You’d have to just be crawling out from underneath a rock to have missed the buzz about Live Earth, the Concerts For a Climate in Crisis. The concerts, one held on each of the seven continents, were meant to raise awareness about global warming and the small things each of us can do to effect positive change to save our earth. Al Gore, the force behind the concerts, has taken a lot of flack for the idea, getting comments like “Doesn’t everyone already know all about global warming?” and “How will a bunch of rockstars flying in private planes to a concert help save the planet?” Good questions and certainly those are issues to consider but ultimately we at Farm Aid are of the mindset that these concerts accomplished something very important because No, not everyone knows about or acknowledges global warming and artists have an amazing reach… their voices do more than just sing songs and if they are what’s needed to get this issue out there, and they’re willing to step up to the mic and talk about it or even just sing a song for it, then we’re lucky that they’re doing their part.
22 years ago, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young set out to have a concert to raise awareness about the issues facing U.S. family farmers (and money to help them). As they like to tell it, they were naïve, thinking that one concert would solve the problem—that the government would step in and create fair farm policies that help family farmers instead of putting them out of business. But each year, it was obvious that another concert would have to be held. And 22 years later, we’re still throwing an annual concert. But things have changed in those 22 years and recently those changes have become very obvious and very encouraging, confirming that the work of Farm Aid has been worth it. Farm Aid’s mission has evolved from making the public aware of the terrible things family farmers had to face in the 80s, to organizing to fight against the industrialization of agriculture, to working with consumers to promote family farmers as the best source for good, safe food. We’re in the midst of what we like to call The Good Food Movement, a wave of Americans reaching for and demanding family farm-identified, local, organic or humanely-raised food, and it is the best thing that has happened to family farmers and all of us who eat.
And that’s how it works, not all at once, but slowly, over time, building incrementally with momentum. Will one concert save the world? Probably not. But for every person who “gets it” and begins to make those incremental changes, the world starts heading in the right direction. If even a tiny percent of the 2 billion people who watched even a few minutes of Live Earth change one habit, a positive movement is growing.
Farm Aid feels a special affiliation with the cause of Live Earth. Family farmers and the consumers who buy from family farmers are doing their part to help our climate. When we buy locally, direct from farmers, we keep hundreds of thousands of pounds of CO2 from being spewed into the air. On average, locally grown food travels 56 miles from farm to fork; compare that to the average of 1,500 miles and you can see how much oil we can save when we buy from our neighbors. Farmers who choose to produce organically are doing their part as raising food organically produces fewer greenhouse gases and increases the ability of the soil to store carbon. Lastly, eating in season and choosing minimally-processed food also saves energy, petroleum, and our climate. So, for those of you who have answered the call and are making changes to help the earth, add this to your climate-saving practice: Buy from your local farmer. Your farmer, your local economy, your stomach, and our earth will thank you. And to Al Gore and all those behind Live Earth: Congratulations on a great event and thank you for inspiring all of us to start making changes; in our experience, it will lead to huge strides forward.