Archive for the ‘Farm Aid’ Category

Thursday, May 26th, 2016


Farm Aid Thirty Poster

Saturday, May 7th, 2016


$ 5.00

Celebrate Farm Aid 30 with this commemorative poster featuring the list of performers who donated their time and talents for our concert in Chicago, Illinois. We’ll ship it in a protective tube to keep it safe in transit.

Farm Aid Heroes: Guido Frosini, True Grass Farms

Saturday, May 7th, 2016


by Jessica Kurn

Guido Frosini, like other ranchers, prides himself on being a steward of the land. “We are first and foremost grass farmers,” he says.

But, grass farmer doesn’t tell the full story. Guido doesn’t plant this grass, he safeguards it, finding a fine balance of letting his cows graze and allowing his fields to sit fallow. This method gives perennial grasses and flowers, like native California bunchgrass, blue-eyed Mary and balsamroot, time to express themselves. In every square foot of soil, thousands of these perennial seeds sit dormant, waiting for the right conditions to come along so that they can grow—conditions that are thwarted by overgrazing.

Cows grazing on Guido Frosini's farm


Guido comes from a long line of farmers and ranchers tracing back to the 1860s. His land in Sonoma County, California was a commercial cow-calf operation in the 1970s, and prior to that it was a dairy and a sheep farm. When his great uncle died, his great aunt looked to the next generation for help. “I was one of the few nephews interested—the only nephew interested—so I came to help her out as a ranch hand,” Guido explains. Eventually he took over the business and has been running True Grass Farms for the past eight years.

Guido speaks with conviction about farming in a way that keeps his land productive for future generations. This mission hasn’t been easy with the extreme drought affecting California for the last several years, but his innovative grazing method has kept his business afloat, while other lands have dried up. He says, “Simply put, if you have bare soil it will dry out, and all of the water will evaporate and your grass will turn brown.”

Guido’s goal is to grow as much biomass as possible to boost his soil’s health. Healthy soils, filled with organic matter, hold more water and lose less to runoff than unhealthy soils. So when his farm does get rain, the water binds to this organic matter and does not strip the farm of its topsoil.

Drought took a heavy hit on farms in the American West, particularly in California, where agriculture is a $54 billion dollar industry and uses more than half of the state’s water. Guido says Sonoma County gets about 32 inches of rain in a normal year. But during the last few years of drought, they’ve received less than half of that, and yet (this is the key) he says, “We grew the same amount of grass.”

“We tell people [buying food] is a direct democracy,” he explains. “When you buy this pound of beef you are able to affect the ecology of the whole landscape.”

That realization brought about his ah-ha moment: his soil practices were creating an almost super-powered resilience against the drought. Not only were his pastures incredibly productive, but he also saw a tripling of the native deer population and an increase in habitat for migratory waterfowl.

On a global scale, Guido is mitigating climate change through his ranching methods. With carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases acidifying our oceans and warming our planet, farming, particularly ranching, is often blamed for adding carbon to the system. But sustainable farming can be a powerful carbon sink—that is, a method to store carbon deep in the ground. According to Guido, “One of the low-tech ways to do that is through photosynthesis, and having the plants create carbohydrates that go into the roots—the deeper those roots are the more solid that carbon will store.” This is where Guido’s obsession with perennials comes into play, since they generally have deeper root systems than annuals.

Cows grazing on Guido Frosini's farm


Additionally, grazing animals eat carbon-rich plants, which they drop as manure as they roam, fertilizing the soil (as opposed to livestock raised in confined systems, creating massive pools of liquid manure that emit vast amounts of the greenhouse gas methane). “So pretty much you are sequestering carbon through that process,” Guido says.

A comparison to cattle on feedlots is meaningful. Instead of grazing, feedlot animals are packed tightly indoors, eating corn and soybeans—feed that is grown on millions of acres of monoculture. This type of agriculture stifles soil biodiversity and uses many fossil fuels and pesticides. Guido notes, “There’s a reason why when people go to a feedlot, very few [of them] leave salivating in their mouths. So why eat that food in the first place?”

Selling his sustainably raised meat is a point of pride for Guido. He not only provides a great tasting product, but also educates the public about different ways of farming. He sells his meat directly to consumers through a meat share and at farmers’ markets. This method of direct sales is a great way to spark conversations and convey his motto of“Food, Ecology, Culture.”Guido Frosini explaining his grazing techniques

Guido hopes these conversations start a wave of consumer demand for grass-fed and finished meat, and give consumers pause about what type of agriculture they are supporting with their food purchases. “We tell people [buying food] is a direct democracy,” he explains. “When you buy this pound of beef you are able to affect the ecology of the whole landscape.”

To Guido, this way of ranching is intuitive, and this type of awareness is what he wants consumers to use when they purchase food. “If a landscape looks beautiful, and when we look at an animal we feel that’s how it should be raised, then it makes sense.” In this way, food becomes a voting tool and we all have power, through our wallets and bellies, to fight for and protect the environment and family farm agriculture.

Click here to learn more about True Grass FarmsGuido Frosini is supplying meat for Farm Aid’s small event series “An Evening with Farm Aid” in Sonoma County, CA this summer.

Willie Nelson & Family at Farm Aid 1993 “Still is still Moving To Me”

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Congratulations Farm Aid Board Member John Mellencamp: ASCAP Songwriter’s Award

Thursday, April 28th, 2016


John Mellencamp, 64, was honored for his songwriting and his exceptional contributions to music by the organization that represents composers, authors and publishers
by: Rachel McGrath

The 64-year-old began his career as John Cougar, then became John Cougar Mellencamp, adding his real last name to his stage name, and finally just John Mellencamp.  His music illuminates the human condition’: Heartland rocker John Mellencamp is honored for his songwriting and creative influence.  He’s known for his ‘heartland rock’ and his string of hits over the years also includes R.O.C.K. In The USA,  Small Town and Ain’t That America.  His most recent album Plain Spoken was released in the fall of 2014.


ASCAP president Paul Williams, pictured left with Mellencamp and TV personality Tavis Smiley, said the rocker had ‘captured the American experience in his songs’

The ASCAP Founders Award goes to pioneering ASCAP songwriters who have made exceptional contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their fellow music creators.

‘For the last four decades, John Mellencamp has captured the American experience in his songs, ASCAP president Paul Williams told Variety last month.

‘His infectious melodies and compassionate lyrics, wrapped in workingman’s rock, crystallize life’s joys and struggles and illuminate the human condition,’ Williams added.


This day in Willie Nelson history: Farm Aid VI, 1993 (Ames, Iowa)

Sunday, April 24th, 2016


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.

The 1993 concert included performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, the Highwaymen, Sawyer Brown, Bruce Hornsby, Martina McBride, the Kentucky HeadHunters, Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Ringo Starr, Waylon Jennings, Bryan Adams, Paul Simon, Travis Tritt, Ricky Van Shelton and many others.

Celebrate Earth Day, Thank a Farmer

Friday, April 22nd, 2016


Willamina nominated for Official Farm Aid Mascot

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Before the close of the last meeting of the Farm Aid Board of Directors, @willienelsonofficial made a motion to suggest that Willamina (pictured here with Willie) be named the official Farm Aid mascot. According to the minutes of the board meeting, Mr. Ne

Before the close of the last meeting of the Farm Aid Board of Directors, @willienelsonofficial made a motion to suggest that Willamina (pictured here with Willie) be named the official Farm Aid mascot. According to the minutes of the board meeting, Mr. Nelson declared, “She’s not just an ordinary mule.” The matter will be taken up at the next meeting of the Farm Aid Board of Directors.

Merle Haggard, Farm Aid 1985 (Folsom Prison Blues)

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

Jack Johnson sings about playing poker and getting high with Willie Nelson on his bus

Monday, March 28th, 2016


“I know so many people that, if they could only go to one show a year, they’d choose Farm Aid”. “And that goes for me too.”
— Jack Johnson

Once again, Jack Johnson returned to the Farm Aid fundraiser concert stage in 2015, in support of the Family Farmers.  He started out his set  with a song he had just written, about everybody’s dream — smoking pot with Willie Nelson on his bus.

Willie got me stoned and took all my money
I was 50 dollars up and then my mind went funny
It didn’t really help that I didn’t know the rules of the game
And it probably didn’t help that I couldn’t remember my name

Support Farm Aid

Monday, March 21st, 2016
Our incredibly soft, retro-style shirts are for sale in our store. They are made with organic cotton that’s GMO free!

Check out our new shirts and support Farm Aid!

Farm Aid Friends

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016


John Mellencamp, Lana Nelson, Willie Nelson

Friday, March 11th, 2016


Celebrating 30 Years of Farm Aid Giving

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
  • Growing the good food movement
  • Helping farmers thrive
  • Taking action to change the system

You can support their good work, too:

Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Western Colorado Congress
The Carrot Project
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Real Food Challenge
Powder River Basin Resource Council
Red Tomato
Organic Seed Alliance
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
Rural Vermont
Organic Farming Research Foundation
The National Center for Appropriate Technology
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Minnesota Food Association
Louisiana Interchurch Conference
Land for Good
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
The Farmworker Association of Florida
Friends of Family Farmers
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Florida Organic Growers
The Land Connection
Family Farm Defenders
Cultivate Kansas City
California FarmLink
California Climate and Agriculture Network

With your help we can reach more farmers


See a full list of our grantees and learn more about our grant program.

Willie Nelson and Farm Aid

Monday, February 29th, 2016


photo:  Paul Natkin
by:  David Ritz

It all began with a few words from Bob Dylan onstage at the Live Aid concert in July 1985, asking: Couldn’t some of the money raised go to help American farmers?

“The question hit me like a ton of bricks,” remembers Willie Nelson, who was on the road that day, watching the event on his tour-bus TV. He immediately began looking into the state of American agriculture. This was a time when family farmers were suffering mightily. Thousands were being forced off their land and driven into bankruptcy.

1987: Mellencamp (left) and Nelson testified before the U.S. Senate with Sen. Tom Harkin.

1987: Mellencamp (left) and Nelson testified before the U.S. Senate with Sen. Tom Harkin.Farm Aid

Enter Nelson, who, a few days after Dylan’s remarks, met with his friend Jim Thompson, the then governor of Illinois, at the St. Louis Fair. With Thompson’s help — and the collaboration of John Mellencamp and Neil Young — the first Farm Aid concert took place that same summer, on Sept. 22 at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign. More than $7 million was raised. Thirty years later, Farm Aid, an annual and much beloved American institution, has grown that number to $48 million.

Today, the 82-year-old Nelson remains fervently committed to the nonprofit that he helped to create.

What are your earliest memories of giving back?

Church. Ours was the United Methodist in the little town of Abbott, Texas, where I grew up. We had a collection box, and even though we were struggling financially, I knew there were folks with far greater struggles. As part of a loving community, I was taught the moral responsibility of helping those in need.

1990, Indianapolis: The fourth concert had environmentalists and consumer advocates join the cause. Pictured: Bonnie Raitt. 

1990, Indianapolis: The fourth concert had environmentalists and consumer advocates join the cause. Pictured: Bonnie Raitt. Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Of all the causes you might have championed, why Farm Aid?

Farming was my first job. I picked cotton. I pulled corn. I knew firsthand what it meant to farm. I knew damn well how tough it was. In high school, I was a proud member of Future Farmers of America. My farm roots are deep-seated in the soil of my personal story.

Willie Nelson Sick, Concerts Affected

In Farm Aid’s three decades, what is your most memorable moment?

It might have been that first one, because back then there was still uncertainty. Who knew if the idea would work? So it was a real thrill when the show sold out and 80,000 fans showed up. Beyond Dylan, Young and Mellencamp, we had B.B. King, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and a slew of others. Everyone was eager to pitch in.

1985, Champaign, Ill. The inaugural Farm Aid raised more than $7 million with a crowd of 80,000. From left: Cash, Nelson and Jennings. 

1985, Champaign, Ill. The inaugural Farm Aid raised more than $7 million with a crowd of 80,000. From left: Cash, Nelson and Jennings. Paul Natkin

Through Farm Aid’s history, what is your proudest accomplishment?

The fact that we’ve raised the public consciousness. There’s awareness today about the challenges of farming and the benefits of buying products on a local level — especially organic food — that was missing 30 years ago. Farmers’ markets have sprouted up. People realize the downside of shipping in food from hundreds of miles away — wasting money on costly fuel — when wholesome food can be grown and bought within a local area.

Do you believe the plight of the farmer has significantly improved?

There’s lot of work still to be done, but yes, I do believe real progress has been made. The proliferation of social media, for example, has been a good thing. All forms of communication help, especially when communication starts at the grass-roots level. Corporate-owned newspapers and magazines can be biased, but nowadays folks are looking beyond that; they’re hungry for the truth. Consumers are educating themselves about where and how food is grown.

2005, Tinley Park, Ill.: The 20th anniversary brought then-senator Barack Obama, who introduced Wilco. 

2005, Tinley Park, Ill.: The 20th anniversary brought then-senator Barack Obama, who introduced Wilco. Rick Diamond/WireImage

In addition to Farm Aid, for years you have been involved in the fight to legalize marijuana and recognize the benefits of hemp products. Are you still passionate about that cause?

More passionate than ever. I was recently encouraged to read about parents traveling to Colorado and Oregon where they could legally obtain marijuana so that, under a doctor’s care, their children’s seizures could be effectively treated. When it comes to pot, the dark ages may finally be behind us. It has been 25 years since I campaigned for Gatewood Galbrath, a Lexington, Ky., lawyer running for governor with a let’s-legalize-pot policy. We lost that battle, but now it looks like we’re winning the war. The decriminalization of marijuana is a growing and unstoppable movement. The good uses of hemp — for agriculture, clothing or the relief of serious pain — are well documented and irrefutable. Old prejudices die hard, but the anti-pot bias of a misinformed establishment is not long for this world.

2013, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.: Pete Seeger, at age 94, served as the surprise guest, joining Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Dave Matthews onstage for “This Land Is Your Land.”

2013, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.: Pete Seeger, at age 94, served as the surprise guest, joining Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Dave Matthews onstage for “This Land Is Your Land.”Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Do you think the world of today is a more charitable one than the world you knew as a younger man?

I’d like to think so, but I’m no social scientist. I’m just a picker from Hill County, Texas, who has led a very fortunate life. When I look back on that life, I remember acts of remarkable charity. My grandmother, the woman who raised me, was the most giving woman I’ve ever known. And of course during the different wars, you had many artists donating their services to entertain our troops abroad. But the advent of Farm Aid and many of the causes that followed brought on something new, something I hadn’t seen before.

Artists began banding together around urgent sociopolitical causes. In the past 30 years, that impulse — to address the pressing issues of our times — has strengthened. It goes beyond respecting the folks who grow our food. It even goes beyond the quality of the food itself. It’s about loving Mother Earth. Because we love her, we study her. And that study reveals her desperate state. It demands that we protect her from greedy and lethal exploitation. We need to be proactive about championing the causes that will preserve our natural resources and maintain a high quality of human and animal life. It’s a monumental task, but I have a deep belief in humanity. There are millions of good people committed to do the right thing. It’s just a matter of harnessing our energy, staying positive, remaining organized and fighting the good fight. Man, I’m ready to go! offers concert videos, in-depth news on food issues and a donation link.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 24 issue of Billboard.