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Farm Press editors honored for service

Two Farm Press editors were recently recognized for more than a half century of service with the Clarksdale, Miss., company. Glen Rutz, managing editor for Southeast Farm Press, has 30 years of service and Ed Phillips, managing editor for Delta Farm Press, has 25 years.

“In corporate America today, it's unusual for employees to achieve this kind of longevity,” says publisher Mike Gonitzke. “Glen and Ed are valued members of our staff and their contributions have meant much to the success of our publications.”

Rutz, who came to Farm Press shortly after his return from military service in Vietnam, began as associate editor for Delta Farm Press. “His job was to turn in two on-farm features each week,” says Hembree Brandon, Farm Press editorial director.

“In his yellow VW Beetle, he covered just about every farm road in the five Mid-South states the publication covers, racking up more than 200,000 miles on the VW before the odometer stopped working. Later, he gave the car to his teenage son, who put a lot more miles on it. Glen turned out well over a thousand stories during those years and made many valuable contacts.”

He also served as assistant managing editor, filling in during vacations, illnesses, and travel. Then, after more than a decade in the field, he “came inside” as managing editor of Delta Farm Press. He held that post for several years, before switching to managing editor of Southwest Farm Press, and for the past several years has held his current post with Southeast Farm Press, which serves the 13-state area from Alabama to Maryland.

“We ‘stole’ Ed Phillips from the local daily newspaper,” Brandon says, “and he, too, started as an associate editor for Delta Farm Press, traveling the Mid-South territory, cranking out the requisite two features per week. On one trip, he returned to his motel room to find that the TV set had exploded, catching the room on fire and burning his clothes, camera equipment, etc. About the same time, an in-house editorial job opened up and Ed hung up his traveling shoes.”

Phillips served as managing editor of Delta Farm Press, then Southeast Farm Press, before returning to Delta Farm Press several years ago.

For both Rutz and Phillips, perhaps one of the most memorable events of their years at Farm Press was the Great Ice Storm of 1994, which wiped out the city's entire electrical system (and much of the north Mississippi power grid). Not a power pole was left standing and much of the city was without electricity for a month, while power crews from all over the South pitched in to rebuild the system.

Fortunately, Farm Press was able to secure an industrial-size diesel generator that powered the entire building, and every issue of the four editions was on time to the printer.

During their careers, Rutz and Phillips have been a part of major changes in publishing technology.

“When I came here, we had 15 people in the ‘back shop’ setting type, proofreading, and pasting up page layouts created by the managing editors,” Rutz recalls.

“In those days, weekly issues of Delta Farm Press could run 76 pages or more, and the other three Farm Press editions probably added another 250-plus pages. The paste-ups were trucked to the printer at St. Louis Tuesday evening, and the truck then took the printed copies back to the Memphis post office for Thursday night mailing. This quick turnaround gave us unequalled timeliness in the ag publishing field.”

Now, Phillips notes, “It's all done by computer — from writing the stories to laying out the pages to printing the issues, everything's digital. And Delta Farm Press is still the timeliest ag publication.”

Farm Press was a pioneer in all-digital, direct-to-plate printing, Brandon notes. “As best we could determine, the Farm Presses were the first tabloid publications in the nation to print direct-to-plate, with no intermediate paper or film processes. The computer files for each issue are sent electronically to the printing plant and press plates are produced directly from the digital files. Our production manager, Sandy Perry, her staff, and our managing editors have worked with Publishers Press at Shepherdsville, Ky., to stay on the cutting edge of printing technology.”

While Rutz' and Phillips' lengthy tenure may be unusual in today's business world, the Farm Press staff has a number of employees with 20 years or more of service.

“Our 13-person editorial staff has, collectively, more than 200 years service with Farm Press,” Brandon says. “That broad base of knowledge, experience, and industry contacts is invaluable in keeping our publications at the top in Sunbelt agriculture.”

The four Farm Press regional editions cover 33 states, from Maryland to California.

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