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.

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Back in September and again in November I posted my prologue and the note from Eve from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”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!


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.


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?

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?



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?


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!


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?


The first free Bloomin’ Onion gift certificate is presented!

I called my dad on the phone in the barn and asked him: “Do you want that free Bloomin’ Onion gift certificate still?”

Dad: “What? Yes, I still want it. That’s where your mother and I are going next. By the way, we went to Olive Garden last night and our server may stop today … nice young girl, gave her the address. She’s from Honduras or somewhere. Wants to see the farm.”

Me: “Okay, great. But you still want the certificate? You won’t waste it, will you?”

Dad: “What are you talking about? I’m not going to waste anything.”

Me: Well, come to the house and get it.”

So, my dad came to the house and I formally presented the certificate to him!

Once again, thank you Outback!


Previous blog posts:

Outback Bloomin’ Onion Update!!!!!

As blog readers are aware on the night the Iowa Hawkeyes were announced to be one of the teams playing in the 2014 Outback Bowl, Sunday December 8th, I began a campaign … no, a quest to get a free Bloomin’ Onion!

My reason for requesting a free Bloomin’ Onion? Well, I’m a 4th generation onion farmer that also happens to be a very proud alum of the University of Iowa (M.A. 1990).

Soon after I initiated this blog and Twitter campaign to get a free Bloomin’ Onion Outback started to follow me on Twitter and gracefully obliged my request. In fact they did one better … they said they would send me 5 additional certificates to give away on my blog!

And today, December 23, 2013 … those certificates for free Bloomin’ Onions arrived in the mail!


So, in the coming days, when I’m not in a Percocet induced stupor … I have to come up with some sort of contest to award the free Bloomin’ Onion certificates.

Now, I may only have 4 to give away versus 5. The reason? Well, as my dad was driving to me to one of my recent doctor appointments this week I told him about my free Bloomin’ Onion quest. My dad is a huge fan of Texas Roudhouse but in the car he said to me:

“Well, I was thinking of taking your mother to Outback. One of those free certificates would be nice. That’s the best kind of onion to eat … free.”

Since my dad so graciously drove me to 3 different doctor appointments I am in no position to say no. So if he does still want one, he gets it. And then I will provide his review of his Outback dining experience. Brace yourself Outback, my dad is brutal when it comes to eating and dining experiences.

Look to this blog for an upcoming contest to award the other free certificates. Also I must once again acknowledge Outback Corporation for seeing the humor in my request and so graciously granting it.

I’m just kicking myself, as I said in one of my blog entries, that I set my sights so low, for a free Bloomin’ Onion. As I stated in one of my blog posts:

Now I wonder … do you want to send a deeply in debt onion farmer, his wife and two kids to see the game with complimentary tickets, airfare and lodging? You can also feel free to support my Crowd Funding campaign:

Maybe next time Iowa plays in the Outback Bowl Outback Corporation will feel compelled to send a struggling 4th generation small family onion farmer who is an Iowa alum and his wife and two sons who are diehard Iowa Hawkeye fans on an all expense paid trip to the game to watch Iowa play in a Bowl game (an experience non of our family has ever experienced)!

Also any support by Outback of my Crowd Funding campaign to pay for an editor for my unpublished memoir about life on the farm and Capitol Hill will be extremely appreciated!


Stitches removed … OUCH!

So, as readers of this blog know … I have a new meniscus tear.

And on December 13, 2013 I had knee surgery to address my new tear.

Since then “Dr. Mom” has been providing the home care.

So today I went to see my Doctor, Dr. Juliano, for a post operation follow-up visit and the for the removal of my stitches.

The stitches were removed and … OUCH … that hurt!


After the stitches were removed Dr. Juliano came in and told us that things were looking pretty good. He was pleased when I told him that I was doing various exercises 3 times a day and in fact confirmed what I was doing was good for my post surgery care, despite what Eve thought. He also gave me an additional non-motion stretching exercise I should start doing in a couple of weeks, once I stop limping around basically.

I asked him for pictures of the surgery and he laughed and said he would get them to me prior to my next follow-up visit in a month. He stressed again that I need to take it easy with the knee and not engage in any of the heavier farm work that I typically do during the season for a month or longer.

Once I get those operation photos I will immediately post them!

In the meantime … I have to do this … please check out my Crowd Funder TV Show campaign which currently has 13 backers! Actually, we have been stuck at 13 backers for a few days now!

The segment will be coming shortly I will promptly post it once it is available! This campaign is not “all-or-nothing” and supporters get dollar for dollar matching gift cards from places like Best Buy, Home Depot, Starbucks and Sears. Talk about win-win … if you plan on doing any shopping at any of those locations it’s like supporting me for free! If you backed me on Kickstarter I hope you consider backing me on The Crowd Funder TV Show campaign! And I hope you can spread the word!

Please also check out my new Facebook page devoted to my memoir “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”

And finally the website for my new farming public policy organization that will focus on specialty crops, Farmroot, is up and active. I think it is fantastic … check it out:

Bill Braine’s blog entry and Crowd Funder Show update

A few weeks ago during my failed Kickstarter campaign my new friend Bill Braine wrote this fantastic blog piece about my project and campaign:

Bill is a fantastic writer and wrote a really nice bog article about my memoir and some of my past activities, including my $150K for a 50lb bag of onions on eBay ad:

I hope people can take a sec and read Bill’s blog entry. And then check out my new Crowd Funder Tv Show campaign. Unlike Kickstarter it is not “all or nothing” and the rewards are dollar for dollar gift certificates for places like Sears, Best Buy, Home Depot and Toys R Us. So, if you plan on doing any shopping at any of these locations you can essentially support my project for free!

If you support me you are helping a farmer that has done volunteer public policy work in behalf of his community for the past 17 years. You are doing more than just helping one person, you are helping a community and an industry!

Any and all help is very much appreciated! It means a great deal to me knowing there are so many avid supporters of farmers out there! Thank you!!!!!

Oh, Outback tweeted me a couple of days ago … the free Bloomin’ Onion gift certificates are in the mail!

Go Hawkeyes!