The backstory behind my $150,000 50lb bag of onions on eBay

The following is another brief excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” This small section of my memoir deals with the backstory behind my $150,000 50lb bag of onions on eBay stunt. It took place a couple of months after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee decimated our crops. The following is just one media piece that detailed that destruction. Below the excerpt are links for media pieces that dealt with my eBay ad.

That Sunday the Warwick Farm Aid concert was held. Though many of our elected officials worked very hard trying to help us, persons like Senators Schumer and  Gillibrand, Representatives  Gibson and Owens amongst others, the bottom line we received virtually no help overall from the federal government, apart from token assistance and the promise of more loans being made available. I was bitterly disappointed.

I then said to Eve that we needed to do something different, something unique to draw attention to our plight. So, I thought about it for a few days and was then struck with a very unique idea, to put up for auction on eBay a 50 lb. bag of onions for $150,000.

Talk about a long shot idea, but, the primary purpose wasn’t to sell the bag of onions. It would have been nice if someone bought it obviously, but, the primary reason for it was to shame the Congress, specifically House leadership, and hopefully motivate them to change course and support the vitally needed crop loss program.

Yes, I realize that notion was probably a greater long shot than someone actually buying my onion bag, but, I had to do something.

The first step was to convince Eve. Once again the poor woman was going to be mortified. She never did like the idea of putting our finances and personal situation out there in the public eye. But, she understood the reason why I did it. It wasn’t simply because I was a press hound. It was the dozens upon dozens of stories that detailed our personal situation, which personalized the weather disasters and plight we were in, is what sold our cause. Humanizing our narrative with a tangible example is what primarily led to the passage of the $10 million dollar earmark years earlier. If you talk in the abstract, detailing factoids on how many acres of crops were lost, or how many overall dollars were lost, people may raise an eyebrow and pause for a moment to think about it. But lay out a narrative of a struggling family, it personalizes it and makes it so much more relatable, both to the public and to the politicos that can help you. I recognize it was and still is humiliating to Eve, and I wish there was another way. But no other farmer was willing to do it. And Eve has always recognized this and has always tried, to the best of her ability, to put the cause ahead of our own needs. Despite the personal humiliation and pain. It’s one of the reasons why she is such a wonderful wife and partner.

So, I sold Eve on the idea. I then found a generic onion bag and had her take a picture of the boys and me in front of our farm sign. I then placed the ad on eBay on September 26th  for a 10 day listing. I wrote up the text for the ad, which stated in part:

Buy this 50lb bag of yellow onions and save this 4th generation family farm! And a free 5lb bucket of genuine black dirt soil! Bidding starts at $150,000!

Hurricane Irene struck the Black Dirt region of the lower Hudson Valley, 1 hour north of New York City, devastating thousands of acres of farmland including our farm. The storm hit at the worst possible time, when we had 90% to 95% of our expenses into our crops. We lost 48 out of 51 acres of onions. My farm has lost over $150,000 this year alone and coupled with past disasters we are over $200,000 in the hole with no hope in sight. Below are a few media pieces about our losses:

FEMA does not cover agricultural losses. Farmers instead are covered by the USDA. The problem is that the USDA programs, mainly the crop insurance program, is virtually worthless, paying only pennies on the dollar on our losses. The other USDA program, the SURE program, won’t even start the application process until the fall of 2012 and probably won’t pay out until January of 2013 at the earliest. And the SURE program will only pay pennies on the dollar on our losses as well.

For many years my wife and I have fought to help the farmers in our valley. We have volunteered our time and our energies and our efforts to represent our fellow growers and to help change public policies that have been difficult, problematic or harmful to us. But we can’t do that any longer if we can no longer farm. And if we are so far in debt we simply can no longer farm. Our situation is beyond bleak, it is grim and without hope. So, if you can afford it, and you want to support a 4th generation family farm, please buy this single bag of onions.

Bidding starts at $150,000. It is one bag, but it represents my ability to continue to farm. It represents my continuing my family’s legacy. The federal government is currently unable to help us. Can you?

This isn’t just about saving a farm, and the seeds, and dirt, and wood, and plastic, and metal, and machinery, and sweat, and gears, and tractors, and barns, and tools, and crops and tears … it’s about hope and it’s about our future, ours and yours, help us feed you.

My mentor Bob Thompson, now with Syracuse University, thought the free 5 gallon bucket of dirt was a fantastic touch. That initial listing, which ran until October 6th, was eventually viewed by 2,278 people. A number of their views were due to my fantastic Facebook friends. I posted a link for the ad on my Facebook page and many of my friends shared it on their Walls. This spread the word of the ad very quickly. No one bid, not that I was surprised by that, but it had enough views for me to warrant re-listing it. I also started getting response from people via eBay expressing their support and desire to help. Eve and I were genuinely touched. Again, these are people that are just like us, suffering from the effects of the terrible economy, and yet they were expressing a heartfelt desire to help us despite their own personal circumstances. I, quite frankly, didn’t know how to respond except to thank them. A couple of people sent $5.00 or more via PayPal.

In the midst of the 2nd  listing I started getting phone calls from the press, both locally and regionally. One of the first to contact me, on the morning of October 14th, was WABC Channel 7 out of New York City. The reporter who called was Darla Miles. I had been plastering the eBay listing all over the internet and somehow her station had stumbled across it. She asked if she could come out and do a story and I of course happily obliged. So within a few hours she along with her camera operator arrived.

My dad was in rare form. Ah, another female reporter he could try to hug. I briefly explained to Darla my dad and his desire to hug some of the local reporters. I think I also went into briefly the story of “Candy & Andy.” I had her laughing. My dad also had her laughing as well. I then detailed the story of our disaster. She had seen Marcus Solis’ piece from September and was moved by our situation. She did an interview with me but as my dad was still hanging around she turned to him and said he had to go on too. Now, over the years I had been interviewed by various TV outlets but my dad never had. He did appear in the background at times but never on camera. After a bit of prodding he finally agreed. And he hit a homerun. The piece proper opens with my dad saying:

“It’s a strong onion has a lot of flavor. It’s not an onion you eat like an apple. If you do you’re pretty darn good.”

Miles in her voiceover then said “Good and strong, but is a fifty- pound bag of onions worth $150,000?” And my dad is then heard saying:

Well, it’s like a shot in the dark. Who knows? Oprah gives away twenty, thirty cars at a time or $30,000 and doesn’t blink a eye. What’s a bag of onions?”

Talk about a homerun! Dad actually topped me in the piece. And the piece was outstanding Darla Miles fully detailed how screwed we were in the piece and how our backs were against the wall (http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=news/local/northern_suburbs&id=8392522).

After that piece aired I was contacted by WCBS News Radio 880 reporter Paul Murnane. He interviewed me the morning of October 20th  and his story aired throughout the day. It too was a fantastic piece that though was short pointed out how poor the crop insurance program was and how desperate a situation we were in (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/10/20/orange-county-farmer-selling-bag-of-onions-for-150k-to-save-farm/). Both the WABC Channel 7 and WCBS News Radio 880 stories were seen and heard by millions of people in the New York City media market. Further, Darla’s story was syndicated out to TV stations all across the country and I started getting e-mails and Facebook messages from friends all across the country telling me they had seen it. I also started getting more and more messages on eBay from people who didn’t have $150,000 but wanted to help. Many reported seeing the local WABC Channel 7 story on their local stations.

A day or so after the WABC Channel 7 story aired I was contacted by a wonderful woman by the name of Cindy Colby. Cindy was a certified eBay advisor. She too was moved by our situation and offered to help any way she could. And she did, on multiple levels. The first thing she did was she talked me through instructions on how to improve my eBay ad. She knew the ins and outs of adding pictures, formatting text, etc …, and Cindy cleaned up and improved my ad. I also told Cindy about all of the people that were contacting me on eBay, looking to help in some way. Cindy came up with the alternate listing, of 5 heirloom seeds for a small donation We ended up creating multiple listings for a number of different small donation levels. Numerous people responded and bought the 5 token seeds so as to contribute to helping us. Again, Eve and I were not comfortable with it. We knew how bad the economy was, but people kept insisting they wanted to do something to help. To this day Eve and I are overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of all of those people, as well as Cindy. She really extended herself to help us and spent a great deal of time, energy and effort. Eve and I hope that one day we can somehow get a few hundred pounds of onions to her, as well as give her a big hug.

After the WABC Channel 7 and WCBS News Radio 880 stories aired all of the major local media outlets did video and print pieces. My old friend Tracy Baxter at the Times Herald-Record as well as YNN and News 12 all did fantastic pieces. I was also contacted by a producer with ABC Network News. We spoke back and forth a few times and it appeared he was all set to do a story, but, it never materialized.

Days went by, then weeks, then months. I kept re-listing both eBay ads but the view counts continued to drop. And there was little movement on Capitol Hill. I then met with Mike Oates at the Hudson valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) and we jointly worked on an op-ed calling for the need for an ad- hoc crop loss program. Our piece ran in the February 2nd 2012 edition of the Times Herald-Record and it was entitled “Our View: Crop loss program urgently needed by Black Dirt farmers.”

End of excerpt.

Links:

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111025/NEWS/110250335

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As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1efvb/ab/72OxNc

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!

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A tour for Princeton students and a little bit of family history about my great grandparents Frank & Julia Pawelski

Back in the fall of 2012 I was contacted by an individual named Loren Cardeli. He has a neat organization he created called “A Growing Culture” of which he is the Executive Director.

http://www.agrowingculture.org/staff-2/

Well, after a series of conversations he asked if I could host and help him set up an agricultural tour for a group of students in a journalism class at Princeton. I’ve done that many times before and told him it sounded like fun and would be happy to help. I eventually set him up with our local Agricultural specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension Maire Ullrich and she helped arrange other stops on their tour.

So on November 12th, 2012, the class came to my farm. It was actually a journalism class, co-taught by 2 guest instructors. The instructors were two powerhouse instructors, Owen Bennett Jones of the BBC and P. Sainath, the Rural Affairs editor for The Hindu, the largest english newspaper in India.

I have done many such tours before but this class, which I believe were freshman, was one of the brightest and most articulate groups I have ever dealt with. It was an extremely fun event for me. I got to blab for about two hours. It was “Chris-unplugged.” I at the time though did not realize who either of them were, much to my embarrassment later.

After I finished and before the group went on to their next stop, both Professors introduced themselves and asked if they could interview me for subsequent pieces. P. introduced himself as an editor at The Hindu and Owen introduced himself as a BBC correspondent. I happily agreed.

P Sainath and I had a number of discussions over the phone and the outstanding piece by P. Sainath that ran in the December 3rd edition of The Hindu was entitled “Knowing your onions in New York.”

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sainath/knowing-your-onions-in-new-york/article4156928.ece

Owen called me the next day after the tour and when his name popped up on the caller id I immediately felt like a total idiot. He never said his name as we spoke and I profusely apologized to him that I didn’t recognize him. I’ve heard him many times over the years when his BBC reports have been carried by local National Public Radio stations. he was not offended at all and we had a few conversations and I sent him a number of materials about my family in particular and my public policy activities over the years, which totally fascinated him.

A few years ago my second cousin Theresa Hutt put together a family history of the Pawelski side of the family. This history included a number of fascinating documents. So I sent it on to Owen.

On November 24th, 2012, Owen’s profile of my family, including my great-grandfather Frank as well as my policy work aired. It was one of his segments for “From Our Own Correspondent.” Here is the link, just fast forward to the 18:30 mark:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p02n9

Owen’s piece’s like the piece by P. Sainath, is fantastic. I just love how he correctly pronounces our last name.

Here is a link to my new public policy organization Farmroot, which is what I alluded to when I spoke to Owen:

http://www.farmroot.org/index.html

Finally, here are some pages from my second cousin’s family history document as well as some old photos of my family, including my great grandfather Frank and grandmother Julia.

As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1efvb/ab/72OxNc

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!

Enjoy the pictures!

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My great grandfather, taken not long before his passing in 1968.

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My great grand parents Frank & Julia Pawelski along with my Aunt Clara and I believe cousin Denise, taken in 1954.

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My great grandfather and my dad, Richard Pawelski.

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Another neat media piece that is about my unpublished memoir “Muckville!”

The following piece was written by Ginny Privitar for the 4/5/13 edition of the Goshen Chronicle and is called “Chris Pawelski stirs the muck: Political insanity revealed in ‘Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”

It is a very neat piece and also a favorite of Eve and I.

As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1efvb/ab/72OxNc

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!

Enjoy the article!

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Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt’s Resolution recognizing my efforts on behalf of onion farmers and the onion farming industry in New York State

Back in 2013 Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt introduced a resolution that recognized some of my efforts in behalf of agriculture over the years. I actually discovered it one day by accident while surfing the internet. Annie intended to surprise me and I sort of ruined that.

I was totally floored and humbled by it. Truth be told, in all the years of my doing volunteer public policy work Annie and her staff have been one of the best elected officials and offices I have ever dealt with. Extremely pro-active and not easily deterred Annie and her team have accomplished a great deal in our behalf over the years, including along with Town of Warwick Supervisor Mike Sweeton getting the speed limit lowered on Pulaski Highway. That alone has saved lives in my opinion. But she has been a fantastic supporter and friend of farmers over the years.

Well, eventually in June Annie held a formal event to present the proclamation to me at one of my favorite places, the Quaker Creek Store. Below is the Resolution, a number of media pieces about it, and finally the link for the online version.

As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1efvb/ab/72OxNc

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!

Here is the link to the online version of the Resolution:

http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/K324-2013

Enjoy the articles!

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Onion World Magazine December 2012 “Planting Seeds for Sound Agricultural Policies!”

Of the hundreds of media pieces we have appeared in over the years, this too is a favorite, from the December 2012 Onion World Magazine the article by Eric Woolson entitled “Planting Seeds for Sound Agricultural Policies.”

Link for the article online: http://digital.turn-page.com/i/102943/3

It is a fantastic article well written by Eric (an Iowa man, though he went to the University of Northern Iowa vs being a Hawkeye, but that’s close enough!) that nicely re-caps some of the more interesting things we have worked on over the years in terms of public policy and fighting in behalf of farmers.It also contains a number of neat pictures, including the cover photo taken by our son Caleb. Below you can see the article, including a second cover.

If you look closely at that cover you see it is signed by someone … former Senator & Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here is the story behind that signing … back in September I was down in DC for numerous meetings and to attend Sen. Gillibrand’s Ag Working Group & NY Farm Day reception. It is a fantastic event first started by Sen. Clinton and continued by Sen. Gillibrand, who is the first New Yorker to sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee in some 40+ years. It is coordinated by Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. Jim is a wonderful human being and a good friend who does a spectacular job year in and year out in regards this and numerous other functions (http://www.winejudging.com/bios/jim_trezise.htm).

Well, at this year’s event I happened to run into an old friend who used to work for Senator/Secretary Clinton. As we chatted and briefly caught up I pulled a copy of this issue out of my bag to show him, since it had a picture of Eve and Jonah with former President Clinton. I laughed and said “I’m sure the President has been featured a few times in “The Onion” but I bet he never thought he would be in “Onion World.” He laughed. I then asked him if he wouldn’t mind giving a copy to them, in case they hadn’t seen it. Plus they might get a good laugh out of it. He happily agreed.

About a month later we received an envelope in the mail from the former Secretary. When I opened it I was surprised to see the magazine and was sort of disappointed it was returned. But then when I got to the top I saw why, it had the very gracious signature. Very cool!

As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1efvb/ab/72OxNc

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!

Enjoy the article!

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More old media pieces featuring our family and farm

Here are some more older media pieces we have been featured in over the years and actually a number of my favorites. They include:

Numerous pieces that ran in the Times Herald-Record:

“Onion Industry in Doubt” 10/12/02 by Dave Richardson and photos by Tony Savino

“Life of An Onion” 9/14/03 photos by Tony Savino

“Black Dirt farmers struggle to survive” 6/21/09 by Christian Livermore and photos by John DeSanto

Also included is:

The New York Times article (10/24/07) “From New York’s Black Dirt, A Glacial Secret Told by Onions” by Matt & Ted Lee with photos by Suzanne DeChillo

The American Vegetable Grower cover story from the 9/98 issue “Crop Insurance Coming Up Short: NY Onion Growers Left Holding The Bag” by Richard Jones. This article was CRUCIAL to getting many of the changes we were able to get accomplished with the federal crop insurance program.

Two pieces that appeared in Crain’s NY Business by Lisa Fickensher, one about my $150,000 for a 50lb bag of onions on eBay and “Struggling farmers digging out of debt” with an incredible photo by Buck Ennis and Ian-Duncan Ball. This piece, along with the Jones, Lee and Livermore pieces, is one of my all-time favorites. It is a fun, well written piece.

Finally there is an article from the Warwick Valley Dispatch on 9/1/10 by Katie Bisaro (text and photos) entitled “Senator Gillibrand Meets Local Farmers.”

As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1efvb/ab/72OxNc

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!

Enjoy the articles!

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My somewhat odd almost encounter with Anjelica Huston & Annie Leibovitz

Back in August and September of 2011 virtually my entire crop was destroyed at the very worst time by the floods associated with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. It was a devastating loss that put me in an even deeper financial hole.

In mid December I got a phone call from world famous photographer Annie Leibovitz’s location manager Ernie. I had helped Ernie a couple of times over the past couple of years find farm type locations in the area for some Leibovitz shoots. Ernie is a really nice guy. He lives somewhat local and knew a little about the weather disaster we suffered a few months earlier. He said that he was looking for another location for a shoot Annie was doing for Vanity Fair and said this time I could receive a modest payment for using my farm. I drove him around and he found a spot he liked very much and said that the next day or two Annie’s very large crew would come out to do the shoot. I asked Ernie what the subject would be about this time. Back in the fall of 2005 she did an elaborate shoot in the black dirt based on the Wizard of Oz with Natalie Portman look alike Keira Knightley as Dorothy, which ran in the December 2005 edition of Vogue see: http://img256.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=79668_1_122_250lo.jpg).

Ernie said this time the subject was Anjelica Huston and the shoot was for a profile of her and her new show on NBC called “Smash” for Vanity Fair.

On December 16th a very large crew arrived to work on the location for the shoot. They arrived early in the morning. The crew were pretty cool. A mixture of artist types and working stiffs.

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It seemed that Annie wanted puddles on the road in front of the field so I helped them make puddles. They had a tank which we filled with water at my house which I transported to the location in my brother’s pickup truck. And when that didn’t do the job they got water out of the one ditch and hauled via seed buckets that I provided. I didn’t do that, thank you. I just watched. It was quite cold that day. So much so ice was forming on the water on top of the ditches, making the puddle creation job even more difficult.

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As I said, the crew had no buckets before I arrived but I gave them some and they worked for a couple of hours in the freezing cold scooping water out of the ditch and hauling it to the road to make puddles. So right before Annie Leibovitz and Anjelica Huston left Leibovitz’s huge bus where they spent the majority of the day and arrived on the scene to start taking pictures my dad comes down the field with our John Deere tractor to do some field work. I can tell he’s going to drive on the road and ruin all the puddles these guys literally made by hand by driving right through them. The poor crew dudes nearly had a heart attack. I had to wave him down and tell him to drive around. He wasn’t pleased but I was a hero to the puddle crew!

Also on the scene eventually was the location scout for Vanity Fair. I think she might have been in the bus all day as well. She was a nasty person that made me feel like dirt scraped off her shoe. More on that in a bit.

Now here is the deal, I didn’t just rent out my farm to them, I helped the crew out much of the day and hung around. I wanted to briefly meet Huston and Leibovitz if possible. I didn’t have a huge entourage with me, it was me, just me. I had some materials related to our destruction that past season and my efforts to get disaster aid passed. I was hoping at the very least to briefly meet them and if possible pass that material along. Leibovitz had just done some shoot in Washington DC and obviously has some connections. Any help would be extremely useful to our cause. When celebrities grip on to an issue sometimes it gets traction and moves forward.

Well, Huston and Leibovitz arrived at the very last minute to start shooting. For the 7 or more hours that the crew had been working in the freezing cold to make puddles and set up some heat and the lighting Huston and Leibovitz caught up with each other (evidently they are old friends) in the extremely large bus. I’m sure they wined and snacked and had a grand old time. Much to my surprise Leibovitz didn’t inspect the scene a single time as it was being set up.

When they finally arrived on the scene they briskly walked past me without acknowledging me. But they did it in a way to make it clear to me they knew who I was. Hey, they are artists and had a job to do. I get that and did not expect them to stop at that point and introduce themselves to me. I quietly hung around in the very background. But it was made very clear to me I was to stay there. In fact the jerk from Vanity Fair actually said to me something to the effect of “I’m responsible for that very generous check you know” and then directed me to back up a few dozen feet and stay out of the way. There was absolutely no reason for her to say what she said, nor the way she said it. Even though I wasn’t in the way. It was also made clear to me I could take no pictures of Huston or Leibovitz. These are the only two I was able to sneak:

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Out of respect for Leibovitz’s location manager I did not publish any of these photos on my Facebook page or on Twitter until the article in Vanity Fair hit the newsstands in February.

At one point I was told to back up because I was “distracting” Anjelica with my bright yellow suit.

(Here is what I was wearing, my normal work garb, which is a bit “loud”:)

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After a few minutes the Vanity Fair location person told me “Anjelica was still very distracted” by me. I found it odd since I was a number of feet away, in the midst of a large crowd of crew persons. So I offered to remove my overalls if they were that distracting but I was instead directed to hide myself in my brother’s pickup truck.

You read that right.

Bottom line, there was no I way I was going to be able to meet, let alone talk to Liebovitz or Huston. I was so treated like the “99%” and they were obviously part of the “1%” and the two shall never mix.

Allow me to state this, over the years I have met with a number of celebrity types and high level politicos and this was the first and only instance I was ever made to feel like I was dirt to be scraped off a shoe, or something beneath worth. The only time. I got that feeling as soon as they walked past me to get to the shoot location. I was able to talk to Huston’s personal assistant and give her some info on my $150,000 for a 50lb bag of onions on eBay ad and the whole situation on how our valley was destroyed and how we are trying to get disaster aid.

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120202/OPINION/202020315

She was actually very nice. I told her I’ll be going down to Capitol Hill and any pressure Hollywood types could add to the politicos would be extremely helpful. She said she would pass the info on. Who knows if she was jerking me off or not. Probably so. Who knows. I never heard back from her or anyone connected with this shoot.

Again, they are artists and had a job to do. I get that. I didn’t really expect them to say anything to me prior or during the shoot. But would it have killed them to say hello to me and maybe even, God forbid, thank me for the location and the help I provided them all day after they finished the shoot? I mean, could they have not taken 2 minutes as they returned to the bus to say “thanks?”  And to do it in a classy way, not by reminding me how much they paid me to use the location? Yes, rub it in to the dirt farmer who lost his entire crop a few months before and who was now in deep debt with no clue as to how he was going to survive how your “generous” check secured the location.

Again, Leibovitz’s location manager is a nice guy and a class act, as was the rest of her crew. They treated me very nicely and were quite outgoing and friendly.

But they are obviously part of the “99%” too.

Here is a link for the article online as well as the photos from the magazine. As Eve has said repeatedly, it really is a very beautiful picture. You have to hand it to Leibovitz, she is very good.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2012/03/anjelica-huston-201203

As I have mentioned multiple times previously my campaign to raise funds for an editor will be featured in an upcoming episode of the new Crowd Funder Show.

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1efvb/ab/72OxNc

What is the Crowd Funder Show and what does it mean to appear on the show? According to their website:

The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability. Each episode focuses the spotlight on six or seven inspiring projects and personal goals that give the viewing audience insight into the campaign, its principal, and the reason(s) why it should come to fruition. The Crowd Funder TV Show highlights various ideas that have been selected based on their merit for creativity, social relevance, and commercial viability.

What is so neat about their crowd funding method, versus Kickstarter’s, is that it is not “all or nothing.” Further, the rewards are much more exciting. Again, from their website:

Viewers can choose to support the projects they watch by contributing directly to the campaign website or by calling a toll-free number. The Crowd Funder Show rewards contributors with sponsored gift cards for the same amount of money they contribute, up to $100. Supporting people and their projects has never been easier so it’s no wonder you can’t help but feel like you’re a part of something special. The Crowd Funder TV Show is an interesting, inspiring program that highlights human ingenuity and co-operation.

When you go to my page you will see locations once can choose from for the gift card include: Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations anyway you are essentially donating to my cause for free. A total win-win!

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