Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Day In The Life of Your FarmYard Membership Kit: A Photo Essay by Erin

With our waves of ticket sales going on, we definitely have been busy around here. We are, as of today, pretty much completely sold out for tickets — that’s all 19,900 seats and patches of lawn at the Comcast Center. Whew.

If you missed your chance, and you still really want tickets, we are having a contest and the grand prize is four front row seats. Enter a description of your farmer hero — this can be anyone you know who makes a living or a hobby from growing or raising things — and you will be entered to win. No guarantees there, obviously, but it is a chance.

With last year’s merchandise recently going on sale, and the recent ticket sales, we have received an influx of merchandise orders and new FarmYard members. As our merchandise queen, Anna is fabulous at getting orders out, but we've all gotten a little backed up with the new FarmYard memberships. When you join the FarmYard, you get a letter with a membership card, a tote bag, and a bookmark. I know some of you are sitting at home eagerly anticipating your membership packages; I've taken some pictures so you can see what it's like as we put them together.

These are stacks of letters and tote bags waiting to be packed.

My hands with one of Anna’s membership letters and bookmark, folding
the letter for the envelope.

We also need to fold the tote bags before we can pack them.

We put the letter and a tote bag into the envelope...

Seal it...


And throw it in a box for the mailpeople. We’ve put out ten of these boxes in the last two days, so if you’re waiting for anything, please be patient and I promise it will get to you soon.

Jen talks about knowing the story behind the food we eat

Nicholas Kristof has an op-ed in the New York Times today about the increasing opposition to factory farms. Kristof reflects on his farm upbringing, including the not-so-pleasant task of snatching the geese one by one for slaughter. He concludes the op-ed with a lovely thought about every piece of food having its story… but he fails to make the connection that as eaters we can control that story. We can choose to eat food that has come from a factory farm, knowing the story of that burger was that it was an animal that was cruelly treated, confined and kept from its natural habitat, habits, and diet. Or you can choose to eat a burger from a local farmer, a farmer you know and trust, a farmer who raises his or her animals in a way that jibes with your own beliefs about the way food ought to be raised. It's true that every food item has a story. The point is we can choose to know that story or not. And we can change the way our food is raised and grown by knowing its story and only eating the food that has the story we want.

This translates into every piece of food we eat, not just animal products. Recently, tomatoes and jalapeno peppers have been in the news for possible salmonella contamination. First it was tomatoes, now we're finding out it was really jalapenos, not tomatoes. Who can remember now which jalapenos? Were they from Mexico or California? How do I know which are which? And I see lots of peppers at the grocery store… how do I know those aren't contaminated? How does anyone know if they're contaminated – who is looking out for us? Never mind the immediate health threat issue… How do I know how the peppers were grown? Who grew them? What chemicals may have been applied to them and how might those chemicals affect me?

One way to answer all these questions is to get to know a local farmer, on their farm or at a farmers market. This time of year, in the mid-summer heat, peppers are everywhere! You can buy them directly from the person who grew them. The farmer can tell you when they were harvested, what kind of soil they grew in, what kind of chemicals, if any, were put on them. Based on this information, you can eat that pepper with confidence… because you know its story.

This confidence is a great benefit of knowing the story of your food. But you know what? There's pleasure in knowing the story too. There's joy in talking to the farmer, learning about the growing process, in sharing that information with the people you share food with. Think about it… food is such a huge part of our lives… it's what keeps us going throughout the day, it's what brings us together with our loved ones and friends, it's how we relax and enjoy our lives. Why leave that to chance?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Anna Says: Here Comes Kenny!!!

Every Farm Aid staffer has a performer they’re dying to have in the Farm Aid line-up—to catch a glimpse of up close. This year, I get my wish!

There was a buzz around the office last week that a major country act was in the works, and now it’s true! Kenny Chesney is playing at Farm Aid 2008!!!

I remember driving my anti-country music college roommate crazy with “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” She was a city girl and just didn’t get it—in my small New Hampshire hometown, tractors are sexy! More than once we drove from field to field trying to find our crushes and the tractors they were on. I remember the day I returned to the dorm from class to find my roommate singing “She's even kind of crazy 'bout my farmer's tan . . . She thinks my tractor’s sexy, it really turns her on.” That closet country fan was busted! I know there’ll be some sexy tractors at Farm Aid this year.

I’m pretty sure he wrote “She Comes from Boston” about one of my best friends who took a year off from ‘education and occupation’ to work of the small island of Vieques. And no matter how hard ‘she tried to explain to them,’ her family never got it.

My first Kenny Chesney show was in Foxboro, MA, in 1999. I remember seeing him in Manchester, NH, where my friend broke her toe as we climbed over seats! (Not recommended.) I took my younger sister to her first country concert--Kenny of course-- at the very same venue Farm Aid will be at this year in Mansfield, MA!! And I just saw him again in Foxboro Saturday night!!!

Here I am very excited before going into the stadium. The show was amazing & he wore a Red Sox shirt! He sang a variety of new and old songs including one of my favorites: “Back Where I Come From.” I admit it, there are times I ‘miscount all the beers I drank.’

The majority of the crowd was on there feet the whole time. But when he brought out a group of Boston sports greats like Teddy Bruschi and Jacoby Ellsbury, EVERYONE was standing up! As a huge Kenny Chesney & Red Sox fan- what could be better!?!? Here’s a picture of Red Sox players Sean Casey and Tim Wakefield helping out Kenny (Ellsbury is there too but you can’t see him at this angle)!

This year will be my first Farm Aid. It is Kenny’s second! He performed at our 20th anniversary show in Chicago in 2005. And now he’s donating his time again to help out family farmers and spread the love of good food!

My job for Farm Aid 2008 is Volunteer Coordinator. Some of our volunteers have been with us for 23 years—I’m sure they’ll be fine if I sneak away for 23 minutes or so to enjoy Kenny’s performance! I’ll be turning off my radio and sneaking as close to the stage as I can!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Willie Meets with Missouri Farmers

As always, Willie’s on the road again, touring nonstop. Before his gig in Columbia, Missouri, on Tuesday, he met with members of Farm Aid-funded group Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC).

MRCC has been working on farm issues as long as Farm Aid has been around. Farm Aid concert-goers know MRCC as the folks who come to our show every year to sell their delicious family-farm pork (seriously, if you miss out on one of these sandwiches at this year’s show, you’ll regret it!). Neil Young fans know them as the designers of the famous Stop Factory Farms t-shirt. Those two points sum up the diversity of a group that is made up of farmers who have created their own brand of sustainable, family-farm pork, Patchwork Family Farms, while simultaneously preventing factory farms from taking over Missouri and, most recently, making sure dairy farmers there can label their milk as hormone free.

Rhonda Perry (pictured speaking with Willie here) and other MRCC farmers updated Willie on all they’ve been able to accomplish with Farm Aid’s help and how things are going on Missouri farms since the recent flooding. Farm Aid this week approved a $7,500 grant to MRCC, which the group will distribute to local farmers hurt by the floods. For his part, Willie tells us that he loves the opportunity to sit down with farmers on the bus to hear about their good work. After the talking's done, the farmers get to hear Willie’s good work on guitar and vocals. We staff members back in the office are humbled by the man who has made family farmers one of his priorities in a life that consists of so many good works and night after night of music.

To read about Willie’s visit with Missouri farmers in the Columbia Daily Tribune, click here.

Photo credit: Don Shrubshell from the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Erin shows us a wineberry bush

This past weekend, I was home visiting my family in Mansfield, CT, and I was lucky enough to be there when our wineberry bush was starting to come into season.

Nobody ever seems to have heard of wineberries, and I really don’t understand why. They are one of my favorite foods. They’re smaller, tarter, and a brighter red than raspberries, and waxy on the outside.

My father is not exactly a farmer. He planted these years ago when he took a clipping from another bush and buried it near the corner of our vegetable garden. Today, the untended and overgrown bush crowds over almost half of the garden, and we just try to get to the berries before the birds do. Last night, I spent almost an hour climbing around the bush and ducking under the thorns. By the end of it, I had an almost-filled half-pint container of small, shiny, red berries and scratches on my arms and legs to show for it.

I think they can be made into wine, which is where the name comes from, and I believe they’d be good in jam or pies, also, but I don’t have the patience to pick that many and save all of them; I eat them raw and fresh off the stalk. Also, according to the Practically Edible website they are actually native to Asia.

Readers, please, look at these pictures, and if you ever have the chance to taste a wineberry, take it! Have you had them before? Are there any obscure plants in your backyard you think the world needs to know about?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Erin goes to the Concert Announcement

One week ago we all went to Copley Square to hold a press conference announcing our concert location -- if you haven’t already heard, the concert will be on September 20th at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA.

The press conference, from what I can tell, went smoothly. My prior experience with press conferences is fairly limited to being on the “other side” at basketball games, and seeing coaches and players come out to be interviewed, so this was different for me, but it was fun.

We were in Copley Square partially because of the farmers market that happens there every Tuesday and Friday for the summer and most of the fall. I love this farmers market. I actually live sort of nearby, so I do a lot of shopping here, and there is a wide range of food, from fresh fruits, vegetables, and berries to breads and pies to potted herbs to goat cheese to fair trade coffee. (To be honest, I actually got to the farmers market a little early to do some shopping!)

Tuesday was a gorgeous day, though a bit warm at about 80 degrees. The farmers’ stands had canopies, and throughout the day, they were spritzing their produce with water to keep it fresh. We slathered on the sunscreen (Cornelia even had a parasol) and set up tables to check people in (and serve delicious cranberry-lavender lemonade from the herb stand at the market)

Of course John Mellencamp spoke eloquently about the importance of farms. There is a great picture in today’s Boston Globe of he and his wife with some sunflowers from one of the farmers at the market, Chris Kurth of Siena Farms. Carolyn led the conference, and we also had remarks from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Massachusetts Secretary of the Executive Office of Human Affairs Ian Bowles, and Margaret Williams, the director of the Food Project, who made an awesome quip about having the same hairdresser as John. Representing the farmers was Casey of Old Friends Farm in Amherst, MA.

It was great to see the crowd at the farmers market, and we were in a visible enough place, with John’s CD (which came out the day before!) blaring over the loudspeakers. We had many passersby coming up just to ask what was going on, but many continued by asking for our website URL or how they could join the FarmYard. Everyone seemed excited by the speakers and like they really believed in the cause.

Tickets went on pre-sale to FarmYard members the morning after the announcement, and for a while we were busy troubleshooting the website and answering phones for customers. The tickets sold quickly throughout the day – we have some devoted fans and farm supporters! Tickets to the general public will go on sale July 28 via Ticketmaster.

Below are some photos Farm Aid took at the event.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

First Farm Aid Concert in New England

Today at 1:30 John Mellencamp will make the official announcement alongside farmers and food buyers at the Copley Square Farmers Market. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick will welcome Farm Aid co-founder John Mellencamp to New England as he announces Farm Aid 2008 Presented by Whole Foods Market and Horizon Organic will take place on Sept. 20 at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Mass., marking the first time the organization will bring its annual benefit concert to the region.

This year's concert will feature Farm Aid Board Members Willie Nelson,John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Dave Matthews, plus other top artists to be announced. The annual benefit concert will celebrate music and good food, featuring hands-on activities in the HOMEGROWN Village that will showcase the direct connection between who is growing our food and what we eat every day.

Farm Aid will offer special advance sale tickets to its FarmYard members. To become a member of Farm Aid’s FarmYard, visit www.farmaid.org.

Tickets for Farm Aid 2008 Presented by Whole Foods Market and Horizon Organic will go on sale July 28 at 10 a.m. EDT and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling (866) 448-7849.

Check out the story in the Boston Globe today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Introducing Erin the Intern

Hello, Farm Aid blog readers!

This is Erin, Farm Aid’s new intern for the summer and fall. I’m here on a “co-op” job from Northeastern University, where I just finished my third year as a journalism major. (That’s “middler year” to all you non-NU people; we are a five-year school, so I am actually going into my junior year).

My first day at the office was Monday, and I’ve been spending the week getting acclimated, and beginning some projects. We’re putting together the “media book” from last year’s concert in New York City. The media book is a compilation of all the press that Farm Aid generated around the concert. Farm Aid puts one of these together yearly, with each concert, and they serve as a great example of the level of press and attention that Farm Aid is able to generate!

Of course, the big news around here right now is that we are having a press conference on Tuesday with John Mellencamp to announce the location of the 2008 concert!

I think the office is awesome. I’m still learning the secret of unlocking one of the doors (but if I can’t get in, there’s a bell). I hear this is the most fully staffed Farm Aid’s been for a while so for the moment I have sort of a floating workspace. I’m using Anna’s desk right now while since she’s on vacation. Anna deals with a lot of the merchandise inventory and orders, and right now I’m sort of boxed in on two sides by boxes of t-shirts – neatly organized and labeled by size, of course. Speaking of t-shirts, I’ve just seen some designs for this year’s concert. From what I understand, at least one new shirt will be available for sale online the day of the press conference.

As my first week here comes to an end, I’m thinking that I’m very excited to be working here. Here are five unique things about the office at Farm Aid: (1) People can bring their dogs to work; (2) If you shout loud enough, pretty much anybody in any part of the office can hear you; (3) People prepare (even cook) their lunches here, just bringing bags of vegetables from a local farmers market; (4) Everyone seems to be on a first-name basis with “Willie”; and (5) Everyone seems to believe in their work, and that belief is also incorporated into their lives.

I think this blog is going to be sort of a weekly thing, but of course there are quite a few people posting on the this site, so keep checking back!