Saturday, September 13, 2014

With good music, there's got to be good food!

Amanda Here at Farm Aid, we put thought into every aspect of concert day. From scheduling to signage, each details is planned with great care. Of course, you've probably wondered how we wrangle such a stellar line-up into one day of music, but you might not have considered all of the work that goes into bringing together the HOMEGROWN Concessions. Past concert experiences might lead you to think "It's just hot dogs and hamburgers," but to us, the food is everything.

Abiding by that old you are what you eat mentality, we make sure everyone involved in Farm Aid is eating the best food possible. This means taking the time to source local, organic ingredients in all of the food we serve, so when you go to a concession stand and grab a corn dog or a hamburger, you're actually helping North Carolina farmers! We establish a strict set of guidelines for our vendors and caterers to ensure that we're all eating healthy while also highlighting and supporting the great farmers who grow our food. Countless vendors have to shape up to pass the test, bringing in locally-sourced ingredients and changing around their basic recipes, but the creative teams behind each concession stand pull through and make it work every year to be a part of this special community.

Hungry concertgoers wait in line at The Pit, serving BBQ made with
pasture-raised pork from Adam Grady Farms in Kenansville, NC. 
Planning the HOMEGROWN Concessions menu is a big job, but the results make it all worth the effort. The same amount of careful thought and planning goes into the catering menu for our staff, volunteers and artists as well - if we don't plan on eating genetically modified foods grown in the presence of chemicals, we certainly aren't going to feed them to you!

A stand of fresh, North Carolina produce provided by the Youth Market in the
HOMEGROWN Concessions area. 

Don't just take our word for it - experience everything about the food yourself! The Farm Aid app has listings of each of our HOMEGROWN Concessions vendors with details regarding the origin of ingredients and links to check out the farms where the food was grown. We want you to know where your food comes from and love eating every bite.

HOMEGROWN Skills Tent - Making Flower Crowns 101

Amanda A vital part of the HOMEGROWN Village is the skills tent, where you can learn some new tricks related to food, crafting or growing. Today, Maggie Smith of Pine State Flowers brought local, fresh-cut flowers to the skills tent to teach concertgoers how to make their own floral crowns, perfect for a late-summer festival like Farm Aid.
Concertgoers flock to the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, eager to

make floral crowns with fresh, North Carolina flowers.

Maggie has only owned Pine State Flowers in Durham, NC, for about five months, but she's already made her mark - her flower shop is the only one in the state to feature all North Carolina local flowers. Most of the time, your flowers aren't nearly as fresh as you think - they've usually traveled thousands of miles from South America to a warehouse before even making it to your local florist. By sourcing all of her flowers from farms within a three-county region of Durham, Maggie has reduced her shop's carbon footprint and also supported local North Carolina farmers!

Participants eagerly pick their flowers from Pine State's
 locally sourced selection. 
Over one hundred concertgoers left the main stage behind for a half an hour early this morning to come make flower crowns. The skills tent was crowded with eager participants, each taking the time to select flowers and put together their own unique headpiece.

Pine State Flowers brought a fun, lively activity to the Skills Tent and brightened up concertgoers apparel. We're so happy they brought their beautiful flowers and great skill to Farm Aid today!

Be sure to check out Pine State Flowers at their shop in Durham, or online! You can also follow them on twitterinstagram and Facebook to stay updated. 

Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village!

Amanda Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village has been buzzing ever since doors at the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre two hours ago. Farmers, fans and advocates have been meeting in the space to share knowledge and experiences with one another, making Farm Aid a truly unique festival experience.
For first time Farm Aid goers, the HOMEGROWN Village is a meeting space for everyone at the concert. Exhibitors from North Carolina and across the country line the tent's walls, eager to share their stories and inform concertgoers about their work with good food and sustainability. In today's HOMEGROWN Village, you have the chance to stop and chat at the Cotton of the Carolinas booth, learning how this year's Farm Aid t-shirt was made from "dirt to shirt" without ever crossing the state line. You can also learn more about services such as the Farm Advocate Link, a national organization that provides financial, legal, crisis and transition support for farmers every day or the Homegrown by Heroes label, serving to identify agriculture products grown by former veterans.

You might think the main stage is the place to be for the day, but there are plenty of great educational and exciting opportunities within our HOMEGROWN VILLAGE. Don't miss out on a chance to experience everything we have to offer today at Farm Aid!

The HOMEGROWN Village is open from noon until 5 p.m. today.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Farms in the heart of Raleigh, NC!

Amanda Many parts of North Carolina are known for beautiful, sprawling farm land that brings food to family tables across the community and country, but there are also a number of innovative urban farms working on just a few acres of land in the heart of Raleigh.

On the #Road2FarmAid, we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Raleigh's finest urban agriculture - Raleigh City Farm and the Inter-faith Food Shuttle Farm. Both of these new projects broke ground within the last three years and have worked to bring wholesome, local produce to Raleigh-based restaurants, markets, and even food banks.

At the Raleigh City Farm, CEO and president Chris Rumbley oversees an operation nestled between bars and coffee shops. A few years ago, the plot was rundown and abandoned, making it a useless eyesore for local residents. Now, in just three years, Rumbley and a group of local farmers have brought new life to the space and the surrounding community, growing cherries, blueberries, sunflowers and heirloom bean varieties. The operation has expanded quickly, making $15,000 last fall and now $20,000 this July alone.

The Raleigh City Farm, located at 800 Blount St, Raleigh, NC 
The farm also boasts a hydroponic greenhouse with 10,000 organic plants. From here, Raleigh City Farm harvests about 300 pounds of lettuce a week. Most produce from Raleigh City Farm makes its way to local restaurants, and some is sold at their farm stand on Saturdays or the City Farmers Market on Wednesdays.

CEO and President Chris Rumbley with Raleigh City Farm's blueberries 
Rumbley says he hopes to show the Raleigh community that they have a role in building and maintaining local infrastructure by supporting Raleigh-based agriculture. He encourages the community to frequent restaurants that source local produce, while also taking steps to buy their own from farm stands and farmers markets.

Raleigh City Farm may be small, but it's full of good food! 
A second urban farm on the stop may be new to its site, but its has years of experience aiding the Raleigh community.

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has been feeding the hungry for 25 years, but recently started a venture to provide local produce for food banks while also teaching members of the community how to grow and sell their own crops. The non-profit broke ground on this site about two years ago and has been a great teaching tool for the community. Most food banks provide day old baked goods and processed foods to those in need, but few can afford to supply fresh vegetables. At this farm, interns learn to grow on site, and can even receive a grant for innovative ideas.

Sun Butler at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's greenhouse 
With urban locations, soil pollution can be a significant obstacle. Before they could grow fruits and vegetables, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle had to grown their own dirt. To do so, they started their own composting program on site, digging worm beds a foot underground to find a constant temperature and grow worms year round. They built their own greenhouse and have provided both education to young farmers and good food to the hungry.

These organizations have both shown the value of local farms - even in areas where you wouldn't expect to find one. They're examples of innovation and a commitment to healthy, local foods for all.

Farm Aid 2014 Lineup Schedule

MattBackstage at Farm Aid 2014 at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh, North Carolina, is filling up with staff, the crew, volunteers, and artists who are starting to roll in. Those of you who've downloaded our Farm Aid 2014 app for iPhone and Android have already seen the schedule for the lineup, but here are the details for everyone who hasn't had a chance to install it yet. (And if you haven't got it on your smartphone yet, you're missing out on creating your own schedule of performances and exhibits, a map of all the details at the venue, the menus for HOMEGROWN Concessions®, and late-breaking news and contests for concertgoers.)

Please be aware that the schedule is still subject to change. Last updated 9/12/2014.

  • 12:50pm - Willie Nelson
  • 1:00pm - Raelyn Nelson Band
  • 1:15pm - Jesse Lenat
  • 1:30pm - Insects vs Robots
  • 1:50pm - Todd Snider
  • 2:15pm - Carlene Carter
  • 2:45pm - Jamey Johnson
  • 3:20pm - Delta Rae
  • 3:50pm - Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
  • 4:20pm - Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • 5:05pm - Gary Clark Jr.
  • 6:00pm - Jack White
  • 7:00pm - Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  • 8:00pm - John Mellencamp
  • 9:00pm - Neil Young
  • 10:00pm - Willie Nelson & Family

Before you head out to Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, be sure to take a look at the venue policies on our information page. And remember to help our food drive with The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina by bringing non-perishable food and non-food items that are in boxes, cans or plastic bottles (no glass). Suggested donation items include canned tuna and protein, canned fruits and vegetables, cereal, whole grain pasta and rice, and peanut butter. Non-food items, such as personal hygiene products and paper products, are also needed. (More details on the food drive and everything else you could want to know is on our About the Concert page.)

Doors open at noon and the show will run until 11pm. You'll want to come for the whole day — you won't want to miss any of the generous artists who have donated all the expenses for their travel and performances, and to see the unique on-stage collaborations that happen so often between artists at Farm Aid.

With rain in the forecast, come prepared with raincoats and ponchos. Small, retractable umbrellas are allowed on the lawn. Like the farmers, we’ll be out no matter the weather!

You'll also want to set aside time to explore the HOMEGROWN Village, which is open from noon until 5:30pm, to experience hands-on, interactive exhibits from a wide variety of food and farming groups to learn more about farmers and where your food comes from. Stop by the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent to learn skills like making your own pepper jelly or flower crowns and much more.

And finally, if you're not joining us in Raleigh this year, you can still help celebrate at home. Watch live in HD on AXS TV starting at 7pm Eastern/4pm Pacific or on our webcast, Farm Aid 2014 Presented by Amy's Kitchen starting at 5pm on And if you're on Twitter, use the hashtags #FarmAid2014 and #Road2FarmAid to share your experiences!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Journalist’s Personal Journey On #The Road2FarmAid

Road2FarmAidToday's #Road2FarmAid blog post comes from Thom Duffy, special features editor of Billboard Magazine.

It took me years to attend my first Farm Aid concert. But I feel like I've been with them since the beginning.

I grew up listening to musicians who wanted to change our society, to challenge inequality, to end a war, to talk truth to power.

At the start of my journalism career, I had been a political reporter, until I realized the artists have far more impact on our world than the politicians.

So in July 1985, I was standing near stage, notebook in hand, at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia, staged for African famine relief. I remember when Bob Dylan came out late in the day and remarked: "Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?"

At the time, falling crop prices and rising debt payments had ignited a wave of foreclosures that were pushing family farmers off of their land.

That August, Willie Nelson was booked to play the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. In an interview for the remarkable 2005 book "Farm Aid: A Song for America," his then-booking agent Tony Conway of Buddy Lee Attractions recalled: "Out of the blue, Willie said to me, 'I want to do a concert for American farmers. I want to see if we can do it here in Illinois; I don't care where, just someplace we can get a stadium.'"

For anyone who has the slightest knowledge of concert production, it seems amazing that Willie and his team pulled it off. That inaugural Farm Aid concert was staged on an all-but-impossibly short lead time at the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Sept. 22, 1985.

For me, in the years that followed, Farm Aid seemed to shift in and out of view, as other stories demanded my time and attention. I came to work for Billboard magazine, documenting each week the dramatic changes in the music industry -- and the shift of music's power to providing a soundtrack for advertisements or branding deals.

Without realizing it, however, my personal concerns began to parallel those of Farm Aid.

My oldest friend gave up selling real estate and, with her husband and grown children, opened two farm-to-table restaurants in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. My wife and I moved with our two young children to Brooklyn in the late 1990s where we were delighted to find flourishing farmers markets. We joined a community supported agriculture group in our neighborhood. I always volunteered for the early shift, when the truck full of marvelously fresh vegetables, eggs and flowers rolled up just after dawn from Garden of Eve in Riverhead, N.Y.

Chris and Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht were *our* family farmers. Their truck each weekend brought us edible treasure.

And I began to see the connections between how we treat our farmers, how we grow our food, and how we treat our land with issues ranging from our national health crisis to our battle against global warming.

In recent years, I've happily learned again that the circle is truly unbroken, as the personal and professional came together

At Billboard, I learned I would have the opportunity to prepare a special feature on Farm Aid. I'm an editor now, so normally I assign others to write such features. Not this time. This one meant too much to me personally.

Seeking to capture the essence of the organization, I wrote:

This is what the music business has long known about Farm Aid:

On one day, each year, since 1985, Farm Aid co-founders Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp have gathered an all-star roster of musicians for a high-profile benefit concert to support the men and women who help feed America.

"With Dave Matthews later joining the organization's board in 2001, Farm Aid through the years has welcomed hundreds of artists to its stage, beginning with the inaugural event in Champaign, Ill.. Along the way, it has raised millions to help America's family farmers.

This is what the music business may not know about Farm Aid:

The support of the music industry has helped Farm Aid influence a profound shift in the cultural landscape of the country during the past quarter century.

Farm Aid deserves credit for promoting many of the positive developments in food culture in the United States in recent years: the growth of farmers markets, the rise of community-supported agriculture groups, the spread of farm-to-table "slow food" restaurants and the wider use of sustainable farming practices.

The organization's work, as Nelson has often said, simply affects everyone who eats.

I've been privileged to cover Farm Aid for Billboard for the past two years, in 2012 in Hersey, Pa.

And in 2013 in Saratoga Springs, as legendary music activist Pete Seeger gave one of the final performances of his life.

The real marvel of Farm Aid was not the ability to pull off that first show within weeks in 1985.

In a music industry of fleeting concerns, it is the depth and length of the commitment of Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and many other artists, along with the organization's remarkable staff—and, of course, the farmers themselves— to the cause of protecting our food supply.

I wasn't there at the beginning for Farm Aid. But I'll stand with them from now on.

Photo by Ebet Roberts.

Click here to learn more about Thom Duffy.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

A Long-Time Volunteer on the #Road2FarmAid

Road2FarmAidOne weekend a year, I leave my happily average life in a small town near the coast of New England to try and act normal (forget cool) around a bunch of really great people, some of whom are pretty famous for their organizational, inspirational or musical talents. I’ve been fortunate to play a very small part – tiny, in fact – in helping throw this very important event we call Farm Aid since 1997.

I don’t come from much of a farming background; I’m a kid from the suburbs. But I remember milk being delivered to our front stoop by the local dairy and being drafted to help out in my grandfather’s garden under the hot Carolina sun. Later, I attended college in Ohio where I’d ride my bike down long country roads with fields on either side as far as the eye could see.

I was a freshman when the first Farm Aid was broadcast live a couple of states away. They sang and spoke about the plight of the family farmer in this country when mass production, distribution and profits had essentially replaced the notion of “local.”

Fast forward a dozen years and I found myself helping out in the Farm Aid office between other jobs, enabling me to learn even more about the organization, its small and incredibly dedicated staff and critical mission. Since then, I’ve done all kinds of things in all kinds of concert weather but these days I primarily focus on helping the development team share the mission of Farm Aid through various concert experiences like backstage, press conference and photo pit tours.

My hope is that some of these translate to long-term support from those I’m able to interact with by familiarizing them with just how impactful this organization is. While many of them think of Farm Aid simply as a concert that benefits America’s family farmers, they may not realize that through a number of related initiatives, Farm Aid is also about the sustainability of whole communities. In other words, our economies, environments, health and well-being are interdependent and the neighbors that feed us are on the front lines.

But why else would I – like all the other great volunteers, artists, crew and staff that gladly contribute our collective time – do it year in and year out? Glenda Yoder, Farm Aid’s Associate Director, says good food and good music feed her soul and I couldn’t agree more. Farm Aid feeds my soul. Through a celebration of music and food that’s actually good for you, it brings diverse people together to celebrate exactly what America, and communities everywhere, are all about. So if you can’t make Raleigh this time, host your own Farm Aid from wherever you are… And join us next year!

Farm Aid's associate director Glenda and executive director Carolyn with amazing volunteers Steve and Rob!

Written by Steve Snyder.