Following last September’s Farm Aid benefit concert, festival organizers had some of the legendary performers including Jack White and Willie Nelson autograph a Gibson guitar. Now you can have it for a mere $8,500 via the memorabilia site If Only.
The Les Paul 50?s Tribute Vintage Sunburst guitar was also signed by Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and Gary Clark Jr. The description for the guitar refers to it as “an incredible rock ‘n’ roll keepsake from one of the biggest music events of the year.”
Since 1985, Farm Aid, with the help of its contributing artists, has raised over $45 million “to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.”
We’re thrilled to announce that Farm Aid’s 30th anniversary concert will take place on September 19! We’ll fill you in on the rest of the details, like the concert location and lineup, as soon as possible.
“The first Farm Aid concert featured more than 50 artists on one stage. In the 29 years since, hundreds more artists have given their time and talent to support family farmers. This year, we would like to invite even more artists to join us onstage as we celebrate family farm agriculture.” –– Willie Nelson
“The legacy of Farm Aid is twofold: in the change we’ve made in our farm and food system, and in the rich musical record of concerts held since 1985. The list of artists who have played on the Farm Aid stage is a who’s who of the best artists of our time.” –– John Mellencamp
John and Willie made the announcement last night while representing Farm Aid at the 17th annual GRAMMY Foundation Legacy Concert, where our organization was honored for its ability to harness the power of music for social change as the longest running concert for a cause.
Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid V plays to about 40,000 fans in Irving, Texas, with Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Joe Walsh, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lorrie Morgan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ricky Van Shelton, The Kentucky HeadHunters, Hal Ketchum and Paul Simon.
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.
Asleep At The Wheel
Ricky Van Shelton
On Saturday, a cast of Republican presidential hopefuls will take the stage at the first-ever Iowa Ag Summit.
The event—organized by Iowa native and Big Ag operator Bruce Rastetter—promises to be a conversation about modern agriculture, renewable fuels, biosciences, GMOs, grain and livestock markets, land conservation and federal subsidies. Over the course of the day, Rastetter will sit down on stage with Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and more.
Often, conversations like these become about “feeding the world,” a slogan that industrial agriculture uses to justify its existence.
But family farmers are adamant that the focus should be on feeding all of us, rather than feeding corporate interests. People, not profits, should come first.
The truth is, while the motivation to feed the world sounds noble, it’s often a front for corporate consolidation and power.
Industrial agriculture displaces the people who farm and steward the land. It produces cheap food that damages our health. It pollutes the soil and water. And it makes it harder and harder for small- and mid-sized farmers to access the credit, markets and fair prices they need to make an honest living. Yet, it’s these very farmers who show up in report after report as the ones who will actually feed the world, while also diminishing climate change and alleviating rural poverty.
In the 1980s, during the height of the farm crisis, as I toured the country on my bus, Honeysuckle Rose, I stopped in at diners and truck stops. I wanted to talk to the people who lived in the towns I was driving through. It was from these folks that I came to understand the challenges our family farmers and rural residents face—and to know what a tremendous resource they are to all of us.
For 30 years since, the group we started then, Farm Aid, has stood with family farmers as they’ve rallied against the forces of a corporate-controlled, industrial agriculture system.
Over three decades, we’ve listened to their heartache as corporations have squeezed their profits and pushed them from their land, and banks have refused them loans. We’ve acted, joining with farmers to protest bad policy, to stand up for a democratic food system, to make everyone aware of how important family farmers are to our food system. We’ve seen the resilience of family farmers firsthand.
It’s that resilience and innovation that fuels their farms and keeps them hopeful each year at planting time, in spite of all they’re up against.
These values are at the heart of the future of agriculture—a future that is guided by family farmers and supported by policies that promote access to land, credit and fair markets.
The good news for all of us is that right now, this family farm vision of agriculture is taking hold. Farmers like Craig Watts—a poultry farmer in North Carolina—are fighting back, telling corporations that their industrial way of farming isn’t working. Craig has a contract with Perdue Farms and has spoken out about the unjust conditions the corporation perpetuates on its farmers. In response, Perdue retaliated. Rather than cancel his contract, they’ve made his life difficult—taking actions to audit his farm, criticize his farm management and place him under a performance improvement plan, even though he has very often been named a “Top Producer.” Just last week, Craig filed a historic lawsuit against Perdue, suing for this retaliation and raising awareness about the inequities and unjust practices that are inherent in corporate farming contracts.
Farmers like Sarah Hoffmann and Jacqueline Smith—who run a sheep dairy in Missouri—are finding ways to partner with other farmers to create stronger business models. They found success selling their sheep milk to local restaurants and grocery stores, but demand soon outstripped supply. Around the same time, a number of area dairies who had recently transitioned to organic production suddenly had their contracts canceled. Sarah’s and Jacqueline’s business venture, Only Ewe, helped those farmers get started in sheep milk production, giving them a new income stream to keep their farms going.
Farmers like Phillip and Dorathy Barker—African-American farmers who fought to keep their land in the face of institutional discrimination—are providing mentorship and concrete skills to the next generation of farmers to get them back on the land with the tools they need to make a sustainable living. Operation Spring Plant, the nonprofit organization they started, also operates a food hub that aggregates and markets the produce of area farmers and co-ops to open new markets to rural farmers and improve their livelihoods.
These are just three examples that capture the strength of the family farm vision of agriculture. But examples exist everywhere you look. More people than ever are seeking out family farm food. Businesses sourcing from family farmers are searching for new farmers because demand exceeds supply. Entrepreneurs are creating new markets that connect eaters and farmers. Community organizations and passionate volunteers are bringing good food to neighborhoods that need it most. Together, all of these people are building communities centered on a family farm economy. They’re linking eaters and farmers, building relationships and nourishing bodies and souls. Their actions are transforming food and agriculture from the ground up.
On behalf of family farmers, I invite the attendees of the Iowa Ag Summit to examine what policies are needed to support a family farm vision of agriculture, and how each one of us can support that vision of agriculture.
Here are the questions I’d like to see come up onstage with the Republican presidential candidates in Iowa:
How can we stabilize rising production costs and uncertain market prices? How can we increase access to the credit that farmers need to plan for future growing seasons? How do we increase healthy competition in agriculture? How do we make sure corporate influence doesn’t have an outsized influence on agricultural policy? How do we give eaters more access to the good food they are demanding from family farmers? How do we ensure that farmers and farmworkers earn a living wage?
Even if those questions and topics don’t come up during the summit, it doesn’t mean they won’t be raised in another venue. Lucky for us, farmers, rural residents, activists and eaters will come together right down the road from Big Ag’s “2015 Iowa Ag Summit” to answer these questions. Our friends at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement have organized a Food and Ag Justice Summit to outline a vision of agriculture that is locally controlled and sustains the health of soil, water, communities and rural economies for future generations. Their rally and teach-in will feature farmers and activists speaking about a food and agriculture system that works for people. They’ll talk about ways each one of us—farmers and eaters—can be involved in making this vision a reality.
In recognition of this unique collection of live performances, Farm Aid received a preservation grant from the GRAMMY Foundation Grant Program, which supports efforts that advance the archiving and preservation of the music and recorded sound heritage of the Americas.
Farm Aid has partnered with Berklee College of Music to engage Berklee’s professional audio engineering faculty and state of the art studio facilities in the project while creating unique learning opportunities for students.
A unique collection of Farm Aid sound recordings and videotapes will be identified, surveyed, inventoried, and preserved. A system for the long-term care and continuous collection of archival materials will be established together with a means for sharing the collection with the public.
This project will result in an archive that preserves Farm Aid’s history and documents its unique place in American culture.
Featuring performances by nearly 400 artists since 1985, Farm Aid has a rich trove of musical archives that are culturally significant and artistically important.
This is a testament to the power of music to affect social change. It is crucial that these moments are preserved and maintained for the benefit of future generations.
In early February, Farm Aid was honored at the GRAMMY Foundation® Legacy Concert. As part of the celebration, this video highlighting Farm Aid’s history and work was played and Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp performed. The GRAMMY Foundation made a grant to Farm Aid to support our Music Preservation Project.
Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson perform a cover of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” at the Farm Aid concert in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 21, 2013. Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers. Dave Matthews joined Farm Aid’s board of directors in 2001.
For more information about Farm Aid, visit: http://farmaid.org/youtube
In the 1980s, family farmers faced a crisis the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the Great Depression. Plummeting farm product prices and land values, rising interest rates, troubled credit markets and unfair lending practices pushed tens of thousands of farms out of business, forcing millions of people off their land.
It was in this context that Willie Nelson, joined by John Mellencamp and Neil Young, organized a groundbreaking concert in 1985 to raise awareness and funds to help America’s family farmers, sparking a family farm movement that continues to this day. Dave Matthews joined the Board of Directors in 2001, adding another strong voice to Farm Aid’s work. This timeline features highlights from Farm Aid’s thirty years of action for family farmers and the Good Food Movement.