The Beginning, September 22, 1985 Champaign, Illinois
Farm Aid started as an idea at the Live Aid Concert when Bob Dylan said on stage, “Wouldn’t it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?” Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp agreed that family farmers were in dire need of assistance and decided to plan a concert for America. The show was put together in six weeks and was held on September 22, 1985 in Champaign, Illinois before a crowd of 80,000 people. It raised over $9 million for America’s family farmers. Performers included Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and many more.
July 4, 1986 Austin, Texas
In early 1986, Farm Aid issued an invitation to all leading farm organizations to come to a planning meeting for a national farm conference. The result was the United Farmer and Rancher Congress (UFRC), in September, 1986. Farmers and ranchers came by plane, bus, train and car from nearly every rural area in the United States to be in St. Louis, Missouri for three days. They represented rural America in crisis and they came searching for solutions to the problems they were facing. The UFRC provided an educational forum and a unifying experience. Many participants left infused with renewed hope and spirit in spite of the continuing struggle. Farmers and ranchers carried forward the ideas discussed in St. Louis and organized follow-up county and state meetings to share what they had learned. Farm Aid II was held on July 4, 1986 in Austin, Texas. It was shown live on VH-1 and millions of viewers tuned in to watch performances by Alabama, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Beach Boys and more.
September 19, 1987 Lincoln, Nebraska
Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp went with a group of family farmers to testify in front of the United States Congress about the state of family farming in America. As a result of the efforts of Farm Aid and family farm leaders, Congress passed the Agricultural Credit Act which said that the Farmer’s Home Administration (FmHA) could not foreclose on any family farmer unless the FmHA would make more money through foreclosure that they would by investing in making the farm profitable. This was a major step toward fair treatment of family farmers. Farm Aid III was held in Lincoln, Nebraska on September 19, 1987. Performers included Steppenwolf, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett and John Denver, and even the Grateful Dead performed live via satellite feed.
1989…Farm Aid On the Road
In 1989, Farm Aid President Willie Nelson took Farm Aid on the road for 16 of his own show dates, holding press conferences at each site to bring attention to the ongoing farm crisis, local farm issues, and future farm policy. Spotlighting area farmers and their struggles, he invited the media to meet with local farmers and discuss the issues facing them, drawing support for local Farm Aid-funded organizations. Farmers from New York to Oregon met with Willie and the media to assert that the farm crisis was not over, and that the effects were still being felt across rural America.
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
April 7, 1990 Indianapolis, Indiana
Selling out in 90 minutes, Farm Aid’s fourth concert in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 7 brought 70 artists together with farmers, environmental and consumer advocates. A new message emerged from that effort: the well-being of our land, food and water supply depends on a network of family farmers who care about how our food is grown. The concert was televised live on The Nashville Network, and a two-hour highlight was re-broadcast to ten million viewers on CBS. The powerhouse musical line-up included Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Don Henley, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Garth Brooks.
Farm Aid responded quickly with financial and media support for dairy farmers who suffered a devastating drop in prices. Dairy farmers organized around the country in an effort to survive. Farm Aid joined Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in a consumer campaign to help save family farms. It was Farm Aid’s first full year of publishing its newsletter, the Farm Aid Update, for donors and friends.
March 14, 1992 Irving, Texas
“Economic Recovery starts in the Heartland with Family Farmers” was Farm Aid’s theme for 1992. Farmers Home Administration sent out 40,000 foreclosure notices to troubled farms. The impact of the loss of these farms on rural communities was devastating. Every five farms that closed down took one small business with them. Small towns across America were being boarded up. Schools, hospitals and farm houses were left empty. Willie Nelson and Farm Aid helped to bring this to the attention of the new Clinton Administration. Farm Aid joined family farm organizations in expressing hope for greater access to this administration in order to change federal policies to support family farming. Farm Aid also staged its fifth concert on March 14, 1992, at the Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas at the invitation of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. A crowd of almost 40,000 heard over fifty acts perform, including Paul Simon, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, the Highwaymen, Lorrie Morgan and Ricky Van Shelton.
Neil Young 1992 – Paul Natkin
April 24, 1993 Ames, Iowa
All of America watched as the Flood of ’93 left thousands of Midwest families homeless. Heavy rains caused the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to rise up and overflow their banks, swallowing entire towns along the way. Eight million acres of crops were destroyed and 20 million acres were damaged. With their backs already against the wall due to heavy debt and low farm prices, Midwest family farmers had few resources left to deal with the effects of the flooding. In response to the flood, Farm Aid created the Family Farm Disaster Fund to support organizations that worked directly with farm families stricken by the flood. When farmers needed help to avoid foreclosure due to losses from the flood, Farm Aid-funded groups were there to help them save their farms. Farm Aid VI, held in Ames, Iowa on April 24, featured performances by Bruce Hornsby, Bryan Adams, Ringo Starr, Marty Stuart, Martina McBride, the Highwaymen, and Dwight Yoakam.
September 18, 1994 New Orleans, Louisiana
During 1994, our country lost over 500 farms a week. Because of the urgent situation on thousands of farms, Farm Aid continued to fund a network of support for family farmers in financial distress. Attention was brought to the plight of farm families through the publicity surrounding the case of the Krikava family. Ernest Krikava, a 60-year-old Nebraska farmer, was sentenced to prison for illegally selling his hogs during his farm’s bankruptcy proceedings. The family had acted out of desperation. They had no food for themselves, their hogs were starving and the bank refused to release funds to operate the farm. Ernest Krikava was later pardoned by President Clinton, due in part to the advocacy work of Willie Nelson and Farm Aid. Ernest’s son Kevin was Willie’s guest at Farm Aid VII which was held in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 18. Performers included the Neville Brothers, Spin Doctors, Gin Blossoms, John Conlee and Kris Kristofferson.
October 1, 1995 Louisville, Kentucky
In 1995 the farm crisis continued to force more than 500 farmers off their land every week. Farm Aid hosted a national town hall meeting where family farm leaders urged President Clinton to veto any farm bill that would force family farmers from their land. After the meeting, Clinton responded in writing, saying: “Our nation’s agricultural success comes from the hardworking men and women who till the fields and grow our food, and they deserve our respect, gratitude and support.” In addition to the meeting, Farm Aid’s 10th Anniversary show in Louisville, Kentucky drew 47,000 supporters to a sold out concert and raised over $1 million. Top artists Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band, BlackHawk, John Conlee, Supersuckers, and Steve Earle rocked with Farm Aid founders Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young in Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium on October 1. TNN broadcast the 10th Anniversary show on Monday, October 2.
October 12, 1996 Columbia, South Carolina
A string of natural disasters in 1996, including a drought in the Great Plains and Hurricane Bertha in the Carolinas dealt substantial blows to family farm income and made it harder than ever for farmers to make a living from their land. Farm Aid coordinated a farmer to farmer haylift in which farmers from the Carolinas sent hay out to drought stricken farmers in Texas and Oklahoma. Farm Aid ’96 was held in Columbia, South Carolina. As Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson stated at the news conference, “We are proud to hold Farm Aid ’96 in Columbia, South Carolina, a region with a rich agricultural tradition and hard working men and women who struggle every day to make a living on the land. We hope this concert will remind the nation that we need to change the way we think about the food we eat and the people who grow it. It’s important that we have someone there growing the food who cares for the land.” The concert took place on October 12 and included Columbia’s own Hootie and the Blowfish, the Beach Boys, Martina McBride, Grand Old Opry star John Conlee, and Jewel. Once again, TNN: The Nashville Network, televised the show.
October 4, 1997 Tinley Park, Illinois
Farm families across the country struggled in 1997 as weather related disasters including blizzards, floods and late frosts struck with a vengeance. Farm Aid’s task was to mobilize support for farmers and ranchers that were struggling to feed their livestock. This year also included a rally led by Farm Aid President Willie Nelson on March 20 in Des Moines, Iowa, that drew hundreds of farmers to the door step of the National Pork Producers Council delivering the message “Family Farms – Yes, Factory Farms – No”. Farm Aid ’97, originally scheduled for Irving, Texas, was moved to The New World Music Theater in Tinley Park, Illinois for a sold out show. The concert took place on October 4 and performers included Dave Matthews Band, John Fogerty, Beck, and The Allman Brothers Band. The concert marked Farm Aid’s return to Illinois where the first concert had been held in 1985. TNN carried the concert live.
October 3, 1998 Tinley Park, Illinois
Farm Aid worked to shine a spotlight on the worst farm crisis since Farm Aid’s 1985 birth. Ice storms in the Northeast and drought in Oklahoma and Texas contributed to farm family troubles and Farm Aid pitched in with emergency help for family farmers in need. Farm Aid contributed to the efforts of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment in their fight to end factory farm production of hogs and to achieve equitable pricing for their production. Willie Nelson stated “In rural America, the farm economy is the economy. If we don’t pay attention right now to what’s happening to farmers, we’re not just going to lose them, we’ll lose the thousands of schools, businesses, and churches that depend on family farming for their survival.” To fight the crisis, top artists including Phish, Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band, and Wilco returned to Tinley Park, Illinois for Farm Aid ’98 on October 3, 1998. Best Buy presented the show and it was carried live for the first time on CMT: Country Music Television.
September 12, 1999 Bristow, Virginia
In 1999, Farm Aid ventured into the Washington D.C. area for the first time. The concert energized farmers and advocates and became a rallying point for a flurry of events. Hundreds of farmers came to Washington bearing an urgent message for legislators: “Act now to stop the destruction of family farms!” Their primary target was the “Freedom to Farm” bill that had been in place since 1996. This bill had resulted in record profits for multinational grain traders and big food manufacturing companies while leaving family farmers bankrupt. The Farm Aid events inspired farmers to keep on fighting for fair prices and educated the public about important farm issues. The concert aired live on CMT: Country Music Television for the second time. The stellar lineup included Susan Tedeschi, Keb’Mo’, Deana Carter, the Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews Band, John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and others. The music was so good that it went on for an extra half hour!
September 17, 2000 Bristow, Virginia
After a successful show at the Nissan Pavilion in 1999, Farm Aid brought its 15th Anniversary show to an enthusiastic audience in Virginia in 2000. Farm Aid 2000 was blessed with a sunny day and a lineup which included Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, Arlo Guthrie, Sawyer Brown, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, the Barenaked Ladies and even Tipper Gore on drums with Willie Nelson and Family! The day began with a forum that included farmers and presidential candidates. Before the concert, Willie Nelson issued a Letter to America urging voters and candidates to remember family farmers on election day. During the concert on CMT: Country Music Television, we aired a piece about the dangers of synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH. As always, Farm Aid used the concert as not only entertainment, but also as an opportunity to educate people about important food and farm issues that affect us all.
September 29, 2001 Noblesville, Indiana
When asked about Farm Aid returning to Indiana, John Mellencamp, an Indiana native, said “I’m proud to bring Farm Aid back to Indiana, America’s heartland. The enthusiasm and support for farmers in this part of the country is what inspires us all to keep working to protect rural America and all of the farms, families, and small businesses that make this country thrive.” Taking place just 18 days after September 11, this was a special Farm Aid concert, renamed “A Concert for America.” Farm Aid 2001 offered Americans a chance to focus on family farmers as one of the true cornerstones of our national strength. Keeping farmers on the land protects a diversified, local system of food production that benefits all Americans, especially in times of adversity. To help those affected by the September 11 tragedy, Farm Aid publicized a special fund to rebuild farmers markets destroyed in the World Trade Center attack.
September 21, 2002 Burgettstown, Pennsylvania
Tickets for the 2002 concert sold out within 48 hours of going on sale. The Pennsylvania show marked the first time that a Farm Aid concert was held in the Northeast. The state is known for its strong family farmer tradition and its commitment to sustainable agriculture. Farm Aid worked with local organizations, farmers, and citizens, to highlight some of the critical issues facing Pennsylvania family farmers. On the eve of the 2002 concert, Farm Aid hosted a public forum in Pittsburgh, which brought together over 400 family farmers and regional residents.
September 7, 2003 Columbus, Ohio
Tickets to Farm Aid’s 16th concert sold out in two weeks. The stellar lineup included Farm Aid veterans and first time artists. In addition to Willie, John, Dave, and Neil, joined by Crazy Horse, Emmylou Harris performed – her first time back since a three year stint at Farm Aids I, II, and III. Hootie & the Blowfish, Los Lonely Boys also returned this year. Newcomers included Sheryl Crow, Brooks & Dunn, Trick Pony, Billy Bob Thornton and Daniel Lanois. The concert’s title sponsor was Silk Soymilk, whose parent company White Wave buys soybeans from family farmers who use sustainable practices. Farm Aid offered the crowd the opportunity to buy family farmed food from Patchwork Family Farms and Organic Valley. Chipotle also sold burritos with family farm pork from Niman Ranch.
September 18, 2004 Seattle, Washington
The White River Amphitheater on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation south of Seattle hosted Farm Aid 2004 Presented by Silk Soymilk. Even though theconcert was held in one of the farthest corners of the United States, people pilgrimaged to the show from at least 33 states and Canada. Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews invited Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Jerry Lee Lewis, Trick Pony, bluesman Tony Coleman, Blue Merle, Canadian twins Tegan and Sara, Kate Voegle and Kitty Jerry to play on the Farm Aid stage. Farm Aid hosted activities in Seattle’s Pike Place Market for 10 days leading up to the concert to celebrate family farm produced food. The main focus was on Farm Aid’s Ten Ways Campaign, a public information effort aimed at helping people understand the important link between family farmers and fresh, high quality food.
September 18, 2005 Tinley Park, Illinois
Farm Aid returned to Tinley Park, Illinois for the third time on September 18. A press event launched the day, before 28,000 fans filled the amphitheatre. At the press event Farm Aid recounted 20 years of solid work and announced the release of Farm Aid: A Song for America. The book chronicles 20 years of the Farm Aid music that galvanized the grassroots movement for family farms and good food. Farmers and advocates also tallied Farm Aid’s accomplishments, from direct aid to farmers in trouble, to fighting factory farms to building up the good food movement. Concert-goers brought donations of food for Katrina victims. The music on the Farm Aid stage rolled and rocked all day and a happy crowd broke all records purchasing Farm Aid merchandise. The concert concluded a full week of activities from Champaign to Chicago, with farm visits, music and chefs at Chicago’s farmers markets, films at the Cultural Center, a tractor parade leading to the County Fair at the Garfield Conservatory, and over 20 restaurants offering their guests a “family farm” menu item.
September 30, 2006 Camden, New Jersey
Artists performing at Farm Aid 2006 Presented by Silk Soymilk urged the sold-out crowd to buy family farm foods and to support Farm Aid. Farm Aid leads a growing movement that is helping more people gain access to good food. Farm Aid kicked off its annual benefit concert with a press event that featured pioneers in the good food movement. Young farmers and food activists, and a school lunch lady taking on public school food policy, shared a new agriculture vision focused on family farms and sustainable practices being led by today’s young people. Farm Aid launched its 2006 concert celebration with events across greater Philadelphia and Camden, NJ that focused on family farm foods. Activities introduced area residents to their local farmers; taught students about the importance of fresh, family farm foods; and gleaned farm vegetables for those in need locally.
September 9, 2007 New York City, New York
Farm Aid 2007: A HOMEGROWN Festival was held at Randall’s Island in New York City on September 9, 2007. A crowd of more than 26,000 enjoyed performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Other artists included Gregg Allman, The Allman Brothers Band, Matisyahu, Counting Crows, Guster, The Derek Trucks Band, Warren Haynes, Billy Joe Shaver, Montgomery Gentry, Supersuckers, Pauline Reese, Danielle Evin, The Ditty Bops, Jimmy Sturr, Paula Nelson, 40 Points, and Jesse Lenat. This concert was the first major music event to serve local, organic and family-farm foods at our concessions and backstage. The concessions ingredients were local, organic and/or sourced from family farms. Concert-goers also enjoyed Farm Aid’s first HOMEGROWN Village, which offered hands-on interactive experiences with family farmers and sustainable family-farm practices.
September 20, 2008 Mansfield, Massachusetts
Farm Aid 2008 Presented by Whole Foods Market and Horizon Organic was held at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts on September 20, 2008. Nearly 20,000 fans in the crowd enjoyed performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Other artists that played included Kenny Chesney, The Pretenders, moe., Arlo Guthrie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Steve Earle, Nation Beat, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Jakob Dylan and The Gold Mountain Rebels, Danielle Evin, Jamey Johnson, Jesse Lenat, Will Dailey, One Flew South, and The Elms. Once again, local, organic and/or sourced from family farm food was served all around the Comcast Center. The HOMEGROWN Village featured many hands-on interactive demonstrations highlighting the best of family farmers and sustainable family-farm practices.
Willie Nelson, Farm Aid 2009, St. Louis, MO.
October 4, 2009 St. Louis, Missouri
Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic was held at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 4, 2009. A crowd of more than 20,000 enjoyed performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Other artists included Wilco, Jason Mraz, Jamey Johnson, Gretchen Wilson, Phosphorescent, Billy Joe Shaver, Will Dailey, Ernie Isley and the Jam Band, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, The Blackwood Quartet, and Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses. For the third year running, local, organic and family farm food was served at concession stands and backstage, including fresh fruit from local Missouri farms, farm-raised pork from a Missouri family farm co-op, caramel apples, homemade pizzas, apple cider and other delicious items. The HOMEGROWN Village featured many hands-on interactive demonstrations highlighting the best of family farmers and sustainable family-farm practices, including small-scale poultry processing, beekeeping, composting and more.
October 2,2010 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America was held at Miller Park inMilwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 2, 2010. A crowd of 35,000 enjoyed performances by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Other artists included Jason Mraz,Jamey Johnson, Norah Jones, Jeff Tweedy, Kenny Chesney, Band of Horses, Robert Francis, Amos Lee, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Randy Rogers Band, The Blackwood Quartet, and BoDeans. All of the artists donated their time and travel expenses. The concert was hosted by renowned PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon. Farm Aid 25 featured HOMEGROWN Concessions and catering using local, organic and family farm food ingredients, including fresh fruit from local Wisconsin farms, all-natural ham steaks from a Missouri family farm co-op, family farm sausages and brats, organic pizzas and other delicious items. The HOMEGROWN Village (our largest yet!) featured many hands-on interactive demonstrations highlighting the best of family farmers and sustainable family-farm practices, including seed saving, urban agriculture, aquaculture, composting and more.
August 13, 2011 Kansas City, Kansas
August 13, 2011 Kansas City, Kansas
Farm Aid 2011 was held at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on August 13. A crowd of more than 15,000 enjoyed performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Additional artists included Jason Mraz, Jamey Johnson, Jakob Dylan, Robert Francis, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Will Dailey and the Rivals, Rebecca Pidgeon, John Trudell, Billy Joe Shaver, The Blackwood Quartet and Ray Price. Our HOMEGROWN Concessions served local, organic and family-farm foods to concertgoers and backstage, including local, grass-fed beef on buns made from organic Kansas wheat, all-natural ham steaks from a Missouri family farm co-op, organic corndogs and other delicious items. Farm Aid 2011 featured a farmers market coordinated by GrowNYC Youth Market, involving local Kansas City youth and farmers. We built our largest HOMEGROWN Village, where over 30 food and farm groups offered concert-goers hands-on interactive experiences with soil, water, food, renewable energy and family farmers.