 88 Ohio counties, Ohio State has the unique opportunity to connect with people in their local communities.
  • [5:28] Guest Dewey Mann explains the mission of Ohio State as a land-grant university.
  • [10:15] Dewey highlights the new facilities coming to Ohio State’s campus to allow for interdisciplinary research and engagement with the public.
  • [17:57] Dewey gives advice on how producers can engage in tough conversations with consumers.
  • [23:39] Guest Matt Sullivan discusses the history and purpose behind the Molly Caren Ag Center and the Farm Science Review.
  • [25:34] Matt chats about what will be new at this year’s Farm Science Review.
  • [28:50] Matt predicts drone and automation technology will be popular topics for farmers.
  • [38:04] From the production side, Matt talks about the research farm’s goals, shifts and best practices.

Resources mentioned in this episode:
eFields On-Farm Research https://digitalag.osu.edu/efields

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Bios

Guest Dewey Mann

Dewey is the director at the Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory at The Ohio State University. He has been part of the college for 12 year spending the first nine teaching and advising in the Ag Systems Management Program. He’s served as director on the Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory operations team for the last two and a half years.

Guest Matt Sullivan

Matt is the superintendent of the Molly Caren Ag Center in London, OH.

Host Matt Adams

Matt serves Paulding County as an account officer at AgCredit. He has worked in ag lending for over three years and previously worked in farm equipment sales for 11 years. He and his wife farm in northwest Ohio with their two daughters and son. His favorite part about AgCredit is the people. From the member-borrowers to the internal team at AgCredit, every day keeps getting better. Matt hopes to bring insights to ag lending and some laughs to the AgCredit Said It podcast.

Host Brenna Finnegan

Brenna has been an account officer serving Lorain County for three years. She’s worked in the agricultural industry for over 16 years with experience in livestock production, specialty crop production, seed production and processing/distribution. She grew up on a small family farm raising row crops and cattle. She currently has her own herd of beef cattle that she breeds and sells as show stock calves for 4-H and FFA members. At AgCredit, Brenna enjoys being able to work directly with the local farmers and especially helping young farmers achieve something that they didn’t think they could.

 

Transcription

Voiceover (00:02):Welcome to AgCredit Said It, the podcast for farm newbies and seasoned professionals alike. In each episode, our hosts sit down with experts from across the agriculture industry to bring you insights, advice and must have information on all things rural living from farming to finances and everything in between. So let's get to it.

Matt Adams (00:26):Hello everyone. And welcome back to another exciting episode of AgCredit Said It. I'm Matt Adams, account officer. I'm here with Brenna today, and we are in beautiful Columbus, Ohio at the Ohio Turfgrass Research Center. And with me with a couple of different individuals today going over some different topics. Brenna, this is your home turf, where you went to school. Bringing back some good memories. Is it?

Brenna Finnegan (00:52):It's amazing to think how long ago it was, I was actually here. So I realized I graduated 17 years ago from here and seeing how much has changed on the campus and all the new construction and the new ideas and plans that the school's doing has been phenomenal to see driving through the campus.

Matt Adams (01:11):And I think that's something we're going to be talking about today. Just really exciting to see the different projects that are going on for research and just really taking that foothold and really promoting agriculture in all the different aspects.

Brenna Finnegan (01:25):Yep. It's very neat to see and to have a little bit of a hand in it, not like this is or anything like that, but being in the agricultural industry and seeing what's changing here on campus, the city is on your tail right here. And the fact that the school maintained it and kept it, what it was based off of is neat to see too.

Matt Adams (01:47):And it's one thing we've always talked about, especially in our industry. I feel agriculture is probably one of the fastest growing, fastest moving, evolving industries out there. Well, let's get started. Brenna, do you want to introduce our first guest?

Brenna Finnegan (02:02):Yes, we are here with Dewey Mann, the director of the Waterman facility here at Ohio State. Dewey, go ahead and thank you for joining us and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Dewey Mann (02:11):Yeah, great to be a part of this. So I serve as director at our Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory. I've been part of the college for ... this is my 12th year and I spent about nine years teaching and advising in our Ag Systems Management Program, and I've served as director here on our operations team for the last two and a half years.

Brenna Finnegan (02:34):Go ahead and give us a little bit of background about the Waterman facility.

Dewey Mann (02:38):Yeah, a little bit about Waterman, it's a 261 acre land base. Like you mentioned it that it's a college managed university property and it's really just an amazing asset to think that we've got this wonderful land base here, as Matt alluded to, in this urban environment. We are just north of the nation's 14th largest city. A lot of people want to know, okay, what peer institutions? Who else has something like this? And the reality is nobody has anything like this anywhere in the world. And a lot of universities have outlying research stations, they have land bases, but most of the time they're located off the main campus, if you will. And so to have it right here on our Columbus campus is really an amazing asset that we're fortunate to have, and really have a neat trajectory on where we're headed with the future of this property.

Brenna Finnegan (03:37):So you'd mentioned before we got started here, that the college is, it's one college but three locations. So OSU still has all the other different locations or sub campuses if you want to call it that. Right?

Dewey Mann (03:53):Yeah. So we're one college with one mission of sustaining life and the three locations, we've got our Columbus campus, our Wooster campus, and then what we call our statewide campus. And that includes our outlying research stations, you're going to hear from Molly Caren Ag Center here in a minute. It also includes what most people connect with when they think of the college as the extension offices. And so that is administered through our college that makes up really a uniqueness about our college and how we connect with people in a lot of different ways.

Dewey Mann (04:27):Our college is comprised of over 400 faculty, over 1400 staff, and nearly 3000 students. We have 45,000 living alumni, which I think a lot of your listeners are going to be interested in. We lose touch as they have this connection with this facility, they have this connection with the things that have happened here, but other than at the local level, we lose touch with some of the cool things happening.

Dewey Mann (04:52):We're also made up of a network of about 47,000 animals around the state at some of our research stations statewide, and then a presence in all 88 counties and we have a land holding of just over 11,000 acres that we use to do our work and to connect with people in their local communities.

Matt Adams (05:16):Looking at this facility out the window here, do you guys have future plans? Is this going to be more of a teaching? What's the plan going forward for this?

Dewey Mann (05:28):Our triple mission at the land-grant university is teaching. And we put teaching in that bucket, like Brenna mentioned, you come here, you get your degree, and that's the formal education piece. A lot of people when you think of research, unless you did undergraduate research while you're here or you're seeing the research that's taking place, what I'll call more of our applied research and water quality and food systems, unless you have that connection, your mind goes to things like find a cure for cancer, right? Engineering research. And those are all pieces that our college is connected to, but it's also turfgrass research, it's also agronomic research and a wide variety of things.

Dewey Mann (06:15):And then the third bucket, that is the extension piece. And that's the idea of getting information out to people, the dissemination of the research and the activities that are going on. Youth development, the 4H program is part of extension, but it's also Ag and natural resources, it's also family and consumer sciences, it literally is learning across the lifespan. You can connect at six years old and you can connect at 106 years old and everywhere in between. And that is something very unique about our college is, we're not just focused on 18 to 25 year olds, it really is a connection across the entire lifespan of people.

Dewey Mann (06:54):And so we touch all facets of that here at the Waterman facility, and historically, we had been more research focused as graduate students, professors would have a plot, they would come out and they would do their research. We're transitioning to a little bit more of a balance on public engagement, through extension, through our programs and the way we educate and interact with the general public. We're definitely enhancing with new facilities, what we're able to do from a teaching standpoint with students, yes in our college, but also beyond. We've got this amazing group of 45,000 undergraduate students that are just curious, right? They want to know where their food comes from, they want to understand different production practices and all the buzzwords, organics and GMOs. There's so much good information, isn't there out on the internet that isn't it nice to be able to have a place where you can come and see different systems and places and ask questions in a safe environment?

Brenna Finnegan (08:00):What's getting the true answers to it rather than what Dr. Google or professor Google put out there for everybody.

Matt Adams (08:08):And I think too, really like the last couple of years, what the economy and ag industry's gone through, there's a lot of questions out there about where our food comes from and the supply chain issues. And I think that's just one of the great parts that we do have something in our state that is promoting where your food comes from. You touched on it, from six years old, it's a great thing to be able to start that right off the bat at an early age.

Brenna Finnegan (08:40):Well, touching every age range. You think extension, the 4H programs and stuff, it starts at third grade and actually even younger with some of the educators going into elementary schools and all that stuff across the state. Correct?

Dewey Mann (08:56):Yeah, that's right. Is our connection with the youth development program. Even outside of what we'll call the informal education through extension, there's a lot of outreach that happens. We've historically brought in K12 groups for, they think of it as a tour, but for us, it's a commercial for the activities that we're doing in the college. We need to connect with this generation, that's getting further removed from production agriculture, from environmental sciences. We need to show them about the careers and the opportunities that exist within our industries, we need the next pipeline of talent to come into our industry. And that's I think a big part of what we're going to be able to do at this facility.

Brenna Finnegan (09:43):Thinking of all that stuff with the kids coming in, just sparking some form of interests, and like you're saying, potentially becoming a student here and learning and progressing the whole industry on. What is the plan for this learning center? You were explaining stuff a little bit before to us, what's the university have planned for the entire area here, right here in Columbus, so that kids can come in here, check everything out and see how Ag works?

Dewey Mann (10:15):You look at all of the different facets of this university, and if we're going to have a comprehensive university, we need facilities that bring people together. Right across our street at Lane Avenue is the innovation district. So one of the first buildings that's going to go up in that parcel is the interdisciplinary research facility. So that's going to be anchored by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, the College of Medicine, and also the College of Engineering, where we look at these interdisciplinary topics and bring these researchers together on these topics, in these areas, such as foods or health.

Dewey Mann (10:53):Well, you need that wet lab, you need that space where these researchers can come together and answer these challenging problems, you also need the land lab, and that's the piece that we're going to play is, we've got researchers looking at what we'll say, common foods that people eat like tomatoes, like apples, and looking at how do we make those foods healthier?

Dewey Mann (11:18):And so it's everything from the production to evaluation of the health benefits, that if you have a family history of certain types of cancer, you can eat certain varieties of different crops and produce that's going to help improve your health outcomes. So those types of pieces are very exciting to see how they interconnect. And so these modern facilities are what's really going to help make the difference and bring these diverse research teams together.

Dewey Mann (11:48):Some of the facilities that we have, we've got about a hundred million in facilities planned for the Waterman campus. And that includes the Controlled Environment Ag Research Complex that one's under construction right now. You'll get a chance to drive by it. And it's planned to open this fall and we'll have research happening there over the next year. And that one's huge. I know, from up in your part of the state, greenhouses, controlled environment, Ohio's just this hotbed. We are within 500 miles of half of the country's population. And it's pretty amazing, when you think about Ohio, our access into Canada, how important we are for food production systems, and controlled environment is going to be one of those tools that for us traditional agriculturalists look a little bit different, but it's going to be a piece of the puzzle to helping address a growing population and the food demands around the country.

Dewey Mann (12:48):One of the next facilities is going to be a multi-species animal learning center. It's going to be a series of a complex of different barns with a common arena. And we're excited about that one and what that allows us to do in educating the general public on animal production systems, and just being able to see firsthand what happens in animal agriculture is another piece of that puzzle.

Dewey Mann (13:12):Then the third facility is that zoom out, wrap everything together facility, and that's our Waterman Education and Innovation Center where the K12 groups can come in, where current students in environment, natural resources in food systems and technology, where they can come and have the landing place before they go out to the field where they go out to the streams and do their lab activities. So we're really excited about how those facilities are going to help create those connections with the different domains and the areas that we have here at Waterman.

Brenna Finnegan (13:51):So you spoke about us being within 500 miles of a majority of the population within the country. With the challenges that occurred in the past two years with COVID and everything, the supply chain or food chain, you had mentioned before that Ohio State's, the research that's going into all that kind of stuff, what have they come up with to ease some of those burdens that occurred during that whole time frame that we went through?

Dewey Mann (14:22):I'll spin it and I'll say that, through the pandemic, we've become more aware of the food supply chain that it's on demand, but people don't understand the production cycle that when there's a disruption in the processing plants, you can't just snap your finger and bring everything back online. To get that steak, it's an 18 to 24 month commitment from the producer to get to that point. So people are starting to ask questions and they're curious, and they're becoming more aware of what goes into the food supply system. The other thing that I'll mention is biosecurity, that's huge with animal agriculture and as people we've been wearing masks and unmask and working through the pandemic and it's just been such a tool for us to be able to educate people on. This has always been an issue for us in animal agriculture.

Brenna Finnegan (15:22):You're giving me flashbacks of biosecurity stuff I had to go through working at a swine facility where I would take 12 showers in one day, because I had to shower into the units and shower out of the units. So you're giving me really big flashbacks.

Dewey Mann (15:37):Well the general public, we don't think about that. We go to the grocery store, the processor, we pick up our product and for us, that's where it starts. We don't question or think about everything that goes into providing a safe, reliable food source to that point. And so there's a lot of opportunities for education, there's a lot of questions and consumers are intelligent. I'll say it, it feels like a lot of misinformation, bad information out there, that's where we get to be that reliable, unbiased, third party where people can come and ask questions in this, I'll call it a safe environment and where they can see things in that multi-species facility. We're excited about showcasing different production practices, talking about different systems and having those hard discussions about things that are somewhat controversial in the industry.

Brenna Finnegan (16:37):So they'll be able to view a caged facility for poultry versus cage free type facility. Am I correct?

Dewey Mann (16:46):Yeah. They'll be different and operationally, that we may not have six different systems inside of this barn, right?

Brenna Finnegan (16:54):Yeah.

Dewey Mann (16:54):But we'll be able to have some signage and be able to have some educational displays on what these different systems look like. The image is worth so much, the picture of what that system looks like, how it's used, pros and cons and being able to have some dialogue about that.

Brenna Finnegan (17:14):A picture says a thousand words. Is that right?

Matt Adams (17:19):Yes, it does. Well, Dewey, we want to thank you today. I think one of the things we want to really emphasis, that it is exciting to see the long term commitment that Ohio State is putting into this and just for agriculture as a whole, because that is our number one industry in the state of Ohio. So it's just very exciting to see this type of commitment put out for this. Dewey, we're talking about a lot of different aspects of education. What advice would you give our young producers to maybe help educate people that might be coming to them, what they do and what goes all into what they do in agriculture?

Dewey Mann (17:57):My advice would be, don't be afraid to engage in conversation. The consumer's intelligent, and a lot of times they're curious and they just want to know, they want to know from the farmer, from the producer, from a reliable source, what are those conduits? What are those opportunities to connect? And I think about the great education that groups like Ohio Farm Bureau is doing, like our commodity groups and giving a forum or an opportunity for people to connect with the producers and for the producers out there to get involved, be an advocate and just be willing to engage with people and tell your stories. Things like this is engaging producers through podcasts, through ways that consumers are finding information, making sure that we're being a positive voice for the industry, that we're connecting and gauging and telling our story, that's what it's about, is just being a voice that people can ask questions of.

Brenna Finnegan (18:57):Matt. I always think of our beef producers, you and I both raised cattle. So I always think of people asking us like, what's the difference between grass fed and grain fed. And I have pulled out two different steaks and shown a difference. So I don't know. I get those questions all the time. What about you?

Matt Adams (19:14):The same for me. And I think it does show that there's always been that disconnect from the producer to the consumer and with what Ohio State's doing here, I think that's what's really going to close that gap up. And when people can really see exactly what goes into what they're buying at the store, what's on their dinner plate. Dewey, if anybody has any questions and wants more information on what you guys do up here, what's the best way they can get in contact with you?

Dewey Mann (19:48):The great thing about the university is everything is @osu.edu. So if they want to know more about this facility specifically, it's waterman@osu.edu. If there are people that are interested in touring the facilities, looking for opportunities to partner with us to advance this mission, they can send an email to F-A-E-S-D-E-V-C-O-M@osu.edu. And we could work with them to schedule a tour, we could work with them to have more discussion about what these opportunities are and to showcase a little bit about what this future vision is for our college.

Matt Adams (20:28):Very good. Well, thank you very much. And like I said, if anybody has any questions, we got the details right there and we will look forward to talking to you soon.

Dewey Mann (20:38):All right. Thanks so much.

Brian Ricker (20:41):Brian Ricker here, president and CEO of AgCredit, I'm happy to announce through our patronage refund program, we are returning $31 million to our member borrowers in 2022. This means that eligible borrowers are receiving back 40% of their interest that accrued in 2021. This is just one of the many benefits of being a member borrower of a cooperative like AgCredit to learn more, visit agcredit.net. It pays to be a member.

Matt Adams (21:12):Hey everyone, welcome back to AgCredit Said It. Brenna, our next guest, this hits the heart for you a little bit. I do hear that you were an alumni of what we're going to be talking about next. So this might be some good, interesting stories about Brenna back in her college days, you never know. So, Brenna, you want to go ahead and will introduce our next guest?

Brenna Finnegan (21:35):Yes, we are here with Matt Sullivan. He is the superintendent of the Molly Caren Ag Center. And a lot of people would maybe get a little confused, like what's the Molly Caren Ag Center. We just talked about the Waterman Facility and now we're shifting over to another facility from OSU, but most people would relate that location with the Farm Science Review, an annual farm show that takes place in September every year and it's pretty much put on by the university, and Matt, you get to run that whole show, right?

Matt Sullivan (22:07):Thank you, Brenna. I do have an awesome opportunity to be part of that. We have a staff of seven people, and so I'm one of those seven and all of us have an important part in making the Farm Science Review happen each year. And so a lot of volunteers, a lot of other folks, students, as you can attest to, Brenna, being a former student, one of our very good students that we've had over the years. And so we're excited to always promote what we're doing here at the university pertaining to the Farm Science Review in the Molly Caren Ag Center. And so a lot of people do hear that confusion a little bit. And so over the years we've started promoting the Molly Caren Ag Center along with the Farm Science Review because it's more than just a three day farm show. And that's what we want to start telling people about is, there's a lot of things that happen other than me just working three days a year.

Brenna Finnegan (22:58):There's a lot of work that goes into that.

Matt Sullivan (23:02):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (23:02):Again, like he said, I can attest to it. I mowed a lot of fences or ground there and did a lot of weed eating around there and cleaning up. And there were several events throughout the year or the summer when we were working out there. I believe John Deere came out there a couple times and all that kind of stuff. So we got to see some neat things and drive their new equipment around a little bit and all that stuff. So that was really fun as a student going out there and yes, it's work at the same time and all that stuff, but yes, it's definitely more than just a three day event that people see and that's it.

Matt Sullivan (23:39):Yeah. And that's the unique part about it is, we'll take a step back here and say, how did it start? How did the Farm Science Review start? Where did Molly Caren come from? And so our roots start here in Columbus. And that's the unique part about it is, there's a lot of activities going on here in Columbus campus with agriculture and Dewey has talked about a lot of those here in the previous segment.

Matt Sullivan (24:04):And so we started up at Sawmill Road. You look at Sawmill Road now, and Don Scott still has some few animal units up there. At the corner of Case Road and Sawmill Road is located where the first Farm Science Review was. And we were there for 20 years and we decided, it's time to move. And so as every good thing, it starts to grow and we move to London Ohio, and we've been there since 1983. So this will be our 40th anniversary at Molly Caren, this will be our 60th Farm Science Review. So as we talk about it here through this segment, we want to make sure that we invite you out. That's the first thing I want to talk about is making sure that you make that annual trip. Not semi-annual, not every three years, but that annual trip to Farm Science Review.

Brenna Finnegan (24:54):I don't think I've missed it since I was in junior high. I'm not going to say we skipped school, but we used to take a farm day.

Matt Sullivan (25:04):It was an educational day.

Brenna Finnegan (25:05):Yes it was. We used to take a farm day and go out. Dad would take us down. When I started working there, he thought it was the coolest thing ever, because he was like, "Oh my God, my kid works there and that kind of stuff." So it still gets brought up when we go out there, like, "This building was there and that building was there and all that kind of stuff." So it's definitely evolved along the way, especially in the last 17 years since I left there.

Matt Sullivan (25:34):Every good aspect or every good entity goes through changes. And so we are going through those as well and improving our facilities. When something is 35 to 40 years old, we're always upgrading. And so that's part of our master planning processes that we're going through, just like the Columbus campus is changing and getting better. We're opening up some spaces. And so we saw the need to take some buildings down that weren't being utilized so that when that visitor comes, all the people that are listening say, "Hey, I need to come see what's new." That is probably the question that I always get. "What's new at the Farm Science Review?" Well, we're opening space for more exhibits and more educational aspects because the Farm Science Review is a three day trade show, an agriculture outdoor trade show, but we're unique, as in, like you said earlier, we partner with Ohio State University, we are OSU. We've tagged a new name for our farm show. It's The Farm Show.

Matt Adams (26:38):I like that.

Matt Sullivan (26:39):We used to have this long, we're the premier outdoor educational ... It went on for two or three sentences. And we sat down as a staff and we said, "Where in there does it talk about being a farm show?" Well, it didn't. And so we were saying, "Well, we're Ohio State, we're The Farm Show."

Brenna Finnegan (26:59):There's a really big meaning about that word.

Matt Sullivan (27:01):And so other farm shows across north America may say, "Why-

Brenna Finnegan (27:05):Well we are too.

Matt Sullivan (27:06):... Yeah. But interesting enough, we are one of the top five farm shows in North America. And when you think about that, we have the education part with OSU extension. We have over 150 different educational type sessions, everything from natural resources to Ag management to banking, anything, Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State, we pull in the other universities as well, the other land-grants, because we feel that where there's that coalition of universities, we can bring in the best topics. And so that's what makes us special. But then, you took a look and said, "Well, we have the education, but what do people come to see?" They want to kick tires, they want to come talk to the banking industry. I'll mention that since you're sitting here.

Brenna Finnegan (27:54):If I could think of our spot number, I'd say, "Because we do have a booth at The Farm Science Review."

Matt Sullivan (27:59):Yeah. And it's interesting. People will be like, "All right, how do I find everybody?" And we'll talk about that here, a little bit of all the cool things about how we're growing. But that's the unique part about it is, you've got the education, you've got the 600 commercial exhibitors and the Gwynne Conservation Area with all the different types of conservation exhibits, we have field demos. One of the aspects where we always try to do is corn harvest, soybean harvest, drainage, the list goes on and on. I will say this, we are the only national farm show that has soybean harvest. So when everybody touts say, "We're the biggest, and we're the best" Every farm show has a twist to it. I'll say that, but no other farm show can say that they harvest soybeans.

Matt Sullivan (28:50):So that's why those farmers can get out there and watch harvest, and then go talk to the commercial exhibitors about what makes their combines or their tillage the best or their technologies. This year, one of the things we're going to be looking at is drones. As I've said through a few presentations, whether it's been through OSU extension, or it's been through my local seed dealer, they're talking about how can we integrate this new technology of spraying with drones or using drones for different types of crop management? And so that's what we're going to be showcasing this year at the Farm Science Review is that new technology and the automation that goes along with it.

Brenna Finnegan (29:39):Now you mentioned the show itself, you're mentioning harvest capabilities at the show, what all is encompassed in the Molly Caren Ag Center? It's not just 10 acres worth of displays.

Matt Sullivan (29:54):That's right. Yeah. The Molly Caren Ag Center is actually 2,100 acres. And so that's what's really cool about this facility is that we have the Farm Science Review that I get pretty jazzed up talking about, but it's also a production agriculture farm. And so we have 1600 acres of production that is using the latest and the greatest technology. We've partnered with John Deere Corporation. And we work with John Deere and make sure that the latest equipment is on our farm so that when a farmer comes to the Molly Caren Ag center, they're seeing the latest technology available.

Matt Sullivan (30:32):So if you drive a red tractor or a blue tractor or another color, maybe orange or whatever it is, the technologies are similar. Yeah, I know they're a little bit different, but you're going to be able to see what's happening there. And we have a lot of farmers that come to us and say, "Hey, what are you guys utilizing on your farm because I have those questions as well?"

Matt Sullivan (30:55):And so we're not an extension component as in the formal stages, but we also visit with a lot of farmers that want to come and see what's going on. And so when we talk about the latest in farm equipment, but also water management, drainage, irrigation, we're very much involved with those as well. And so we have been trying to be on the forefront of this water quality issue. When people talk about watergates and control structures, we have those, when it talks about all the different aspects of being on the nutrient side or being on the pollutant side, I always tell people I won't be on the nutrient side because as a farmer myself, I understand what that fine line is there. It's called a drainage ditch, and I want to stay in the field, not in the drainage ditch.

Brenna Finnegan (31:44):Well in our territory, up in Northwest Ohio, over the past, I don't know what, eight, nine years, it's really become a really big focus as far as runoff and everything with the algal bloom and all that with the lake and all that that encompasses. To have the research going on and being a part of it and seeing it on display while at the review. And it's one of those educational things that Dewey talked about, like being able to see that, is it all that, what's really actually causing it, all that stuff.

Matt Sullivan (32:22):It's an interesting concept because with us being more of a production farm, when people think about research at the university, sometimes they think about small plots.

Brenna Finnegan (32:33):Or like a lab.

Matt Sullivan (32:33):Like a lab.

Matt Adams (32:34):Right.

Matt Sullivan (32:34):Or the plots are 40 feet long by 10 foot wide and using these little plot combines, and that is very important research. We're also doing some research at our facility as well, but I call it more large scale research.

Brenna Finnegan (32:48):Hundred acre fields.

Matt Sullivan (32:49):Hundred acre fields, 40 foot wide equipment, our sprayer, we were top dressing wheat today and doing some work with that, some evaluation on nitrogen studies and so we partnered with the different departments. And I guess that's an interesting way of saying it, but the food agriculture and biological engineering department is a great group of folks that are on the cutting edge here in the last few years. There's this book called eFields. And eFields is a tremendous publication. And we do a lot of work within eFields to help that publication, but also to help our local farmers and regional state farmers. We've got compaction studies looking at tires versus tracks and other types of compaction and nutrient management.

Matt Sullivan (33:43):We were just talking here not too long ago about what projects we're going to be doing this spring. Usually we have between five and seven large scale agriculture products that can benefit the farmer today and into the future. So we're pretty excited about that. I talked to a farmer, probably about two weeks ago from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was interested in putting tracks on his sprayer. He says, "I saw your guys' videos on your sprayer with tracks." And he says, "Tell me a little bit about it." He says, "I want to pull the trigger." And he says, "You guys are going to be my deciding factor." So that's pretty cool being able to visit with somebody from Fort Wayne, I've never met him, I don't know him, but he was able to see what we're doing. And so I think that's pretty neat.

Matt Adams (34:28):It goes and shows the best practices that you guys are trying to promote in agriculture. And really, we said with a larger farm, it's more of a regular production agricultural setup, not a lab set up. So it's real farm data and information that producers can use. Looking for this year, anything new at the Farm Science Review that we're going to be looking for?

Matt Sullivan (34:56):I would say new, I touched on a little bit, as some of the newer technologies were drones and automation. One of the things pertaining to the Farm Science Review with our field demos is, we're going to be increasing our automation at our grain bin complex. So as a farmer would be pulling up to his grain complex and unloading grain, a lot of those systems that we're implementing now, it'll be self starting on their own, there'll be a lot of where a computer takes over dumping the grain versus him having to get out and start up a bunch of legs and pits and things like that. So we're pretty excited about that. We're going to be putting in a new, large scale that a lot of farmers already have some scales on their property, but we're going to be putting in one that has some of the latest technology. So we're partnering with one of our exhibitors to do that.

Matt Sullivan (35:52):When we look at equipment wise, we're always excited to see what the exhibitors are going to bring. And some of those pieces of equipment, we may be challenged this year with the shortage of equipment, but we've been assured that a lot of the exhibitors are going to be bringing some of their newest equipment. And the interesting thing is, when we think about new equipment, we think about, wow, how big is the planter going to be? Is it going to be 60 foot, 120 foot? But some of our smaller exhibitors may be bringing in some newer technologies, whether it's graders or some construction as well, because we have a small segment of that dealing with construction, but I don't want to leave out, I know Brenna you were talking earlier about being a beef producer, some of the newer technologies with handling equipment or handling animals may be there as well.

Matt Sullivan (36:45):So everything from livestock to large equipment to lifestyle needs to help the farmer, that's what we're there for. We've always had another tagline is the smorgasbord of agriculture. And so that pretty much fits the Farm Science Review from livestock to large equipment, to the smaller farmer, we're able to meet all the needs there.

Matt Adams (37:10):I think the drone aspect is something that's going to be very interesting to see just from watching how that's evolved from a recreational tool to field mapping to now you're seeing sprayer booms attached to these things and doing some applications. So I think that's definitely something that's going to keep growing in our industry more.

Matt Sullivan (37:33):Yeah.

Matt Adams (37:33):Absolutely. Every year I look forward to seeing that type of new technology and to where it's going to be able to help make better decisions.

Brenna Finnegan (37:43):Now, we're heading into spring here, and we're looking at what people are planting, how they're planting, all that stuff. What type of spring planting outlook do you foresee?

Matt Sullivan (37:57):I'm an eternal optimist.

Brenna Finnegan (38:00):Everything's dry, it's ready to go, soil temps up.

Matt Sullivan (38:04):I will say this. We have our equipment and we have our crop inputs. So if you can get those two lined up this year, you're going to be doing pretty well. It's interesting. When we think about Molly Caren and our planting focus, we have two different focuses. We want to make sure that our demo crops get planted for the Farm Science Review. That's number one. And then on the production side, we want to make sure that our corn and soybeans are going in a timely fashion. Nate Douridas is our farm manager. Nate and I were talking just a couple days ago, "When do we want to go to the field?" We're always trying to push the envelope, and if we can get into the field by, I'll say, mid-April, we're just like every other farmer. When it gets dry like it has been these past few days, we start getting jazzed up. And start getting a little-

Matt Adams (38:56):The barn doors open up and you start moving stuff around.

Matt Sullivan (38:59):Yeah.

Brenna Finnegan (39:01):The final touches for all the technology on the planters gets done.

Matt Sullivan (39:04):Yeah. And I was in a seminar a few days ago and they were talking about, "Hey, if this breaks down and you don't have this part, put these two wires together and you at least still go plant." And so we understand there's challenges every year. And number one for us is safety, of course, and to getting a good crop in the ground. And so that's a neat thing about it is being able to just have that planning outlook and say, "We're ready to go." It's neat being able to be like every other farm in Ohio where we want the best technology, we want to be able to get a good crop. And through our partnership with John Deere and our local dealer, we've been able to see our yields increase and that's been very positive for us.

Matt Sullivan (39:55):And so with drainage management and looking at irrigation and the new equipment, every year, we have hiccups. we're no different than the other farmers. We hit a pothole or a blowout in the field and we have to go fix stuff. It's what it is, but it's pretty cool to have a farm within the university that can push the cutting edge in technology.

Matt Adams (40:22):Matt, talking about this spring and what we've looked at with the demand of our crops, the crazy whirlwind that our markets have been on. Talking to producers in the state, have you heard much on corn versus beans, acres switching? I think really, we look at that production cost versus the yield, especially with our inputs that have increased so much over the last 12 months.

Matt Sullivan (40:52):I'll say this at Molly Caren, we try to keep a pretty strict 50/50 rotation. We put in some more wheat this year, we saw the profitability of wheat. So we switched some corn acres over to wheat. And so we haven't grown wheat, I would say probably for six or seven years. And then it's like, as we watched the markets, we're like, "Hey, we can make some money planting wheat." So we did some shifting of ourselves, as we visited with some guys around the state, we're not seeing a tremendous shift towards soybeans. When you start looking at some ratios of pricing and crop input, of pricing of what the markets are giving us, a lot of guys are still keeping their similar rotations. I don't see a huge shift toward corn or beans in one direction. Right now, the markets are fighting to see, are we going to plant beans or we're going to plant corn? At this point in time, I think guys are pretty much locked in.

Matt Sullivan (41:57):When you look at the large scale agriculture, a lot of the larger farmers that we look at bringing to the Farm Science Review, they have to make those decisions so early, probably back in November, December, and it wasn't as volatile as then, we were starting to hear rumors, "Hey, you better get your glyphosate or your glufosinate or those other type of inputs that are running a little short." But we weren't hearing a lot of that. So we think farmers have pretty much settled in for what they're going to have this spring and we're ready to roll.

Matt Adams (42:32):And I think that's one of the great things we talked about, the new technology at Farm Science Review and what you guys are using on the research farm, it does really help that production cost versus yield where we're able to use the best technology to use the, I'll say, use the most fertilizer, we use the right amount where on fertilizer? And I think that's something that not only promotes what we talked earlier on our watershed issues, but just really controlling their cost and getting really the most bang for your buck on a per acre basis.

Matt Sullivan (43:08):And when you mentioned that we have switched our nitrogen practices a lot over the years, we used to be just straight in hydrus and we didn't put any down when we were planting, and now, we have switched over to a blend of products. We actually pull a tank behind our planters. So it's unique. A lot of guys don't do that with having 1600 acres, we have the ability to have some flexibility instead of being a five or six or 7,000 acre farmer, but we went from applying our nitrogen one time a year to three times a year. We're putting some down at planting and then side dressing, and then working with the Ag engineering department, who are actually coming in and putting some down at late season.

Matt Sullivan (44:01):And we're looking at different models out there that can say, "Hey, you've had this much rainfall, you've lost this much nitrogen, or we're getting some mineralization with the organic matter." Maybe we go into that last application when the crop really is looking at it. And do you need to put it on? There's been some years where we said we didn't, and there's been some years where we said, "Due to the climatic factors, we need to put a little bit more nitrogen on." So working with our extension climatologists, our vendors at the Farm Science Review that deal with these different modeling programs, we have been able to really make a best management practice there not only with nitrogen, but also with our other crop inputs.

Matt Sullivan (44:48):We went from, I would say probably 80% tillage. Now we're going to no till, strip till a lot of reduced type tillage practices to help us conserve that soil because we only get one chance to farm it. And we want to have the opportunity to make it better for that next generation of farmers that’s going to be coming there to help us be a part of it.

Matt Adams (45:13):With all this information and all the trials that you guys have seen and are recording over the years is there is this information that's available to our producers?

Matt Sullivan (45:23):Sure. So the best aspect or the best place that they can go to get this information would be through extension. And as I mentioned to eFields publication earlier, that is probably the best place to see what Molly Caren's been doing and using this latest technology. We have some of it on our website. Our website is primarily focused toward Farm Science Review because we know that that's where farmers want to come see the latest technology where-

Brenna Finnegan (45:53):It's The Farm Show.

Matt Sullivan (45:54):... The farm show. That's right, Brenna.

Matt Sullivan (45:56):So from a research standpoint, applied research, looking at tracks and all that other good stuff, go to the eFields booklet. And you can just type in OSU eFields in your search bar, and it will come up. There's several years of it. If you want to learn more about the Farm Science Review, it's pretty easy. It's fsr.osu.edu. And anything you want to know about the review, the dates, the times, it's September 20th through the 22nd this year, it's always the third week in September, as we've always said, tickets will be on sale in July. And there's always something to see.

Matt Adams (46:37):Well, Matt, I do want to touch base. We've talked about the background of FSR, the Molly Caren Research Center. Why don't you give us a little bit of your background? What brought you to this point to be part of the Ohio State University and the Farm Science Review?

Matt Sullivan (46:55):I've been with the university full-time since 1998. And so I was actually in the Ag engineering department teaching precision agriculture for four years before I started working at Farm Science Review. And so as the guys got to see me, what I was doing with the precision ag, I actually helped start precision ag demos at Farm Science Review back in 1999. And one of the main guys retired, Craig Fender, who was the manager at that time retired. And so Chuck Gamble moved up to manager and I had the opportunity to be assistant manager under Chuck. And then as things changed and I became superintendent of the Molly Caren Ag Center.

Matt Sullivan (47:48):So I'm a Buckeye through and through, I am blessed to have two degrees here from Ohio State in agronomy and soil science. And so I was gone for a couple years after I got my master's degree. And then I decided I wanted to be part of Ohio State teaching. I'm from Madison County. And so that's the unique part about it is the Farm Science Review been in my back door my whole life. And we always joke, we never aspire to be a farm show manager, but as I watched Farm Science Review over time, I was like, Brenna, one of the students that participated at Farm Science Review, I didn't work for them, the student groups participate in and providing food for the visitors.

Matt Sullivan (48:41):So I was part of the agronomy team and did that. And so my roots go back a lot of the Farm Science Review. I can remember going to Don Scott as a little kid.. I can remember going once. And so it is pretty cool that I have some history here and some memories like a lot of people do. And that's what makes people say, "It's a pretty special place." They want to come gather and see friends, but also see the exhibitors as well.

Matt Adams (49:13):Definitely.

Brenna Finnegan (49:14):There's several of us that call it our reunion sometimes.

Matt Sullivan (49:16):That's right.

Brenna Finnegan (49:18):A couple of the people that I worked with, and ironically, we actually worked together one year with him as the assistant director or superintendent. It was my last year as a student employee out there. So we've known each other for-

Matt Sullivan (49:34):A long time.

Brenna Finnegan (49:34):... a long time now. We won't go back to saying the number of years. So we want to thank you, Matt, for joining us here on our podcast AgCredit Said It. And we look forward to seeing you out there at the Review and possibly doing a follow up at our booth while we're there.

Matt Sullivan (49:53):At The Farm show.

Brenna Finnegan (49:54):Yes.

Matt Adams (49:55):I want to thank all of our guests today on this episode of AgCredit Said It. For more information on everything we discussed today, we'll be posting the links and our transcript on the AgCredit website, www.agcredit.net. I want to thank all of our guests, and, Brenna, it's been a pleasure as always, and we will catch you again on the next episode of AgCredit Said It.

Voiceover (50:20):Thank you for listening to AgCredit Said It. Want to talk ag in between episodes, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at AgCredit. For more tips and resources, visit agcredit.net, and be sure to subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Catch you next time.