Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Willie Nelson delivers Family Farm Disaster Funds in Iowa

Willie Nelson met with farmers in Tama, Iowa last Saturday to give a $10,000 Farm Aid grant check to the newly formed group called the Iowa Farm Disaster Relief Coalition.

The farmers met with Willie on the bus. Farmers Mark Anderson and Barbara Grant brought lovely organic vegetables from their farm for Willie, his wife Annie, two sons and crew.

The farmers, Willie and Annie had a thoughtful conversation about the impact of the flood on farmers and on the environment. The gathering gave people hope that this flood can bring more people together to create a stronger and better sustainable agriculture in Iowa that delivers good food for all.

Earlier in the day Willie gratefully accepted a check from Mark Stanley, who represented Best Buy as they donated $10,000. With an additional donation of $25,000 from WhiteWave, makers of Horizon Organic and Silk Soymilk, and donations from people like YOU, Farm Aid has raised $50,000 so far for the Family Farm Disaster Fund!

We are preparing to give grants to the other states hit by rain and floods, including WI, IN, IL, and MO.

Hilde (Farm Aid's new Program Associate) recounts her very own “Chicken Moment”

I’m sure we have all had what Good Eats’ Alton Brown calls “chicken moments” at one time or another. During the Food Network star’s recent Grist interview about sustainability and cooking, Brown talks about his commitment to what we at Farm Aid like to call The Good Food Movement. During the interview, Brown recounts his daughter’s big “ah-ha” – that oh-so-impressionable moment when she first grasped the concept of farm-to-table over a plate of roasted chicken. Whether we recognize them as chicken moments or not, there are times when food simply surprises us – and, if we are lucky, teaches us a few things.

Mine wasn’t so much a chicken moment but a tomato epiphany. It was a gloomy, mid-January day when I bit into a tough-skinned, mealy excuse for a tomato. I was twelve or thirteen. Moments before I had outright begged for this tomato in the grocery store, even though I felt somewhat suspicious of its pinkish hue. The realization that this tomato DID NOT taste anything like the succulent, juicy sort I had fallen in love with the summer before, fresh-picked from my mom’s garden or my Grandpa Pete’s farm, changed my relationship with food forever. I was convinced that I loved anything and everything about tomatoes – I even ate them like apples, letting the juice drip down my chin to my toes – but man alive, I hated this one! It was at that moment the concept of seasonality hit me upside the head. As did some grander impression of a food system, an understanding that the route from tomato plant to my mouth wasn’t always so delightfully short (and sweet) as plucking the plumpest fruit I could find from the backyard vine.

I love how Brown stresses the importance of such moments in connecting us as eaters to the people and land that make farm-fresh food possible in the first place. I agree with Brown that our collective taste buds are at risk if we don’t whole-heartedly invest in a sustainable, community-based food system soon – not to mention the livelihoods of our family farmers and fertility of our fields. And so I find myself at Farm Aid, newly on-board as Program Associate, eager to keep spreading the good word about Good Food, and hopeful, that by doing so, many of the “chicken moments” and “tomato epiphanies” out there waiting to happen will have a fair shot at making a difference.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anna says: I survived Bonnaroo with Cornelia, Jen & Carolyn!

We headed down to Bonnaroo, a 4-day music festival in Manchester, Tennessee, to promote Farm Aid’s

After a long day of driving, flying, driving and of course waiting, we arrived at our campsite at around 11 o’clock at night and set up our tents in the dark. (I believe this is what caused my tent to flood on night #3). Our Boston based team was happy to see that the Celtics – Lakers games were added to Cinema Tent’s lineup!

The festival was hard to imagine before we got there. Over 130 performances in 4 days and a crowd that surpassed 90,000! Our booth was set up in Planet Roo- where we were surrounded by other non-profits and earth friendly organizations from across the country. A real working Post Office made of straw and mud was in the center of Planet Roo. At the Carbon Shredders booth I pledged to reduce my carbon footprint. A few people stopped by our booth that recognized HOMEGROWN from Farm Aid 2007: A HOMEGROWN Festival! Yay—people remember us! One couple from Wisconsin told me how they were taking eating locally to the extreme by not eating anything from more than 25 miles away. Talk about eating your zipcode!

Lots of microbreweries were serving up their finest brews. The Tennessee heat prevented me from getting to try most of them. ;-(Here’s a picture of me trying my first veggie corn dog!
The music was the real treat of the festival! Of course I caught Willie’s performance. I was psyched to see Alison Kraus and Robert Plant and the Wood Brothers with John Medeski! The airconditioned ‘Something Else-New Orleans’ stage was a real treat! While it required a small donation to enter, the money went to some great causes down in Louisiana. The fountain provided another option for cooling off.What surprised me the most: The number of babies in attendance & how often porta potties were cleaned!

To see more about our experience at Bonnaroo, check out and sign up while you’re there!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Carolyn Blogs About Farm Aid's Response to Midwest Flooding

Flooded farm buildings in Southeastern Iowa. Photo © Criss Roberts.

Here at Farm Aid, we started working on disaster relief for flooded Iowa farmers on Monday. We've been on the phone with Iowa farm organizations to create an action plan and yesterday we sent out a letter from Willie to all of our members asking for their help. Farmers in Wisconsin and Iowa are in trouble already and as the floodwaters flow down the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri farmers are facing rising water next. Farm Aid will be there to help farmers in all of the affected states.
Dear Farm Aid Supporter,

Severe weather in nine Midwestern states is devastating family farmers. Disastrous floods in Iowa and Wisconsin have hit farmers especially hard--more than 30 counties in Iowa alone have already been declared federal disaster areas. More areas are expected to be threatened by rising flood water in the next few weeks.

Farm Aid is working now with local farm groups, churches, and rural organizations to get emergency funds out quickly to flooded farmers. Today we made our first grant of $10,000 to a local Iowa farm organization to provide emergency assistance to farmers in need right now.

Farm Aid has a long history of helping farm families survive disasters—but we need your donation to do it. Can you help by making a tax-deductible donation of $25, $100, $500, or $1,000?

When major disasters like this strike, desperate farmers and farm organizations call Farm Aid. With your help, Farm Aid can help by providing emergency funds for families to buy food and cover living expenses and by supporting emergency hotlines and organizations that provide legal, financial and emotional counseling to farm families in need.

Please make an emergency contribution to Farm Aid’s Family Farm Disaster Fund right now and we will rush your funds to the stricken area.

Stay Strong and Positive,

Willie Nelson

P.S. Disasters like this bring people together, and right now family farmers need your help. Your gift goes a long way toward helping a flooded farm family.
After 23 years of working with family farmers, we've learned a lot from farmers about what they need when weather disasters like this happen. With that knowledge, we can jump in quickly to provide on-the-ground help.

We know farm families need emergency funds first—for food and everyday living expenses. When those immediate needs are met, farmers turn their attention to the business of farming and Farm Aid is there to hook them up with credit and legal counselors. Finally, Farm Aid provides training to fill out the complicated Federal Disaster Assistance paperwork once the government makes it available. Farm Aid is there every step along the way.

You can learn more about the Farm Aid Family Farm Disaster Fund, and make a donation, on our website.

Kari says, "Relief comes at the right time"

By now you have probably heard and read about the flooding disaster in the Midwest. Twenty-four people have died in the wake of the storm and thousands have been forced to evacuate. And the worst may be yet to come as rivers approach record levels in the next few days.

The Family Farm Disaster Fund was established by Farm Aid to help farm families survive weather-related disasters. Right now we are working with farmers who have been hurt by devastating flooding and severe weather in Iowa, Wisconsin and seven other Midwestern states.

Our first gift for The Family Farm Disaster Fund was sitting on my desk when I walked in Tuesday morning…I couldn’t help but think the timing was perfect. The Xi Chapter of Sigma Alpha at Oregon State University had contacted us early this spring to request permission to hold an auction to benefit Farm Aid. Sigma Alpha exists to promote women in agriculture, so the pairing seemed to be a natural fit! The $1,000 these women raised will go directly to help the farmers in the Midwest who were left reeling after this week’s weather disaster.

A lot of times I have thought to myself, “Well, I don’t have $1,000 to give, or even $50 for that matter. What can I do?” When natural disasters arise they are so big it seems the sacrifice of one person doesn’t matter. But then a group like Sigma Alpha reminds me that it’s not about just me – it’s about everyone working together. Whether it is volunteering in the affected area or making a small sacrifice to make up part of a big relief check, we can make a difference as individuals. Please donate to The Family Farm Disaster Fund and keep America growing!

Information obtained from and

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ted talks to Liana Hoodes about the National Summit on Organic Food and Agriculture

Organic farmers and a lot of other folks interested in organic food are laying the ground work now for a major Organic Summit meeting and endorsement of a new National Organic Action Plan. The "National Summit on Organic Food and Agriculture" is set to take place next February in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

It’ll be important to all those who care about the future of organic agriculture because the aim is to create a road map that will guide the Organic Movement through the next Farm Bill and beyond. I know, thinking about the next Farm Bill now, when folks are still sorting out what Congress created with its 2008 farm program seems a bit like cruel and unusual punishment. But 2012 really isn’t that far away, and folks like Liana Hoodes, with the National Organic Coalition, are keeping it in mind as they work on the National Summit on Organic Food and Agriculture.

Hoodes stopped by Farm Aid a few days ago to tell us more about the Summit meeting, which will draw more than 250 food and farm activists committed to organic agriculture.

To help in developing the Summit agenda and action plan, Farm Aid has funded close to a dozen grass roots dialogue meetings over the last two years. Comments were received from folks in 32 different states. Observations made by farmers, consumers, food retailers, researchers, and other people involved in building organic farming were recorded at the meetings, and will be considered for inclusion in the final action plan, which we are all looking forward to seeing and acting on after the first of the new year.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Jen asks, "Seriously, what did we do before the Internet?"

Now you can use the Internet to buy and have delivered local farm fresh food. Of course, we still think you should get to know your farmer in person, but this is a good option for busy times when you can't get out to the farm and have to resort to modern technology instead!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ted salutes a food labeling victory in Missouri

People routinely ask me about the farm groups and activist organizations Farm Aid supports through its annual grant program. The Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) is a prime example, and it has just scored another huge victory for family farmers and consumers in Missouri.

MRCC is an organization that emerged during the 1980s farm crisis. The folks who head the organization really know their stuff when it comes to getting family farmers organized and speaking with one voice. Its latest campaign challenged a Monsanto-backed idea to ban any type of labeling that would tell consumers whether or not their milk came from cows treated with rGBH, a genetically engineered hormone that forces cows to produce more milk. There are lots of consumers who do not want these hormones in their milk and others who feel the hormone is bad for animal health. In the words of one Wisconsin dairy farmer, “rGBH burns the cows out.”

In many states, dairy farmers have rejected Posilac and have begun putting a label on their milk cartons letting consumers know the milk is rGBH-free. Monsanto produces the hormone and sells it to dairy farmers under the brand name Posilac. The company wants to keep consumers in the dark about its use, hence the labeling ban in Missouri.

MRCC acted fast to challenge the proposed ban on labeling, which it said was “Anti-farm, anti-consumer and anti-business.” The group put together a classic grass roots campaign, engaging its family farmer members and others to persuade the state that the ban was a bad idea. It worked. A few days ago the ban was rejected.

Monsanto has tried to get other states to ban rGBH-free labeling. Another Farm Aid supported organization, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) successfully led efforts in that state to defeat such a ban.

These unified actions around the country give strength to the Good Food Movement and show again that farmers and consumers working together can win against the corporate agri-business interests that control such a huge part of our food supply.