Getting ready for Farm Aid 2019

Willie Nelson performs June 29, 2016 at the BMO Harris
by: Piet Levy


Willie Nelson will headline Farm Aid 2019 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre Sept. 21, three months after bringing another star-studded fest, the Outlaw Music Festival, to Summerfest.

Alpine Valley has long been on Farm Aid’s wish list in part because its one of board member Dave Matthews favorite venues to perform. Two months after playing two shows at the East Troy amphitheater with the Dave Matthews Band, he’ll be at Farm Aid for an acoustic set with Tim Reynolds.  Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Bonnie Raitt will make her first Farm Aid appearance since 1990 at the festival this year. Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Country star Luke Combs, whose 2017 album “This One’s For You” is the most popular country release so far this year, will play his first Farm Aid. Rick Wood, Tyger Williams/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Nathaniel Rateliff will bring his soul band the Night Sweats to Farm Aid Sept. 21. Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Veteran country singer-songwriter Tanya Tucker is also on the Farm Aid bill. Terry Wyatt / Getty Images

Margo Price is playing Farm Aid 2019 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre Sept. 21, the first time the nonprofit’s benefit festival is taking place at the East Troy amphitheater. Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As Farm Aid board members, Nelson, Young, Mellencamp and Matthews play every year. But this will be a Farm Aid first for Combs, the biggest new star in country music in the past few years, and for buzz-riding Nashville newcomer Yola. Raitt is also a must-see — this will be the 10-time Grammy winner’s first Farm Aid since 1990. 

Also playing Farm Aid Saturday are soul band Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, and rock duo Jamestown Revival, a replacement for Brothers Osborne, who canceled their appearance for “personal reasons,” according to the festival. Acclaimed country artists Tanya Tucker, Margo Price and Jamey Johnson; Nelson’s kids’ bands Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and Particle Kid, and Mellencamp’s singer-songwriter son Ian Mellencamp are also on the bill.

Here’s the current schedule (subject to change):

12:45 p.m.: Ho-Chunk Thundercloud Singers and Wisdom Indian Dancers 

12:49 p.m.: Ian Mellencamp

12:59 p.m.: Particle Kid

1:19 p.m.: Jamestown Revival

1:44 p.m.: Tanya Tucker

2:11 p.m.: Yola

2:48 p.m.: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

3:30 p.m.: Margo Price

4:15 p.m.: Jamey Johnson

5:00 p.m.: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

5:45 p.m.: Luke Combs

6:40 p.m.: Bonnie Raitt

7:35 p.m.: Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds

8:35 p.m.: John Mellencamp

9:35 p.m.: Neil Young

10:35 p.m.: Willie Nelson & Family

These times will fluctuate, up to and on the day of the festival, so download the Farm Aid app for the most current info.  

More than music 

Every artist playing Farm Aid is performing without pay and covering their own travel expenses. There’s good reason: The nonprofit festival’s mission is to raise grant money and generate awareness for issues affecting family farmers. 

Farm Aid’s Homegrown Village, open from noon to 5:30 p.m., will feature activities and educational booths, including several presented by Wisconsin-based organizations. Family Farm Defenders in Madison will have an exhibit detailing small-scale agriculture’s impact on climate change. The Forest County Potawatomi Community Farm in Laona will discuss food restoration for Native American communities. The Wormfarm Institute from Reedsburg will have musical instruments you can play recycled from farming and gardening tools. The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, the Wisconsin Farmer Union and the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Profitability will have interactive games. And Central Rivers Farmshed in Stevens Point, REAP Food Group in Madison and SLO Farmers Cooperative in Seymour will have guides for finding locally sourced food in Wisconsin.  

The Homegrown Skills Tent will have demonstrations on beekeeping, making milk soap and more; check the Farm Aid app for the schedule. Artists and farmers will also be speaking from the FarmYard Stage throughout the afternoon, with the schedule to be announced. 

Farm-friendly food 

You won’t find your standard concert fare at Farm Aid. The food being served features local ingredients, including brats served with organic sauerkraut, organic burgers, blue corn chips, baked potatoes, fish and chips, portobello mushroom sandwiches, tacos, pretzels and cookies. Beer will be sold from New Glarus Brewing Company and Monroe-based Cheese City Beer, along with other local craft beers, organic sodas, distilled liquor and craft mead. Sales of local apples, cider and baked goods at the Homegrown Youthmarket will benefit youth organizations like the FFA, and VIP pass holders will have access to cooking demonstrations and special menu items sourced from local farms. And all food will be served with compostable serviceware.

What to bring, what to leave at home 

Festgoers are asked to bring jars of peanut butter to be donated to Milwaukee’s Hunger Task Force. They also can bring in food in a clear, 1-gallon zip-lock bag; up to a gallon of water in a factory-sealed bottle; lawn chairs (so long as the seat is no more than nine inches off the ground); cameras (removable lenses not permitted); and average size purses, bags and backpacks. 

Prohibited items include fireworks, laser pointers, drones, animals (excluding service animals), large or hard-sided coolers, illegal drugs or weapons. Alcohol, cans and glass containers are not permitted inside the venue, but you can tailgate in the Alpine lots. However, re-entry is not allowed.

Places to stay 

After Alpine, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay there; camping is not permitted. Several rooms are still available in the area through Hotels for Hope; $2 from each booking is donated to Farm Aid. 

Stream Farm Aid live 

If you can’t make it to Farm Aid, you can still watch the festival on TV and online, or hear it on the radio.

Nelson’s Sirius XM station Willie’s Roadhouse will be broadcasting from Alpine Valley beginning at noon Central Time. Find it on Channel 59. 

You can watch Farm Aid performances beginning at 2 p.m. Central Time at and on Farm Aid’s YouTube channel. And AXS TV will broadcast Farm Aid live beginning at 6:30 p.m.  

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