January 24, 2013

Make that...St. Patty's Day...maybe...? ("Ears" to the ground)

An update on Tom Rivers' forthcoming book, All Ears:
Printing delays have pushed our publication back to late February/early March. We apologize for the wait.

You can still pre-order the book, if you like (and thus fund the production costs, as they are incurred). Click on the Pre-Order All Ears button in the right-hand column of this page and select the pertinent buying option. (Email watertowertom{at}yahoo{dot}com for bulk pre-orders, 10+.)

In the meantime, Click Here for a preview of one of the columns featured in the book. This one is especially timely because "Flat Stanley, Part Deux: European Adventure" (not the exact title -- just Marsha trying to be funny) will be published in tomorrow's newspaper, The Daily News.


Previous post: “Don’t form a personal opinion and don’t get involved. The editors recommended a ‘just the facts’ focus for this cub reporter...”

Tom Rivers, photo by Gerry Szymanski
For his first few years on the job, local journalist Tom Rivers did his best to heed that advice. But living and working in a small town, it’s hard to stay out of the story. So when the editors offered him a bi-weekly column 10 years ago, Rivers jumped at the chance to share some his own ideas, adventures, and the occasional off-beat story that just didn’t fit the news-article form.

All Ears: A decade of listening and learning from small-town Western New Yorkers is a compilation of columns from the author of Farm Hands: Hard work and hard lessons from Western New York fields. Because he’s not just a journalist, he’s also a husband, dad, math whiz, sports fan, history buff and small-town citizen.

Pre-order your copy today (release date: mid-January early March 2013) and a full-color, printable gift certificate, featuring a sneak peek at the All Ears book cover, will be emailed to you, just in time for Christmas whichever holiday, birthday, or "just because" occasion you deem worthy.

Click on the Pre-Order All Ears button to your right and select the pertinent buying option. (Email watertowertom{at}yahoo{dot}com for bulk pre-orders, 10+.)

Merry Christmas  Everyday to all, and to all a Good Read!

December 20, 2012

Can't Wait? Pre-Order Tom Rivers' "All Ears" Today (gift certificates avail for Christmas)


“Don’t form a personal opinion and don’t get involved. The editors recommended a ‘just the facts’ focus for this cub reporter...”

Tom Rivers, photo by Gerry Szymanski
For his first few years on the job, local journalist Tom Rivers did his best to heed that advice. But living and working in a small town, it’s hard to stay out of the story. So when the editors offered him a bi-weekly column 10 years ago, Rivers jumped at the chance to share some his own ideas, adventures, and the occasional off-beat story that just didn’t fit the news-article form.

All Ears: A decade of listening and learning from small-town Western New Yorkers is a compilation of columns from the author of Farm Hands: Hard work and hard lessons from Western New York fields. Because he’s not just a journalist, he’s also a husband, dad, math whiz, sports fan, history buff and small-town citizen.

Pre-order your copy today (release date: mid-January 2013) and a full-color, printable gift certificate, featuring a sneak peek at the All Ears book cover, will be emailed to you, just in time for Christmas.

Click on the Pre-Order All Ears button to your right and select the pertinent buying option. (Email watertowertom{at}yahoo{dot}com for bulk pre-orders, 10+.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Read!

June 1, 2012

From Field to Fork via SUNY Geneseo

Farm Hands author Tom Rivers will be the keynote speaker at SUNY Geneseo's Ecologies of Food conference this fall. His talk will take place the afternoon of Sept. 8th. Rivers will share his perspective as an agricultural journalist who "got his hands dirty" by actually doing the work that brings food from field to fork. More details to come.


Ecologies of Food: Past, Present, Future, SUNY Geneseo (Geneseo, NY), September 7 and 8, 2012. This interdisciplinary conference will explore a broad range of topics including but not limited to:
  • Politics of international food aid
  • Organic farming
  • Migrant farm workers
  • Nutritional issues
  • Food deserts
  • Fair trade
  • Environmental impact of natural disasters
  • Corporate interventions
  • Global warming
  • Public policy
  • Genetic engineering
  • Toxic containments in the environment
  • National and international NGOs
  • Food sustainability
  • Hydrofracking and agriculture
For more information about the conference, contact:
Tracy Paradis
Jim Aimers
Cynthia Hawkins

April 24, 2012

Farm Hands is featured in a newly released book, Legendary Locals of Orleans County by Hollis Ricci-Canham and Andrew Canham (Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4671-0010-6). Among Orleans' notable citizens are George Pullman of railroad car fame, Santa Claus School founder Charlie Howard, and Disney artist Hank Porter, as well as a number of contemporary characters, including yours truly, Tom Rivers.

The real benefit to my mention is that farmworkers are recognized in my book. Without them, none of us survives or thrives. Their contributions to our community are truly legendary.

Legendary Locals ($21.99) can be purchased at Bindings Bookstore (28 W. Bank St., Albion) or your favorite local bookstore, or online at http://legendarylocals.com/.

April 10, 2012

'Farm Hands' still fresh - several more talks soon

Farm Hands remains a fruitful project. I haven’t blogged much of late, but I’ve been spending lots of time on the speaking tour, visiting local historical societies, college classes and other venues.

I have more gigs lined up, including a 7 p.m. book-signing and discussion about farmworkers tonight (April 10) at the Lift Bridge Bookstore in Brockport.

On Sunday (April 15) I will be visiting my home turf as part of the fifth annual “Pride of Chautauqua” event from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Chautauqua Suites Meeting & Expo Center in Mayville.

Then on Monday (April 16) I’m back to Brockport for a 7 p.m. discussion about farmworkers at The Newman Center, 101 Kenyon St. A local farmworker and the owners of a cabbage farm will be part of the discussion.

I’ve given the farmworker talk to something like 100 different groups the past three years. The topic isn’t stale to me, nor the audience. On March 31, I was the main speaker for the Western New York 2-Cylinder Club’s annual banquet. One of the members bought a copy of Farm Hands and sent me an email the next day:

I read the book this afternoon in one sitting and can't tell you how impressed I am with your project.  I grew up in California working with Mexicans in the apricot orchards, but that was nothing compared with your exhaustive labor in order to write.  Thank you for your insights into our local farm labor challenges.  The marathon was pretty good, too.  Appreciatively, Ken

January 24, 2012

Coming this spring...

...a crop of columns! The best of a decade's worth of ideas, insights, and off-the-beat stories from the author of Farm Hands. Watch for it around Eastertime.

December 5, 2011

College readers say 'Farm Hands' elicits 'surprisingly emotional' reaction and change of perspective

Genesee Community College in Batavia launched a new class this year, Western New York Agriculture (AGR 190). The college wants to make students aware of the job opportunities at local farms, from Cornell researchers, feed and chemical salesmen, environmental consultants, nutritionists, herdsmen, milkers and crop harvesters. There’s a long list of jobs. The college also wants students to better appreciate food production.

The new class read Farm Hands and welcomed me to GCC last week to talk about my experiences. I’m thrilled by their positive reaction to the book. They said it helped them better understand what they were looking at when they toured local dairy, fruit and vegetable farms. Some of the students even called the book inspirational. They admire the farmworkers for traveling so far as young men, and for working so hard while they are here.

The students wrote reaction papers to Farm Hands, specifically to the chapters on planting onions on the muck, milking cows and picking apples. The class instructor shared some of them with me. Here are some of their comments:

“Every American needs to read this book and then take them self to a local farm and try this work. Perhaps they will have a new understanding of where their food comes from and how it gets to their table. I suspect the anti-immigration rhetoric would cease quickly and more laws like H-2A would be implemented to aid farmers in finding their farm help instead of penalizing them. What a wonderful world we would have if everyone behaved like the workers and farmers in Tom’s book.”

“Farming is demanding physically, mentally and financially. You must be able to give farming everything you’ve got!”

“After reading Farm Hands I was surprisingly very emotional. Tom Rivers did an excellent job at conveying the reality of the term ‘farm’ and everything contained therein … Tom Rivers’ realness in expressing details allows me to empathize with each individual task. Personally, I’d never want to work on an onion farm, let alone spend any time in that filthy muck.”

“I believe there are not enough American workers locally to fill the farming jobs here and elsewhere in the country. The jobs are physically demanding and require teamwork and manual dexterity. The workers from the other countries are highly skilled, physically fit, and highly motivated. There are few American workers that can compete with them.”

“In the past I have gotten a little irritated when the price of milk would rise to over $4 per gallon. I now realize that it is worth every penny.”

“Overall I can say I was surprised at the relationship between farmer and worker. I had the impression that this relationship was little more than a legal master-slave relationship where the workers were exploited. Now I see it as a win/win dependent relationship. The farmers need the workers and the workers need the work to provide for their families.”