A caption in the University of Iowa Alumni publication & the stories behind it

The following post contains a couple of small segments from from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”

The October 2011 edition of Iowa Alumni Magazine contained the following snippet:

Image

Back on June 30th, 2010 I was invited, via Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, to testify before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in the first hearing held to reauthorize the Farm Bill.

Link for the website and screen shot of the page:

http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/expanding-our-food-and-fiber-supply-through-a-strong-us-farm-policy

Image

It was an incredible honor. One humorous result of my oral testimony was, as the Iowa Alumni Magazine made reference to, I was able to work in a Bugs Bunny cartoon quote. From my unpublished memoir:

The highlight though came during the panel discussion after we read our submitted written testimony. When Vilsack testified he detailed a plan he had to create 100,000 new farmers. He based it on the same theme as past instituted programs to get 100,000 new law enforcement persons and mentioned the push for new teachers, or something along those lines. When our panel was up we were asked by Senator Chambliss what we essentially thought about Vilsack’s 100,000 new farmer proposal or how we should get young people to stay in farming.

When they got to me with that question I had a problem. Now, I immediately felt that Vilsack’s proposal was a hare-brained scheme that was totally unrealistic and quite laughable. In fact, when Vilsack said it Eve and I literally burst out laughing. But, I couldn’t say that during the hearing. I actually had the hope of getting Vilsack to visit my farm. I had already met with two previous Secretaries of Agriculture, but none had ever come to my farm.

So, when asked the question here is what I said, and this is taken directly from the official, codified and printed Congressional Record of the hearing:

“Going back to what Secretary Vilsack said, the best way to get people young working on the farms and stay on the farms is make it profitable. And the thing is, I am not looking to be a Elmer J. Fudd millionaire and own a mansion and a yacht. I would just like to make a living. That is what I am looking for, make a living.”

I was a broadcasting and film studies student, I hold a Master of Arts degree from one of this nation’s premier research institutions, the University of Iowa. And I was able to work in a Bugs Bunny cartoon quote into my testimony, and that quote is now part of the official Congressional record. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.

On a more serious note, the powers that be need to address the issue of how we farmers get so little of the retail dollar. There are deep, systemic reasons for that problem that need one day to be addressed. We need to encourage production where the bulk of the population lives. These are complex problems but must be addressed if you want to save production agriculture in this country. Make farming a more profitable endeavor and families will continue to farm and people may even eventually enter it. The job numbers will be able to reflect on-farm jobs as a source of meaningful income and economic development. Ignoring this deep systemic problems and instead coming up with gimmicks that won’t work is nothing more than shuffling the deck furniture as the ship sinks.

Here is a copy of the official Congressional Record with that quote (they send you two books after you testify) and my officially submitted written testimony, which you can also download as a pdf file off of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee’s website via the link above. You can also on the website fast forward to our panel’s testimony and watch it. We testified between 45 minutes and an hour.

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

As the brief blurb in the Iowa Alumni Magazine mentioned, I’ve appeared in hundreds of media pieces over the years, ranging from CNN multiple times, CBS News national, ABC local, the NY Times and numerous local outlets and trade publications far more times than I could ever keep track of. But my oddest media citation has to be the October 2010 issue of Vogue Magazine which profiled Sen. Gillibrand. Here is the back story (for some reason my draft memoir does not contain this story, though I allude to it multiple times. Ah, something new I have to go back during the editing process to insert).

Starting in the summer of 2010 Sen. Gillibrand, who is the first Senator from New York State to sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee in roughly 40 years (prior to her appointment tot he Senate she sat on the House Agriculture Committee), planned on holding a series of field hearings on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill on farms across New York State. And our farm wad the first farm chosen. We were given a couple of weeks notice and we worked with the Senator’s office to put the event together. The event was very well attended and a great success. Here are a series of photos and media pieces on and of it:

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Two humorous incidents took place during the event. The first was captured in a series of photos below. During the series of photos I told the Senator about a WCBS 2 NYC news story that had recently run about how extended Viagra use can lead to hearing loss. The story was being played on our tv in the kitchen. I was in our office on the computer as Eve, Caleb & Jonah watched it in the kitchen. At the end of the story Jonah proclaimed very loudly “uh oh mom, you know what that means, Boppa (my dad) will have to learn sign language.”

You can see in these series of photos when I got to that punch line:

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

The other humorous incident is also related to my dad. Once again, from my unpublished memoir:

In 2010 I was interviewed multiple times by YNN reporter Elaina Athens. She is a fantastic reporter and does a great job covering farm stories for YNN. She is also a very attractive woman. My dad typically is not a fan when I talk to reporters. It takes away from other, more important farm work, in his view. There are exceptions though, like when reporters that look like Elaina are doing the story.

The first story, done in the early spring in April, about the exceptionally dry conditions we were facing, he only got a glimpse of her from a distance. But later in the season, in June, she did a story about the self-appointed farmworker advocate driven bill. When she came to the farm my dad was picking rocks for some reason. He does that on occasion. Well, we were talking about the topic of the story, prior to her formally interviewing me, and my dad drove over on our big field forklift. He stops it and starts telling her the story of how he stepped on a nail the previous year and got a serious infection. He then had a to get a tetanus shot, which since he was now 70 years old would probably the last he will ever get. But then he went to visit my sister at her place of work, and my sister has a hot co-worker who gave at first my mom a hug, but not him. But then he got one after he told her the story of his infection and last tetanus shot. But when he told our friend Tom Savaglio this story, and how it would be his last tetanus shot ever Tom said to him “don’t sell yourself short Rich.” And then he laughed and thought about it and hey, Tom may be right. And after telling Elaina and I all of this he pauses and says:

“So, if you hugged my son I’d like a hug too.”

Elaina laughed and simply said, “I didn’t hug your son.”

In August our farm hosted Senator Gillibrand’s first Farm Bill field meeting. Elaina covered it for YNN. Ah, another hugging opportunity for my dad. He spotted her and eventually chatted. Later when Elaina interviewed me she said my dad tried to score a hug, but didn’t. She was laughing very hard. My dad was quite dejected. My mom, when she learned of this told my dad he should be hugging one of Pastor Farrish’s parishioners who attended the event. They seemed like nice ladies, but, not what my dad was looking for. After the event Sen. Gillibrand noticed he was dejected and asked why. He said, “I want to hug that reporter, but she won’t let me.” The Senator responded with “I’ll give you a hug.” My dad’s eyes brightened, he smiled and asked, “a full hug?” She asked, “uhm, what’s that?” he said, “with a pat and a sway.” She scrunched her nose, laughed and said, “I don’t think my husband would be happy with that.” My dad shrugged his shoulders and happily accepted the standard hug. Not bad dad, not bad!

Here are some pictures of my dad with the Senator, post half hug:

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

But what about Vogue? Well, a day or two prior to the event Sen. Gillibrand’s DC staff said that a photographer from Vogue who was profiling the Senator would be at the event. We were asked not to share that information and we told no one. When the day arrived there was a number of media present (all secured and known by me) but I did not see a photographer that was not connected with one of the media outlets I got to attend. So I simply thought that something got changed and the Vogue person was a no show.

Fast forward to October, the day the November issue of Vogue hit the newsstands. Gillibrand’s DC staff called me: “holy smokes, you’re in the Vogue article.”

Me: “What? The photographer never showed. What are you talking about?”
Staff: “It wasn’t a photographer, it was the writer. He was there, and you’re quoted in the piece.”

Okay, I’ve been interviewed and have been quoted in tons of press pieces over the years, tv and radio, print, magazine, etc …. But I never imagined I would ever be quoted in any article under any circumstances that would appear in Vogue Magazine.

The following is the link for the article online (it’s a very good piece) the section that deals with our event, and the magazine itself in case you can’t see it via the link:

https://www.vogue.com/article/in-hillarys-footsteps-kirsten-gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a petite woman with pale-blue eyes and perfectly coiffed blonde hair, is sitting at a long table in a huge barn on a farm in upstate New York. There are great sacks of onions piled up to the ceiling on pallets and a few pieces of hulking equipment used during the harvest. It’s a safe bet that this barn has been spiffed up for the senator’s visit, a very special occasion for the family that lives here. It is one of those intoxicating August afternoons—cool and dry with a gentle breeze and big puffy white clouds set against a brilliant blue sky so perfect it seems fake.

This kind of event, when staged by a different sort of politician, one less finely attuned to small-town attitudes, could strike a casual observer as too perfect to be real. But Gillibrand is nothing if not genuine, and through sheer force of personality she bends the occasion to suit her style, which is essentially folksy and earnest. She radiates kindness. But she is also direct and no-nonsense. Despite the fact that she is a Democrat (and a fairly progressive one, at that) and worked for fifteen years as a hotshot Manhattan lawyer, she seems utterly at ease among this crowd of mostly Republican farmers, with their rough hands and weathered faces. Indeed, when she arrived moments earlier—in a plain-Jane beige linen suit and flat shoes—she walked around the room and introduced herself to everyone, including the children, shaking hands and looking everyone directly in the eyes: “Thank you for coming out today.”

She tells the farmers that her goal is to understand their worries and concerns so that she can begin to create a list of New York State’s specific priorities for the farm bill, which will be written in 2012, as it is every five years. They will do most of the talking, she tells them. She is here to listen. And talk they do, with surprising intensity and an impressive fluency in the legislative language of Washington, D.C. Gillibrand studiously takes notes while the farmers talk for nearly an hour—about immigration policy, land conservation, the estate tax, the price of milk. When she does speak, she displays a dazzling mastery of arcane agricultural policy (Gillibrand is the first senator from New York to be on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years). In fact, when she is introduced by Chris Pawelski, the man who owns this farm, he says, “Often when you deal with a member of the Senate, you have to explain the issues in very simple terms. But the senator had an immediate grasp of complex issues; we were able to talk to her in technical terms. Her appointment to fill the rest of Secretary of State Clinton’s term was the best possible choice for farmers in this state.” After an enthusiastic round of applause, Pawelski says, “One final point: We were born one day apart. She is one day older than me.” After a beat, Gillibrand leans into her mic and deadpans, “You will be doing what you’re told,” and everyone laughs.

As the crowd files out of the barn, I express admiration to one of the senator’s aides for his boss’s ability to charm a roomful of Republicans, and he says, “She can do the same thing on derivatives, comfortably rapping about financial markets. She walks into these huge churches in Brooklyn and Queens and starts talking about the asthma rates and the environmental-justice movement. It’s just her comfort level with so many subjects.” This reminds me of something Tina Brown, the editor in chief of The Daily Beast, told me: “People underestimate how smart Senator Gillibrand is. I hosted a dinner for her to meet a number of CEOs and media figures, and in conversation she was brilliant in her analysis of the economic meltdown. And she is an amazing fund-raiser . . . an unstoppable machine when she works the room.”

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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!

Advertisements

The Great Muckville Blog Free Bloomin’ Onion Essay Contest!

Image

Back on Sunday December 8th it was formally announced that Iowa would play LSU in the Outback Bowl and that night I launched a campaign on this blog and on Twitter for Outback to give me a free Bloomin’ Onion for being a 4th generation family onion farmer who is also an Iowa alum!

Link: https://muckville.com/2013/12/08/iowa-to-play-lsu-in-the-outback-bowl-and-i-want-a-free-bloomin-onion-from-outback-steakhouse/

A mere 6 days later, after a handful of blog postings and a number of tweets I was followed by Outback on Twitter and contacted on Twitter. Not only did they agree to give me a free Bloomin’ Onion certificate, they actually gave me 6 so I could give the others away on my blog!

Link: https://muckville.com/2013/12/14/bloomin-onion-campaign-update-outback-is-giving-me-a-free-bloomin-onion/

ImageImageImage

On December 23rd I gave the first certificate away to my dad, because he said he wanted to go to Outback and try a Bloomin’ Onion, since he has never had one. So, since he is my dad and does a lot for me, I gave one to him.

Link: https://muckville.com/2013/12/23/the-first-free-bloomin-onion-gift-certificate-is-presented/

For the last few weeks I have struggled though with how I would give away the remaining 4 certificates. Trivia questions are easily solved via Google and didn’t seem all that interesting to me. Then, while sitting in bed and fighting off a headache it hit me … an essay contest!

So here is the deal … I convinced, via social media, Outback to give me a free Bloomin’ Onion! You need to do the same to me … hence …

The Great Muckville Blog Free Bloomin’ Onion Essay Contest!

Image

In no less than 500 words and no greater than 1,000 you need to, in a humorous or creative fashion, convince me I should award one of those free certificates to you! Specifics:

Contest run date: January 2-31

E-mail your essay to: evep@warwick.net. Please include your snail mail address so if you are a winner I can mail you the certificate.

All 4 chosen winning essays will appear on my blog!

So, get those creative juices flowing and e-mail me those essays!

Since I am in the midst of my Crowd Funder Show campaign to fund an editor for my memoir … I had to mention it!

Please support my Crowd Funder campaign for raising funds for a professional editor for my memoir. For every dollar you contribute you get a matching dollar for dollar gift card from places like Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot and Toys R Us, amongst others.

Can you support a small family farmer who does public policy work by getting his memoir ready to be published?

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

My Crowd Funder Show Campaign and the prologue to my memoir

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!

Back in September and again in November I posted my prologue and the note from Eve from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” Please allow me to post it again and I again thank you for your generous support!

PROLOGUE

Muckville.  I can see you asking yourself now

Why should I care about a book about farming? Or one about public policy advocacy and dealing with the media? Or a about a book that combines the realities of farming with agriculture-specific policy, advocacy and dealing with the media?

We all have to eat. Every day if possible. Day after day. Until we die we have to eat. Food, along with breathable air, clean water and adequate shelter is one of our most basic needs. Since there are roughly 3.3 million farmers in the U.S. comprising roughly 2% of the general population, odds are you have never met a farmer. Despite the growth in popularity of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and local farmers’ markets it is most likely you have never met, spoken, smelled or touched a farmer.  Or set foot on a farm.

Though the United States was once a primarily an agricultural society and even as recently as the turn of the previous century roughly 40% of the population farmed, since then, and especially since the advancements associated with Norman Borlaug’s “Green Revolution” fewer and fewer farmers on less and less land space have produced one of the world’s safest, most abundant and cheapest food supplies.

And with that change has come an incredible level of disconnect between the people who primarily produce our food and the citizens who eat it. Sadly, when you mention the word farmer the first image that will pop into someone’s head will be Eddie Albert’s character Oliver Wendell Douglas from the CBS sitcom “Green Acres.” Or worse, some character from one of the various reality TV shows that keep popping up, and frequently aren’t so real.

Though farmers’ markets are exploding across the country and thanks to the foodie movement there is a strong renewed interest in agriculture, much of the information about farmers is not coming from us. Food critics and chefs will frequently pontificate about farming, and though some of them may have a small hobby farm, for the most part they are not farmers. They do not know what it is like, on a day to day basis, to be a farmer in the 21st century.

I simply don’t have enough heads for all the hats I have to wear. I have to be a soil scientist, a chemist, a financial planner, an accountant, a bookkeeper, a regulator, a marketer and frequently a public relations person and public policy advocate.

Farming today is governed by a myriad of laws and regulations that cover numerous aspects of our business on multiple levels. And there are so many groups, organizations and pressures out there trying to influence or change those laws and regulations on a seemingly daily basis.

In the mid 1990’s after leaving the farm a short time to pursue my graduate degree and after I married my wonderful wife Eve, I returned to the family onion farm. My brother and I are the fourth generation of the same family on a farm that started in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century. As soon as I returned I started dealing with a variety of issues and crises, including weather disasters and various labor advocacy organizations. I was baptized by fire. Eve and I had to learn, for the most part on our own, how to fight for our farm and our industry. It wasn’t easy at first (for the most part it still isn’t now, 17 years later).  But, trial by fire typically isn’t.

So why is this all important to you? Because as I said, we all have to eat. It’s one of our most fundamental needs. You should know something about how your food is produced. Not from sitcoms, or from food critics or from chefs, no matter how well intentioned they may be.  You should know from one of us who produces it.

Now, there are some books out there written by farmers about farming. Many of those books are about the adventures of people who eschew urban or suburban life to move to the country and take up farming. They extol the benefits of a more simple life.

That’s not the point of this book.

Life is not simple, nor, quite frequently, very fair. A hailstorm that decimates your crop mid season or a hurricane caused flood that wipes virtually your entire crop away is not fair. And how you deal with those scenarios is anything but simple. I’ve dealt with those situations, sadly, more than once. I’ve also dealt with very stupid government programs and terrible proposed legislation. And over the years my wife and I have had a fair number of successes in dealing with such situations. That’s what this book details.

Though it is a memoir about my specific experiences on the farm and in front of a camera or on Capitol Hill, what I relate, the techniques and the tricks and methods of dealing with the media or developing grassroot strategies to fight for a given issue can be applied by you. No matter what you do, or where you live, or what problem you may be facing, my example can provide you with a roadmap to how you can successfully fight for your cause.

The system is messed up. It sucks, to  be quite frank. But my specific experiences show that if you are persistent and you have a fraction of a clue as to what to do, you can make a positive change for your community, too.

Why should you read this book? Because I need better informed end users of my product. I need you to understand why after a devastating hailstorm or flood I need your support and help. I need you to have a better connection with the people who produce the food you eat.  And, you need to better understand the people who grow your food, and how the policy decisions can affect every aspect of the food you eat.

Why should you read this book? Just as important as learning about how your food is grown, I want you to read it and to realize that you can get off the couch and fight for your family and your community. Though the deck is stacked against you, like it is against me, you can still effect a positive change. All is not bleak. There is hope.

I  want you to read this book so that the next time you walk into the produce section of your local supermarket you will pause for a moment and just think about what was involved to get those fresh vegetables and fruits on that shelf.

A NOTE FROM EVE

Muckville. That’s where we live, both literally and figuratively.

And every day something weird is happening on this farm. In the early years I kept waiting for it to end, waiting for calm. After 20 years I now realize that for better or worse, that’s just not going to happen.  Part of it has to do with who I married. I think he described it best one night when we were talking about how people react to adversity. He said, “People basically fall into one of two categories: sheep or wolf. And I’m not a sheep.” I think I am a sheep who hitched a ride with a wolf. When we lost our crop to hail the first time in 1996 and our insurance turned out to be worthless and I was pregnant and large amounts of debt loomed on the horizon, I was perfectly willing to throw up my hands, quit and go do something else. In that respect I think I am like most people. Life is just easier if you can go along with the flow and avoid the pitfalls.  But if everyone did that improvements would seldom if ever be made.

If I’ve surmised anything over the years, it’s that problems come about seemingly on their own resulting from a convergence of factors: a misinterpretation of a law or regulation, a quirky personality, a do-gooder who is just plain wrong, and/or a bureaucrat who refuses to do anything other than “the way it’s always been done.” The result is that change takes a lot of work but more importantly perseverance.

So what do you need to make a change? The first quality just about everyone has. It equates to “What the @#$% happened here?” The second quality many people have, “I’m mad. I’m going to complain to the proper authorities, and this will be fixed!” But there are a lot of problems out there and it is just as likely that your problem won’t be fixed. Sure some may complain for a while but at some point most people simply cut their losses and walk away grumbling. If you are really determined to make a change, it takes more than complaining. Change comes about because you can articulate exactly what is wrong and why, AND you have mapped out and researched what should be done instead. Only then do you have a chance.

Chris (God bless him) has chronicled several things we have fought to change. Some of it is humorous. a lot of it comes under “You just can’t make that up!” and parts of it I simply cannot read because it was enough for me to live through it. We hope that you will be entertained and learn a little about production agriculture along the way. But what we really hope is that maybe the next time you see a problem, you will have the courage to be a wolf.

Wall montageDSC02419New York Farm Day 2012Dc 98.5Dc 98.4CBS 96.9BHEJ.9CNN 00.3CNN 99.4

A re-post of a blog entry with an except of my memoir about our meeting with Vice President Al Gore:

Since I am in the midst of my Crowd Funder Show campaign to fund an editor for my memoir … I had to mention it!Please support my Crowd Funder campaign for raising funds for a professional editor for my memoir. For every dollar you contribute you get a matching dollar for dollar gift card from places like Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot and Toys R Us, amongst others.

Can you support a small family farmer who does public policy work by getting his memoir ready to be published?

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

Our meeting with Vice President Al Gore’s soft buttery hands and how I once got Paul Harvey to issue a semi-correction

The following is another excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” It deals with our brief meeting with Vice President Al Gore.
 Gore 1

In late 1999 our good friend Pat O’Dwyer arraigned for Eve, my brother and I to meet with Vice President (and presidential candidate) Gore at LaGuardia Airport. Now, I thought we had a friend in Gore because a few months earlier I had done him a solid favor. You see, Paul Harvey, in an October broadcast, reported that the Vice President at a White House ceremony, while presenting a national award to a Colorado FFA member, was told by this FFA member he one day planned a career in production agriculture. The Vice President, according to Harvey, then told this FFA member that there was no future for them in that career path, for production agriculture is being shifted out of the U.S. to the third world, thanks in no small part to a Vice President-assisted U.N. initiative known as Agenda 2000.

When I first heard this story my initial reaction was “urban legend.”

So, I started researching it and kept calling various publications and organizations that were supposed to be the source of this story. Bottom line, no one could verify it. It turned out to be an unsubstantiated and unverified tall tale.

I called the Vice President’s office in the afternoon of October 22, 1999 to ask about this story and if the Vice President had any comment about it. After 5:30 p.m. a woman from the Vice President’s staff called me back. She said Gore denied the story to the Iowa media on Wednesday and then faxed me a little press release concerning his denial of this really weird tale.

On October 27, 1999 I called Paul Harvey’s staff. I told them why I was calling, concerning that Gore story. Right away his staffer put the blame on Agri-News, identifying them as the source. I told her that yes, I contacted Agri-News, and then their source, the Wyoming Wool Growers, and bottom line, neither could provide any credible evidence or substantiation for that story. I pointed out that not even a date for the event can be provided. I asked her if she realized that the story prompted a denial on the part of the Vice President. She said that the Vice President’s office in fact did call them (SURPRISE SURPRISE) to deny the story and was supposed to send them something but never got back to them. I told her they got back to me and asked her if she would like a copy of what they sent me. She said she would. I told her how this story circulated like wildfire, thanks in no small part to Mr. Harvey, and I know some people that actually called their Congressional representatives  and Senators in outrage over it, who now look a bit like idiots. She kept saying what a shame it was.

When I sent the fax I wrote, in part, the following: “To Paul Harvey’s staff person, Here is what I received from the VP’s office on Friday. I’m sure if you call Ms. Ratcliff she could provide further details. I look forward to hearing Mr. Harvey’s retraction and apology to the VP for reading that story.”

Surprisingly, during his October 29, 1999 broadcast Paul Harvey commented that the Gore comments to the FFA students that was reported in AgriNews was denied by the Vice President. The Vice President thinks there is bright future for people in agriculture. Harvey took no responsibility for broadcasting misinformation. He only reported that Gore denies the comments as was reported. This still leaves folks with the opinion that Harvey’s report may have been factual and the Vice President was merely changing his story. But, it was the closest that Harvey would come and I later heard the Vice President’s team was very pleased with the work I had done with regard to this. I also published all of the details regarding this incident on a number of farmer related websites and discussion groups.

So, I thought we had a friend in Gore. When we met him at LaGuardia I actually got some press to cover it, including RNN news:

The Vice President’s advance team were floored that the press was there. We had a whole bunch of information for Gore, including ways in which to fix the crop insurance program and legislative language for our disaster aid. We also gave him information how the Administration could give us our aid directly via discretionary money available in the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). We had maybe 2 or 3 minutes with him. I still remember how soft his hands were, like butter. And Eve and I both noticed how “fresh” he smelled. Quite fresh. My brother Brian used a joke I gave him when he reached to shake his hand. My brother said:

“It’s an honor and privilege to finally meet the man … that was once Tommy Lee Jones’ roommate (actor Jones and Gore were roommates at the University of Tennessee).

 

Gore 2

 

 

It caught Gore off guard for a second, then he burst out laughing and said it was his “claim to fame.” I wanted to say how the years have been far kinder to him than they have to Jones, but thought better of it and bit my tongue. When I started to go into our problems and what help we specifically needed he put his hand up to cut me off and said something to the effect that we would discuss it another time and implied he would get back to us.

We never heard from Gore again. But, we did get some awesome pictures out of the meeting.

 

Gore 3

Two other old media pieces, pictures in Hudson Valley Magazine & Orange Magazine

Here are two other older media pieces I dug up, one is a picture of my dad that ran in Hudson Valley Magazine and the other is from the Premiere Issue of Orange Magazine.

The first picture is of my dad was taken by photojournalist Nihal Mahawaduge & ran in the January 2001 issue of Hudson Valley Magazine. It is a fantastic picture and the precursor of the long photo piece that would run in March.

The second picture was in the Premiere edition of Orange Magazine, which debuted December 2007-January 2008.

I still remember when the reporter, Joe Bevilacqua called to interview me. He tried to explain what the outlet was and I didn’t quite understand. He then had a series of off the wall questions he asked me. i answered them best I could, with a laugh. The interview took place during harvest time, one night after work.

I was later photographed by awesome photographer Chris Ramirez, who is good friends with my cousin Adam Kurtz and had taken pictures of me before for the Times Herald-Record. I went straight from work to a studio space in Warwick. You can see I’m dirty in the picture. He said it was okay if I was dirty.

Quite an honor to be in the Premiere issue!

Since I am in the midst of my Crowd Funder Show campaign to fund an editor for my memoir … that deals with stuff like this … I had to mention it!

Please support my Crowd Funder campaign for raising funds for a professional editor for my memoir. For every dollar you contribute you get a matching dollar for dollar gift card from places like Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot and Toys R Us, amongst others.

Can you support a small family farmer who does public policy work by getting his memoir ready to be published?

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

ImageImage

Image

Hudson Valley Magazine “The Onion Fields” by photojournalist Nihal Mahawaduge

Back in 2000 or so our family was befriended by local photojournalist Nihal Mahawaduge. Nihal took dozens upon dozens of photos of us and did some stories in local media outlets that featured us in a 2 or 3 year period. One of the best pieces was the one you see below, featured in the March 2001 edition of Hudson Valley Magazine. What’s neat about it is that it takes a person chronologically through the growing season, explaining what we do step by step.

A neat article with some beautiful pictures by our friend Nihal!

Since I am in the midst of my Crwod Funder Show campaign to fund an editor for my memoir … that deals with stuff like this … I had to mention it!

Please support my Crowd Funder campaign for raising funds for a professional editor for my memoir. For every dollar you contribute you get a matching dollar for dollar gift card from places like Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot and Toys R Us, amongst others.

Can you support a small family farmer who does public policy work by getting his memoir ready to be published?

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

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Successful Farming Magazine “Nothing to Hide”

I’m going to periodically post older articles and media pieces Eve and I and the family have been featured in over the years. Many of these, like this one, are not available in electronic format online.

This article, from the 11/00 issue of Successful Farming Magazine was written by veteran reporter Mike Holmberg and is entitled “Nothing to Hide.” It dealt with how we dealt with the media. It really is a great piece that has a great photo of me speaking with then (and still now) reporter with the Times Herald-Record Chris McKenna!

Enjoy!

Oh … since I am in the midst of my Crowd Funder Show campaign to fund an editor for my memoir … that deals with stuff like this … I had to mention it!

Please support my Crowd Funder campaign for raising funds for a professional editor for my memoir. For every dollar you contribute you get a matching dollar for dollar gift card from places like Best Buy, Sears, Home Depot and Toys R Us, amongst others.

Can you support a small family farmer who does public policy work by getting his memoir ready to be published?

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

ImageImageImageImageImage