Matt Beese, the fifth generation of his family associated with Merestead Farms in Green, Ohio (midway between Akron and Canton) is a perfect example of the new breed of successful American farmer, working 1,000 acres, raising mostly corn and soybeans, and doing it, for the most part, as he noted, “a one man band.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I do have help from my wife and my mother managing logistics and certain details that enable me to do the work,” Beese says. “And I have the expertise and services of Deerfield’s agronomy division backing me up.” However, with the exception of his brother, Andrew, who returns to the family farm twice a year to assist with the planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall, Matt works the farm without any hired help. “It’s a true labor of love,” he says, “and it truly does take hard work and constant vigilance to be successful. But I can’t think of any other way of life or any better place to be than here, where my family has worked the land for over a century.”
As with all industries, agriculture has made tremendous technical advances over the last century, and in the last few decades, new scientific and technological discoveries have accelerated the pace of those innovations, giving rise to increased productivity and the opportunity for profitability.
“I think all farmers approach their work a little differently,” he says, “but we all have to face the same risks that changing weather and market conditions present to us in order to make our land profitable. You have to be adaptable and open to new and better techniques and technologies. And, of course, you have to be willing to work very hard, sometimes well into the night to be successful. You need good luck, too, good advice and strong relationships with experts who are at the forefront of agricultural science.”
Marissa Dillon, sales agronomist for Deerfield Ag Services, has worked with Matt for the past four years and has high praise for both his fundamental instincts as a hard-working farmer as well as his business acumen and his willingness to explore new technologies. “Deerfield has had a relationship with Merestead Farms for nearly 30 years, and Matt was my first client when I joined the company,” she says. “I have really enjoyed working with him and learning about his land and helping provide him with the products and services he wants to improve his operation. He is a very, very sharp man, well informed and willing to investigate and invest in the rapidly evolving technologies that have significantly impacted Merestead’s sustainability and profits. He is a perfect example of today’s successful farmer, dedicated to his family, the land, hard work and his way of life.”
In addition to providing Merestead with seed, custom fertilizer blending and spreading, Beese also contracts Deerfield to provide the farm with custom crop protection for weed and pest control, and just recently began experimenting with variable rate technology (VRT), a program of grid soil sampling for some of his land. “I am very impressed and excited with the potential for VRT that incorporates GPS to make it possible to lay down with great precision the right amounts of fertilizers and lime for differing soil needs in different areas of a field. We are working one section of land this year as a kind of pilot program to learn about VRT’s potential for the rest of our operation.”
While working the family homestead acreage, Matt also leases areas of ground that he works as far west as Canal Fulton and as far east as Hartville. All three areas have their own unique soil conditions and fertility needs, which require constant vigilance and differing approaches to fertility and pest control.
Matt and his brother, Andrew, grew up at Merestead Farms, attended Mississippi State University to study agriculture, and while Andrew finished his degree and continues to live there, Matt returned home and graduated with a degree in marketing from the University of Akron. “The business side of farming always interested me, and when I returned home to help my Dad with the farm, I decided to study business marketing to help grow our family farm,” Matt recalls. And with an acute understanding of the market forces, risks and technological innovations that pervade the modern world of farming, he has not only sustained the Merestead operation, but has doubled the acreage under cultivation from 500 to 1,000 acres since taking over the farm from his father, John, 10 years ago.
John Beese was born and lived his entire life at Merestead Farms with the exception of his time at away at college and his time in the Air Force. Like his son Matt, he had a deep passion for farming, family, history and learning. For several years preceding his unexpected death in the summer of 2015, he worked with the City of Green to explore the history of the area and took great pride in his farm’s 200th anniversary and recognition as an historical landmark.
According to the Green Historical Society, the Beese family are the third to own the 200+acre property, located on what was known as Congress lands at the time it was patented in 1814, with a document signed by President James Madison. When it was designated an Historic Landmark in 2014, a member of the historical society, Staci Schweikert is quoted as saying: “It’s fantastically preserved. When you walk this property, you get the same feel of an 1850s farm.”
When Matt’s great-grandfather bought the homestead in 1914 he named it “Merestead,” which is old English for farmlands or garden plots. Today, Matt, his mother, Lee, his wife, Laura, and his two children, Evan and Taylor, continue to epitomize the good life of hard work, strong family ties and the love of the land that only a farmer can truly know.