Friday, September 19, 2008

The Packet Stuffing Squad is the backbone of Farm Aid' s press operation

Every year before the show starts, Farm Aid hosts a press event to remind us all why we all are gathered here for family farmers. On average, over 250 credentialed press will be there to help spread the message. Many people contribute to make the event a success. Staff members write press release to send out. The Founders--Willie, Neil and John--are there to talk about the organization's mission. Many of the other artists who have volunteered their time come to learn more about what we can all do to make things better. Local politicians attend to show their support. Family farmers speak eloquently about their lives.

But the real backbone of the operation that makes it a success? The Packet Stuffing Squad! Every member of the media who attends is given a packet of information to put the important details at their fingertips. The history of Farm Aid. Fact sheets and menus about the food in Homegrown Village. A Farm Aid activities report. Profiles of local farmers who will be spotlighted. A map of the venue. And tons more fascinating information, much of which won't be finalized and printed until the night before. This year 400 press kits are being assembled. That takes a whole lot of muscle to get ready.

I've been part of this process for years. It is hectic even when everything goes perfectly. And I don't think I've ever seen it go perfectly. Last year I got to do the photo copying of the materials. There was a copier in the trailer at the venue but it did not appreciate being asked to provide thousands of duplexed documents. I've worked with a lot of copiers in my time and gamely dove in to fixing the first few jams. There are always a few problems, right? Then it jammed some more. And then some more. And then even more. Eventually it got to a point where it would produce 6 copies and then jam. And jamming in the deep, burn-my-arm-trying-to-unjam-it regions. Each scorching made me a little less patient. I'm not proud to say that I eventually tried to "fix" it with a big heavy pipe I found outside the trailer. That's when it was politely suggested that maybe someone else could work the copier and I could do some collation. It seemed best.

But in the end we got the packages finished in time for the big event. And every year, the Packet Stuffing Squad gets the job done. Here is a look at this year's team in action. I'm happy to report that the copier this year seems to have spoken with last years model and has been spitting out Artist Bios and more like a champ!

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