Archive for the ‘Farm Aid’ Category

If you ate today… Thank a Farmer

Saturday, January 28th, 2017


support family farmers, support Farm Aid.

Support Farm Aid

Thursday, January 26th, 2017




Willie Nelson and Family, “Milk Cow Blues” (Farm Aid III, 1997)

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Farm Aid 2017

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Happy New Year!
With the frenzy of the holiday season behind us and snowy weather upon us, we’ve had some time to reflect upon Farm Aid’s 2016 accomplishments and the work ahead in 2017. We’re grateful that you rely on us to keep you informed about —  and activated in — our farm and food system.
Looking ahead
An incoming president and soon-to-be-announced (we hope!) Secretary of Agriculture are sure to shake up U.S. agriculture in 2017 and beyond. As farmers continue to struggle in a very difficult farm economy, Congress will gear up to shape a new Farm Bill. This year, we’ll be tuning into that and several other issues, including:

As always, Farm Aid will continue to engage you in opportunities to challenge the corporate power that has a stranglehold over our food and farm system, and opportunities to advance a more just agriculture that benefits everyone.

Farmer Hero, Alvina Maynard, of River Hill Ranch in Richmond, KY

Do you know someone who should be recognized as a
Farmer Hero? 
Over the past ten years, Farm Aid has highlighted the work of dozens of Farmer Heroes all over the country. They have shown us everything from how their practices protect our soil and water while slowing climate change, to how they grow local economies and strengthen their communities. We’ve featured everyone from a farmer growing vegetables on Chicago rooftops, to Iowa farmers organizing against factory farms and a North Carolina poultry farmer fighting corporate power. Their innovative approaches to growing and raising good food inspire us as we build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America.

We know our community is filled with people who have meaningful connections with farmers. We’d love to hear about a farmer you know who deserves to be celebrated. 

Our accomplishments in 2016

Thanks for being a partner in the work to grow a family farm food system! From connecting farmers with policymakers through our Farmer Leadership Grants, to creating a Farm to School Rocks guide to inspire engagement in the budding Farm to School movement, to our incredible Bristow, Virginia, concert, we had a meaningful year here at Farm Aid.

Here’s a look back. In 2016 we:

Farm Aid III (1987) (Lincoln, NE)

Friday, January 6th, 2017

[Thank you, Phil Weisman, for sharing this clipping about Farm Aid III.]

Chicago Sun-Times
September 21, 1987

LINCOLN, Neb.  Fleeting remarks and lasting impressions from a full day at Saturday’s Farm Aid.

Most valuable players through out the evening’s part of the program were the members of John Cougar Mellencamp’s red-hot band.  After providing hard edge accompaniment for Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane,” they gave John Prine the sort of rough-hewn, roots-rock backing that he’s been missing since he quit working with Chicago’s Famous Potatoes.

The closing set by Mellencamp and band was one of the event’s most rousing.  On “Small Town” and “Pink House” the accordion and fiddle of his band’s expanded lineup fit just fine with the rock n’ roll rhythm section.  The two-song set, way too short for most of the crowd, provided a taste of what wil likely be one of the fall’s strongest tours.

While Willie Nelson received most of the credit throughout the day, and deservedly so, Mellencamp has also been a driving force behind Farm Aid during its three-year existence.  Both Reed and the Crusados thanked him specifically for enlisting their participation.

The most inspired music that was heard by no one at home came courtesy of Neil Young.  “Ain’t singing for Pepsi, ain’t singing for coke,” he sang.  “Ain’t singing for nobody, it makes me look like a joke.  This note’s for you.”  While Young slammed corporate sponsorship, the broadcast had cut to another commercial.

David Alvin has the distinction of being the only performer to play each of the three Farm Aids, as part of a completely different band.  He was with the Blasters at the first Farm Aid, a member o X at the second and the leader of his own band, the Allnighters at Farm Aid III.

The man who was formerly known as a songwriter and guitarist demonstrated that he had already become a far more confident singer than when he cut “Romen’s Escape,” his recently released debut album as a solo artist.  His afternoon set, mixing country ballads and hard-rock ravers, was one of the event’s highlights.

Dennis Hopper, who was raised on a Kansas farm, introduced country singer Lynn Anderson to the crowd as an “easy rider,” who offered to share her bus with other performers who needed a ride to Lincoln.

He later told the TV audience, “Big companies are interested in big profits.  Period.” an economic analysis that was sure to endear him to corporate America.  “Who would you rather see own America?” he asked.

Events such as this inevitably produce a rash of Bruce Springsteen rumors.  The day before the concert, the talk of the town was dominated by eyewitness accounts of Springsteen and Nelson enjoying dinner at a Lincoln country club.  It never happened, according to officials at the country club.

When we strengthen Family Farmers, We are all stronger

Thursday, December 29th, 2016
by:  Carolyn Muldar

Many kind people have donated to Farm Aid this year – and that’s crucial because we rely on the generosity of people like you to do the hard work to keep family farmers strong. People often share with us why they believe in Farm Aid’s work. This message really resonates with me:

I have been a supporter of Farm Aid for quite some time, and I have been to countless Farm Aid concerts. There is so much genuine dedication within this organization, and I am proud to be part of it! – Ginna

When I joined Farm Aid in 1985, I didn’t have a background in farming. But like Ginna, I could see the dedication of Willie, John and Neil, and all the farmers who were working to save their farms and their neighbors’ farms. That commitment to family farmers has always inspired me. I am proud of our hard work.

This year, with your help, Farm Aid:


All of this extraordinary work makes a real difference in the lives of farm families, and all of us who eat. Farm Aid can’t do this work without you.

Please, give a gift right now to support family farmers and good food.

When we strengthen family farmers, we are all stronger.

Support Farm Aid, support our family farmers

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
You and I have depended on family farmers all our lives. They fill our plate three times each day, they strengthen our local economy, and they are the backbone of our communities.
For 31 years, the annual Farm Aid concert has been a way for all of us to honor family farmers and the role they play in a strong America. On the Farm Aid 2016 stage, farmers from Virginia and Washington, D.C., told their stories of struggle and success.
Listening to these farmers and activists on stage, my friend John Mellencamp said that he’s never felt so inspired in all our years of doing this work. I felt that way, too. That’s why I wanted to share these stories with you.
Chris Bradshaw is growing a new community farm on the grounds of a public school in D.C. that will feed, teach and train schoolchildren and neighborhood residents.
Robin Robbins and Roger Garrett are farmers in Appalachia. There, local food is bringing hope, creating good farming jobs and bringing healthy, fresh food to people who need it.
Nurse practitioner Miranda Trent partners with the Local Food Hub and their farmers to provide fresh, local foods to her patients who struggle to eat healthy food.
Ms. Mary Morgan and Boe Umar have transformed an empty lot in D.C. into a community garden that feeds their neighborhood, physically and emotionally.
Together you and I:
  • Make sure family farmers stay on the land;
  • Amplify farmer voices so they can be heard by politicians and eaters;
  • Build a strong network of farm advocates who provide one-on-one support;
  • Make it possible for a new generation of young people become farmers;
  • Stand with rural citizens to stop factory farms from wiping out family farms and damaging rural communities.
Farm Aid’s work to strengthen family farmers benefits all of us. Family farmers put good food on our tables. They protect our soil and water. And they support our communities. If we want good food, we need family farmers!
Stay strong and positive,

“Family Farmers are a National Resource” – Neil Young

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
by Neil Young

When Abraham Lincoln formed the US Department of Agriculture in 1862 he referred to it as the “People’s Department” because it served the common interest of so many Americans. America’s concerns about food and the economy were addressed and investments in cutting-edge research guaranteed the nation’s food security.

More than 200 years later, we are in the midst of a historic financial crisis and part of the solution lies with the “People’s Department.” It’s time for our newest federal leaders to recognize the unmatched ability of family farmers to strengthen local economies. We can all learn from the ingenuity and innovation that family farmers demonstrate time and time again in the face of challenge.

In the 1980s, American farmers found themselves in a fight for their lives. Low prices for farm products, plummeting land values, rising interest rates, and skyrocketing production costs overloaded farmers with crashing debts that forced tens of thousands to lose their land. In response, the Credit Act of 1987 freed up credit for farmers and allowed for loan restructuring so farmers could honor their debt. Farmers were able to stay on their land and create a thriving network of local and regional food systems that provides jobs and food for their neighbors today.

Yet again farmers are faced with seemingly insurmountable financial hardship. The credit farmers need in order to pay for their seasonal start-up costs is tight, like credit is for the rest of the country. Instability in market prices and threats from weather-related disasters make it hard for banks to guarantee their investment, discouraging lending and encouraging high interest. At the same time, rising operating costs and declining prices for their products are making it nearly impossible for farmers to keep up with their debt. Many farmers have to put their homes up as security on their farm loans, which means if they fall behind on their farm loan payments they can lose their businesses and their homes.

The USDA, with help from other agencies, should restore fair credit, prices, and practices for family farmers. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack makes plans to implement the 2008 Farm Bill, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would be well served to consider lessons from the 1980s and extend loan protections under the federal bailout to family farmers, preventing home foreclosures and bankruptcy among farmers and ranchers. As a condition of receiving any federal government funds, Treasury needs to require banks providing farm credit to restructure loans when farmers are unable to make payments due to circumstances beyond their control, such as market- and weather-related disasters. Requiring no additional funding, this simple action would prevent thousands of farmers from joining the ranks of the jobless and homeless while guaranteeing a safe, secure food supply and creating local job opportunities.

Vilsack can also act quickly to get funds to farmers who need it most. Farmers who were hit hard by disasters in 2007 and 2008 still have not received the funding available in Farm Bill disaster relief programs. And the USDA needs to get the word out fast about additional funding for direct operating loans that Congress included in the stimulus bill. If farmers are having trouble accessing the credit they need for this year’s growing season, the Farm Service Agency might just be able to help. Swift implementation of already enacted legislation can mean the difference between losing more farmers and keeping those farmers on the land.

Family farmers are a national resource with the potential to help solve the challenges we currently face. The agriculture sector is projected to have contributed more than $130 billion to the US economy in 2008. The hard work of family farmers is strengthening local economies, reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, protecting natural resources, and increasing national security. The United States is re-laying the groundwork of its economic stability, and family farmers are the key to a strong foundation.

Neil Young, along with Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews, is a board member of Farm Aid (

We Salute Willie Nelson & Family

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

“Willie Nelson Got Me Stoned and Stole All My Money” – Jack Johnson (Farm Aid 30)

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Jack Johnson performs “Willie Got Me Stoned and Stole All My Money” at Farm Aid’s 30th anniversary concert at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in downtown Chicago, Illinois, on September 19
by: Will Hodge

It’s understandable to think that Jack Johnson might’ve been a little nervous before his afternoon set at Farm Aid 30 this past weekend. After all, it’s been almost a year since the last time he and his band have played a show together, and it’s been two years since he last played Farm Aid. But speaking with Rolling Stone Country a few hours before taking the stage, the relaxed surfer-turned-musician seemed none too worried.

“We don’t do sound checks too much,” said Johnson, sitting comfortably among the packed-in gear of his makeshift rehearsal room. “We just come together an hour or so beforehand and try new things and figure out what we’re going to do.”

This doesn’t mean that the singer-songwriter and his rock-solid backing trio (Zach Gill, Merlo Podlewski, and Adam Topol) weren’t taking the gig seriously. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Johnson, who is already known for mixing music with altruism throughout his own career by starting the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation in 2008 and by donating 100 percent of his 2010-2013 tour profits to charity, sees Farm Aid as an important opportunity to raise awareness and to engage with the struggle of family-owned farms.

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

To commemorate this year’s Farm Aid festivities, Johnson wrote a new song that could not have been more tailor-made for the event. “Willie Got Me Stoned and Took All My Money” is a playful, barroom piano-led ditty retelling a night of cards-and-cannabis with Willie Nelson, Farm Aid’s founder and president. The inspiration for the song came to him while reading Nelson’s biography, It’s a Long Story,and he came across the mention of Harlan Howard’s “three chords and the truth” songwriting mantra. Introducing the new tune at Farm Aid, Johnson told the crowd, “This next song has got three chords in it, and it might be a little too honest.”

Although brand-new songs can often land flat during a live debut, the Farm Aid audience was immediately and enthusiastically on board from the first few lines:

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

Between Johnson’s new song and Toby Keith’s classic “Weed with Willie,” it seems that cautionary tales of the country legend’s marijuana are in high demand.

Willie Nelson signs checks for Farm Aid Grant recipients

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Today we announced Farm Aid’s 2016 grant recipients. Here’s Willie Nelson signing each of the grant checks before they go out in the mail!

Willie says, “Farm Aid is proud to make grants to support so many good people engaged in the work of changing our food system. The real power of Farm Aid’s grants is in the network of changemakers they knit together, in cities and rural areas across this country.”

$556,315 was granted to 82 family farm, rural service and urban agriculture organizations in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Grants ranged from $5,000 to $20,000.

To read more about our amazing grantees and the inspiring work they do, check out

Willie Nelson and Family – Milk Cow Blues (Farm Aid III 1987)

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Willie Nelson and Mary Pat Davis, “Walking After Midnight” (Farm Aid VI) (1993)

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Wilie Nelson and Mary Pat Davis perform “Walkin’ After Midnight” originally by Patsy Cline at Farm Aid VI in Ames, Iowa, on April 24, 1993.

Willie Nelson and Neil Young, “Four Strong Winds” (Farm Aid 1993)

Thursday, December 1st, 2016


Support Farm Aid #GivingTuesday

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
hands planting
Dear Linda,
Last month, Farm Aid received a donation along with this note:

In 1985, I pledged $20 through the concert telethon line when I was a college student. Later, I realized that I did not have the money to send in. Last night, my college roommate reminded me that we never sent our donations in. I am a single mom of two college students now and I don’t make a lot of money but I want to pay what I promised I would 31 years ago. Please accept my apologies. I wish that I could afford to do more. Thank you.

This generous sentiment energized all of us here at Farm Aid to keep up the fight for family farmers and good food. Here is a person who, despite her own difficulties, stayed true to her word by honoring a 31-year old pledge to do good in the world. Inspired by the first Farm Aid concert, she continues to believe —  like we do —  that family farmers are essential for the well-being of all of us.

We all have intentions that we don’t always follow through with for various reasons: We get busy, we forget, or our intentions are too big to fulfill at that moment. But the chance to follow through on your promise is always there.

Whether you’ve intended to give to Farm Aid in the past or you donate regularly, we hope you’ll see #GivingTuesday as a chance to fulfill your intention, and strengthen our mission to keep family farmers on the land and grow the good food movement. In 31 years, Farm Aid has raised more than $50 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture thanks to big-hearted donors like you.
Today is your chance to join millions of people who are using #GivingTuesday as a way to do good in the world! We hope you’ll use this opportunity to support Farm Aid and make a difference in the lives of family farmers and all of us who eat.
Thank you, from all of us at Farm Aid.

PS —  Today only! One of Farm Aid’s generous donors has pledged to match gifts up to the first $2,000 donated. Give a gift to support family farmers right now and see it doubled!
Photo © Lise Metzger