Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Ohio Issue 2 matters to you!

HildePeople have asked us how they can do more to help family farmers. Today, we have a clear step you can take – if you live in Ohio, VOTE NO on Issue 2 on next week’s November ballot. If you don’t live in Ohio, spread the word to your friends and family who do that Issue 2 is a bad idea for family farmers and consumers, and sets a scary precedent that could radically affect policies in your own state if it succeeds.

Issue 2 is a multi-million dollar campaign by corporate agri-business to write itself into the Ohio constitution by establishing a "Livestock Care Standards Board." Despite masquerading as good for local farmers, the truth is that the ballot measure seeks to bypass the democratic process and instead allow special interests to determine the fate of Ohio’s livestock farmers and industry. The proposed Board would be politically appointed and have an extraordinary level of unchecked power to make major shifts in policies that affect family farmers, including everything from food safety to animal ID to factory farm zoning regulations. These decisions will not require public input, review, evaluation or even an avenue to appeal decisions.

If Ohio lets the interests of corporate agri-business take over their constitution, this dangerous pattern can repeat in other states across the country.

Here are some important points that explain why Issue 2 is so off base:

  • Constitutional amendments are often reserved for issues that affect the rights of all citizens. Ohio’s constitution creates very few boards; among the ones that it has created are the State Board of Education and other things of that stature. The many boards and committees that govern agriculture in Ohio are not named in the constitution. This proposal is a curious departure from that norm.
  • The Livestock Care Standards Board would have the power to override any act by the state legislature, the Ohio Department of Agriculture and other initiatives and referendums brought before the public (outside of a new constitutional amendment) that relate to animal agriculture. This is an extraordinary level of unchecked power.
  • In contrast to decisions made by the Ohio Department of Agriculture or the legislature, the Board’s rulemaking will not require public input, review, evaluation or an avenue to appeal decisions. The Board’s decision is final.
  • Because so many political appointees will be present on the Board (most made by the Governor and two by the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate), it is more likely to be subject to partisan abuse in either direction. At its worst, this means that appointees could remove the oversight authority of other government bodies in favor of factory farms and at the expense of family farms who take good care of their animals and land.
For more information on Ohio Issue 2 and to access some tools and resources to help rally your neighbors, friends and family to action, check out

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Value-Added Producer Grants program: Not just another fun USDA acronym.

AliciaUSDA's Rural Business-Cooperative Service is offering fantastic funding opportunities through the Value-Added Producer Grants Program (or VAPG, my new favorite USDA acronym).

USDA will provide grants for producers who process or market their raw products in a way that adds value to their businesses. This could mean processing a raw product (like roasting almonds or making jams from fruits), marketing produce as “locally grown” or even offering farm and ranch-based renewable energy.

Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer cooperatives, producer groups and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. USDA is looking to prioritize applications from beginning farmers and ranchers, socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and operators of small or medium-sized family farms. Sweet music to our ears, here at Farm Aid!

USDA is still accepting applications for fiscal year 2009, which are due by November 30 for eligibility. Producers interested in more information, including how to submit applications, should contact their State Rural Development Office. Contact information for each State Office can be found by clicking here.

Most recently, Congress approved a modest increase in funds to the VAPG program, raising it to $20.4 million for fiscal year 2010, up from $18.9 million for 2009. Look out for more information on the 2010 program on the Farm Aid blog in the coming months.

Friday, October 16, 2009

National School Lunch Week: Local produce replacing tater tots

ChristinaOn Monday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack kicked off National School Lunch Week by visiting West Elementary School in Knoxville, Iowa. The school has achieved a gold-level ranking in the USDA's Healthier US School Challenge, which challenges schools to provide healthier food choices, nutrition education and physical activity.

School lunches have improved a great deal since National School Lunch Week was created by presidential proclamation in 1963 to promote the National School Lunch Program. However, it has only been recently that Farm To School has been added into the mix and programs bringing fresh, local produce into schools have really taken off.

It wasn't that long ago that I had my first school lunch. I didn't have them often because Mother knew best and would pack me healthy lunches, but when I did they were a greasy treat made up of french fries, tater tots, pizza and a never ending supply of ketchup packets. Through elementary, middle and high school nothing seemed to change except the serving size. Even now that I am in college, those food options still exist. But now we have additional options also available.

I have seen the change firsthand. My school opened a new cafeteria this fall featuring twelve different food stations all serving up something different and while the pizza, burgers and infamous french fries are still there, I find myself heading for different options—the salad bar, made to order rice dishes and, my favorite, the sushi bar.

Even more, the cafeteria is certified 'green' because of efforts such as serving local produce and fruit, sustainable seafood and cage-free eggs. I know I'm lucky; friends come to visit and they are amazed and jealous that we have such healthy and great tasting food. What they don't realize is that they can work to have it to. If you check out Farm Aid's Farm to School 101 Toolkit you can learn how to get started, read about success stories, figure out how to overcome obstacles and take advantage of the resources and funding already available.

So moms, dads, teachers and students like me, take some time to bring fresh, local produce into your school and support a local farmer. You and your kids, and your local farmers too, will reap the benefits.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Annie Zaleski reviews Wilson & Wilco at Farm Aid

Guest post by Annie Zaleski. She's the music editor at the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, and you can read more of her work at the paper's music blog, A to Z.

St. Louis has pride in its native sons and daughters – whether the city is celebrating its baseball team (the playoffs-bound Cardinals) or musical exports (natives include hip-hop superstar Nelly). Fittingly, two more talented musicians the city calls its own – country singer Gretchen Wilson and Wilco singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy – made their hometowns proud earlier this afternoon.

Wilson is from tiny Pocahontas, Illinois, which is located about 45 minutes east of St. Louis. Her songs about unpretentious, hard-working men and women – those who prefer beer and whiskey, and jeans and T-shirts, to fancier things – went over well with the crowd. Her set kicked off with the 2004 hit "Here For the Party" (complete with a snippet of the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" beforehand) that was bolstered by her two ripping guitarists and electric-fiddler.

That mix of bluesy hard rock and hard-twanging country permeated the rest of her set – whether on the Black Crowes-ish new song "Work Hard, Play Harder" (which Wilson says is forthcoming on her new label, Redneck Records) or a version of the "Star Spangled Banner" that broke out after "Politically Uncorrect." This ending was especially poignant, because the shredding-heavy version of the song occurred as the band raised an American flag high above the stage.

Wilson's voice needs no effects or manipulation to sound clear and strong, and she was clearly humbled and honored to be performing. She was clearly having tons of fun, too: Right after "All Jacked Up" she took a generous swig of Jack Daniels whiskey, and then launched into "Redneck Woman." Clusters of women stood up around the pavilion and sang along proudly to the song's rallying cry: "Hell yeah!"

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy is also from a nearby town in Illinois – Belleville, to be exact – and started his career there in the late ‘80s with alt-country originators Uncle Tupelo. Wilco, however, has become a formidable live presence in recent years, a band ably incorporating equal parts soul, jazz and blues into its roots rock.

The band's talents shone on opening song "Bull Black Nova," from this year's Wilco (The Album). The song kept building and building in intensity and volume as it progressed, culminating in Tweedy and guitarists Nels Cline and Pat Sansone pounding out shrieking riffs and effects. The look on Tweedy's face was downright ferocious and intense – the kind you'd be scared to meet if you saw him in a dark alley.

Guitar heroics were a common thread throughout the six-song set, whether they involved Cline's nuanced plucking on "Impossible Germany" or Sansone's lazy windmills, Who-style, throughout the set. (Heck, the pair even had an entertaining guitar duel on final song "Hoodoo Voodoo.")

Wilco's set belied Tweedy's regional roots, thanks to "Casino Queen" and a fantastic, power-pop-leaning "Heavy Metal Drummer," a song which references the once-popular St. Louis entertainment district the Landing. He also made a counterpoint comment to Wilson's declarations, by making it a point to say that "not everybody who grows up here is a redneck."

Monday, October 05, 2009

You can still watch the concert!

MattYesterday was such an amazing day in Maryland Heights, Missouri for Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic. If you weren't able to join us yesterday in person or watching at home, you still have time!

Our webcast brought to you by EternaGreen™ will be up for free on our site through this week. After that, it will move to the FarmYard- Farm Aid's members-only area where you can watch this year's concert along with past shows.

DIRECTV's The 101 Network will be broadcasting the concert in HD, commercial-free, and in surround sound at the following times (all times Eastern):

Monday, 10/5: 8pm
Wednesday, 10/7: 3pm
Saturday, 10/10: 2pm
Saturday, 10/10: 8pm
Sunday, 10/11: 2pm
Monday, 10/12: 8pm

Click here to see photos from this year's show.

Remember, that you can still text FARMER to 90999 to donate $5 to farmers through your cellphone!

Farmgirl Susan Visits the Homegrown Village

Guest post by Farmgirl Susan. Please visit her blog, Farmgirl Fare.

While the music stars are rocking out on the Farm Aid 2009 stage, farmers and the environment are stealing the show over in Homegrown Village. In the FarmYard, concert-goers can visit with real farmers, while exhibitors (many of whom are farmers, too) aim to educate, enlighten, and encourage everyone to learn more about where their food comes from - and how they can personally help and support our family farms.

Did you know that if everyone converted just 10% of their diet to organic, we could capture an additional 6.5 billion pounds of carbon in soil? That's the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road each year! And did you know that thousands of newly hatched baby roosters at a time are tossed--while still alive-- into dumpsters at large commercial egg laying operations because they're useless? Or that with an aquaponic system you can organically raise edible plants and fish (and have enough compost material to fertilize your tomatoes) using a fraction of the water required for traditional hydroponic gardening and without creating any waste? Or that you can turn three plastic water bottles into a shirt? Or that you can earn a sustainable agriculture degree at dozens of colleges across the country?

These are just a few of the interesting things I learned while chatting with the friendly (and enthusiastic!) folks in Homegrown Village. I also watched busy bees buzzing around a hive and discovered how honey is produced, was given a seed saving lesson by one of the greenhorns (who know that 'our seed is our future!'), learned how plastic soda bottles become clothing, and watched a poultry processing demonstration (using toy birds).

You may not be familiar with many of them, but there some wonderful organizations working tirelessly - and in all sorts of ways - to help keep our family farms alive (see links below for websites). The Center for Food Safety is the nation's leading non-profit membership organization addressing the impacts of our current industrial food production system on human health, animal welfare, and the environment. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service maintains an 800 number farmers, perspective farmers, university cooperative extension agents, and members of the media can call for information anything related to sustainability and organics. Sustainable agriculture educational programs are such a growing trend that the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association was formed as a resource exchange.

These are just some of the exhibitors at Homegrown Village, which is hopping!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Guest Post by Will Dailey, Farm Aid Musician

Guest post by Will Dailey. Will was kind enough to play at Farm Aid the past two years. For more information, visit his website at

Hour 12th of the work day for me.

I have been running non-stop since I got here at 7AM.

My last bit of “work” for the day is this blog.

Interviews, press and playing for the great people of MO are all behind me now.

I can kick back a little and enjoy the great music and amazing food!

The atmosphere back stage and in the crowd is amazing. And being a part of Farm Aid is more fulfilling that I can put into a blog. A 12-hour day is nothing with this crew.

However, if I were a family farmer trying to hold on to my land and business a 12-hour work day would only be half the day.

It has knocked me over today, more than once, that for 24 years Farm Aid has been helping the family farmer and leading the discussion about the food we make and put in your bodies in this country.

That is 24 years of success! But also, it is 24 years that there is a need. It is 24 years of people eating factory farm food that is not healthy for them while the family farm suffers.
It is 24 years fighting against factory farms and fighting for the very root our of economy and health.

There is a long road behind us and a long way to go. But if anything is evident heading into year 25, it is that Farm Aid will be there for the farmer and the farmer will be there for us.

Where will you be?

Text FARMER to 90999 to donate 5$ to Farm Aid. Or find a farm near you.

Thanks Farmers.
Will Dailey

Five for farmers

Guest post by Will Valverde.
Five dollars doesn't sound like a lot of money, not to a lot of people. It's a couple gallons of gas, or a burger and fries at the drive-through, or even, depending on where you are, just a cup of coffee. But at Farm Aid, five dollars can make a huge difference.

That's because Farm Aid understands something that farmers have known for a long time: many hands make light work, and small changes can add up to something huge. All day long, Farm Aid has been asking concertgoers to donate just $5 to help family farmers, and they've made it super easy to do: just text FARMER to 90999 and a $5 donation will be made (you'll see it on your next cellphone bill). So far, more than a thousand people have texted in their gifts.

Small donations like these add up quick, and they're what enables Farm Aid to continue their vital work helping America's family farmers. So if you're watching the webcast, seeing the show live on DIRECTV, or listening to the broadcast on Sirius XM, consider taking a moment between sets to text FARMER to 90999. Five dollars might not sound like much, but it can make all the difference in the world to the family farmers who rely on Farm Aid.

Of course, you can donate any amount you want online, quickly and easily. If you've been enjoying the show, if you know the value of Farm Aid's work with family farmers, go ahead and make a gift. It's a whole lot more satisfying (not to mention healthier) than that burger and fries.

Farm Aid and Momentum in the Good Food Movement

Aimee Witteman is the Executive Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. This is her first blog post for Farm Aid.

We're arguably seeing a new good food movement taking shape before our eyes—a major shift in public consciousness about where our food comes from and a demand for healthy food that is grown sustainably by family farmers. But this new, beautiful flower isn't rising out of soil that didn't receive tending by many hands over many years. Long before we read it in Omnivore's Dilemma or saw it in Food, Inc., we heard about it from Farm Aid.

In this, its 24th year, Farm Aid continues to blaze a path, bringing nation-wide attention to the serious challenges facing family farmers and American agriculture, as well as the new opportunities for family farms and the growing consumer demand for good food.

I arrived in St. Louis yesterday morning and for me, Farm Aid events began at an afternoon farmer/advocacy strategy meeting. A group of farmers, researchers, and advocates gathered at a church in the University District of St. Louis to discuss consolidation and concentration in the livestock and seed markets and the current economic emergency facing dairy farmers.

The first Farm Aid concert coalesced in the 1980s when farmers were being foreclosed on due to plummeting commodity and land prices—the bust after a long boom. Today, family farmers are facing economic circumstances nearly as dire—especially in dairy. The focus of Farm Aid in 2009—and at the farmer/advocacy strategy session I attended yesterday—is the consolidation in livestock, poultry, and seed markets. In short, due to policy choices that can be reversed, more and more family farmers are being pushed out of agriculture because they are squeezed between high input prices for things like seeds and low prices for their agricultural products. The culprits are antitrust laws that have gone un-enforced by the U.S. government. Family farmers are also disadvantaged by chronic loopholes that allow huge farming operations to reap millions of taxpayer dollars every year.

I was lucky enough to get to hear some of my heroes speak passionately to these issues at the strategy sessions—folks like Mary Hendrickson from the University of Missouri, Ken Meter from Crossroads Resource Center, and Rhonda Perry, a family farmer and leader of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

But while the structural barriers to a thriving family farming system are severe, I think the theme of this particular Farm Aid weekend is cause for hope. As Neil Young said this morning on stage with family farmers and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan at his side, our movement is “too big to fail." We now have opportunities for change that we haven't seen in decades: an Administration that not only wants to address major structural impediments to family farming, including enforcement of anti-trust laws, but also strong interest and political will in rebuilding the infrastructure necessary for local and regional food systems to thrive.

Toward this growing area of opportunity for family farmers and consumers, Deputy Secretary Merrigan discussed on stage the new “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative at USDA to raise the profile of federal programs that can be used to do things like make it easier for schools to purchase healthy food from local farms.

Farm Aid is behind both of these initiatives 100% and continues to be a leader in the movement for good food and fairness for family farmers.

Watch Farm Aid Live!

MattThe concert's well under way here in St. Louis! For those of you at home, watch the concert live on DIRECTV, our free webcast brought to you by EternaGreen, or listen on Sirius XM radio.

Another reason to listen to Dave Matthews

Guest post by Will Valverde.
At this morning's press event, Dave Matthews spoke about one of the greatest benefits of supporting local farmers and the good food movement: it's incredibly delicious. With sustainably raised food grown locally, "you can taste the quality. Family farming -- it's not just a romantic thing. It’s the real thing, it's what you're feeding your kids."

Dave also had a word of advice for everyone present: try the pork chops from Patchwork Family Farms. I have to say, that's some of the best -- and tastiest -- advice I've ever followed.

As you'd expect, the food here at Farm Aid is not your usual concert fare. Sure, there are corn dogs -- but they're organic and hand-dipped in front of your eyes. Organic food is the order of the day, and you can taste the difference in every bite.

Patchwork Farms is one of the most popular vendors at Farm Aid, serving up sausages, chicken, and those famous pork chops. Patchwork is a collection of family-owned farms from all over the state that began as an effort by the Missouri Rural Crisis Center to preserve the local tradition of small hog farms.

At a time when plummeting hog prices were putting many family farmers out of business, the Crisis Center helped a coalition of farmers take control of the process, from growing hogs without unnecessary antibiotics and growth hormones to storing and transporting the meat to placing their products with local retailers.

The result (especially when combined with locally-produced Show Me BBQ sauce) is just about the best pork chop I've ever tasted. And in the meantime, family hog farmers in Missouri have the opportunity to thrive by raising good food for the fans at Farm Aid and stores around the state.

The best seats in the house

Guest post by Will Valverde.
The expansive lawn here at the Verizon Amphitheater is completely sold out. Fans are dancing, singing along, and basking in the warm sun on a gorgeous St. Louis afternoon. And while the lawn is sold out, Farm Aid has set aside a few seats in the front row for some lucky fans.

Will Allen -- farmer, author, educator and owner of Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford, Vermont -- helped Farm Aid Development Relations Manager Kari Williams pick out two worthy fans to make the walk from top section of the lawn to front row center. Will's an old friend of Farm Aid, one of the original advocates of organic farming, and he was more than happy to help make this year's Farm Aid experience extra special for a couple of fans.

Out of a sea of faces on the lawn, Will picked out two who were grooving just a little more than most to Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses' performance onstage: Susan Scott and Matt Barnes of Ashland, Missouri. This is their first time at Farm Aid, and with two tickets to the front row, you can bet it'll be one to remember.

Congratulations to Susan and Matt. And for you at home, be sure to catch the Farm Aid webcast brought to you by EternaGreen starting at 5:00 Eastern (pretty much right now, actually). You can also follow along on DIRECTV's 101 Network and on Sirius Channel 64 or XM Channel 13. It may not quite be a surprise ticket to the front row, but it's going to be an awesome show.

Farm Aid 2009: A sellout crowd!

MattWe have officially sold out all seats at today's concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Maryland Heights, MO! We are overjoyed by the enthusiastic support of everyone here enjoying great music on a beautiful, cloudless day, supporting family farmers.

If you're not here with us today, watch on DIRECTV, on our webcast brought to you by EternaGreen, or listen on Sirius XM radio!

And remember to text FARMER to 90999 to donate $5 with your cellphone!

Photos from the Concert

Want to see photos from Farm Aid's concert? Backstage, the food, the Homegrown Village, the people? They're all visible on our 2009 Photos page. You can also check out more directly photos on our flickr page.

Are you planning to take photos at the show? Upload them to flickr and share them with the tag "farmaid09" so the world can see how much fun you had.

What we're here for

Guest post by Will Valverde.
The first performers won't be hitting the stage for a little while yet, but we've already gotten a taste of what's in store for us here at Farm Aid 2009. During a press event this morning, we heard personal stories from family farmers about the struggles they face, a renewed commitment from Farm Aid Executive Director Carylon Mugar to continue to fight for small farmers, and real passion from Farm Aid board members Neil Young, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson.

Joining the performers this morning was Jason, a 23 year old, 3rd generation dairy farmer from Northeastern Iowa. He talked about the difficult struggle of continuing his family's tradition of dairy farming in a changing environment -- how hard it is for a young farmer competing against huge agribusiness corporations. He's succeeding with support from farming cooperatives, consumers and groups like Farm Aid -- and thanks to a simple belief in what he's doing: "Let's graze the cows outside, that's where they belong -- they don't belong in a shed, on concrete."

Jason explained how consumers like you and me can make a huge difference for family farmers like him. It starts with what you put in your refrigerator, and making a conscious choice to support local farmers using safe, sustainable organic practices. That's part of what Farm Aid is here for, to educate consumers about the huge impact simple choices can make.

Just as important, we need to make sure our government supports family farmers, not factory farms. With dairy farmers facing a crisis as bad as they've ever seen, it's never been more important for you and me to speak out. Click here to sign Farm Aid's petition to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack before it's too late for family dairy farmers like Jason.

We heard inspirational words from performers, farmers, activists, and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan this morning, but I think John Mellencamp put it best: "It all comes down to what kind of country we want to be and what kind of individuals we want to be. If we want a better world, it begins with each and every one of us."

Are you ready to make your choice? Take action now to save dairy farmers.

Every thread supports family farmers

Guest post by Will Valverde.
It's not just the lineup at Farm Aid that changes from year to year (check out this year's artists here). Every year, Farm Aid commissions t-shirt designs from a diverse group of artists. These evolving designs are part of the Farm Aid tradition, and it's no surprise that there are dedicated Farm Aid supporters out there with a collection of shirts spanning all 24 years.

Although the merchandise is unique every year, there's something extra special about the t-shirts being counted out by hand by Farm Aid volunteers as they come off the truck. This year's shirts, generously provided by Anvil, are a combination of sustainable fabric and transitional cotton. They represent one more way that Farm Aid is helping family farmers build a stable future for themselves -- and the planet.

This year's concert shirts are made with a blend of recycled plastic bottles (about three bottles go into each shirt!) and transitional cotton. It takes three years of following strict guidelines before a cotton farm can be certified organic, and those three years can be really tough ones for farmers who are trying to move away from conventional growing practices. Anvil makes a point of buying cotton from Texas farmers going through this transition, and we're proud to have them feature this year's design.

Check out the Farm Aid store to see more the of this year's merchandise, and know that you can wear Farm Aid gear in comfort and style -- while supporting American family farmers making the transition to sustainable farming.

2009 Concert Schedule!

MattWe've got a fantastic lineup for Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic today. All of these musicians donated their time and paid their own expenses to help raise awareness and money to keep family farmers on their land. Please donate to help us keep these farmers growing good food for us all and get an exclusive 2009 Farm Aid t-shirt and hat!

Below is a schedule of when artists will perform. Keep in mind that times are approximate and subject to change. All times are Central.

Doors open: 12:30pm

  • The Blackwood Quartet - 1:00
  • Phosphorescent - 1:15
  • Will Dailey - 1:40
  • Ernie Isley & the Jam Band - 2:10
  • Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real - 2:30
  • Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses - 3:00
  • Billy Joe Shaver - 3:25
  • Jamey Johnson - 4:00
  • Gretchen Wilson - 4:25
  • Wilco - 5:05
  • Jason Mraz - 5:55
  • Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds - 6:35
  • John Mellencamp - 7:30
  • Neil Young - 8:25
  • Willie Nelson - 9:20
Check out the Lineup Page for information about each of these artists.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Can you hear me now?

Guest post by Will Valverde. The Verizon Amphitheater is mostly empty this afternoon -- there are roadies hauling gear around, and Farm Aid staff making all the last minute preparations for tomorrow's big event, but that's about it. It's mostly empty -- but it's definitely not quiet.

The sound check is being done in front of rows and rows of blue seats with nobody in them. It's LOUD and the musicians and sound techs are clearly having fun with it. I'll say this: if these are the guitar solos they're playing to an empty amphitheater, I can't wait to hear how they play in front of a sold out crowd of cheering fans.

Tomorrow those empty seats will be filled with farm families, Farm Aid supporters, and fans from around the country. And the stage is going to be a parade of some of the best acts in America: Wilco, Jason Mraz, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson -- the list goes on and on. I'm going to be here blogging, along with other folks from Farm Aid, to give you an on-the-ground look at what makes this annual concert such a special event.

I hope you'll follow along -- and even better, you can catch the concert live online (thanks to our friends at EternaGreen), on DIRECTV, and on Sirius XM radio. Be sure to tune in -- you're gonna want to hear this.

Farm Meets Fork: A Recipe for a Great Night

MattLast night, Overlook Farm hosted Farm Aid in St Louis' Central West End at Farm Meets Fork: A Benefit for Farm Aid. We were treated to delicious food from local family farms, by local chefs and the farmers themselves. One couple had the winning bid on four second row tickets! I wonder who their lucky friends coming with them will be...

Thanks once again to everyone at Overlook Farm for their kindness!

"Farm Aid comes to St. Louis, hoping to bring change"

MattLook for Farm Aid on the front page of Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch! If you can't wait, get out your Sunday morning coffee mug and check the article out online now to see what Farm Aid means to the farmers of Missouri.

Farm Aid comes to St. Louis, hoping to bring change
by Georgina Gustin

ST. LOUIS – Farm Aid, the longest-running benefit concert in the country, calls it the "good food" movement.

But by any name, the growing American appetite for locally raised food has conferred upon farmers a kind of celebrity status — or, at least, placed them at the center of the American conversation about food.

"As the good food movement was emerging, we began to see that we could show people that family farmers are the people who provide that food," said Glenda Yoder, an associate director with Farm Aid. "We could bring attention to farms."

That attention, organizers hope, will help Farm Aid in its mission to keep family farmers on their land — and, in the process, reshape the American food system...

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Bill Murray gave me a pawpaw

Guest post by Will Valverde. One of the great things about farmers markets and eating local is that you get the chance to try new flavors and new foods. Like the pawpaw.

We grow a lot of different foods out in California, but I'd never heard of pawpaws. A pawpaw is a small, sweet fruit -- kind of like a banana, kind of like a mango, but not really like either. It's native to Missouri, and I got the chance to try one here at the HOMEGROWN Urban County Fair thanks to the nice folks at Yellowtree Farm (seen here with their Bantam Plymouth Rock chicken, Bill Murray).

Yesterday I didn't know a pawpaw from a soursop (they're actually related) -- but today I can proudly say I'm a pawpaw partisan. That's why I try to make a point of visiting local markets and sampling local food wherever I travel. You never know what you'll find, and it's a great way to get in touch with the local cuisine and community.

Farm Aid has a handy set of resources for finding farmers markets and other sources of good local food. Check it out next time you're heading out of town -- you may not get a pawpaw, but you're bound to find something tasty, something local, something new.

Counting down to the concert

Guest post by Will Valverde.
This year is going to be my first time at Farm Aid, and I have to say I'm getting a little antsy. Tomorrow's going to be a full day of music and food, with farmers and farm supporters coming together for a great event – I can't wait.

Luckily, there's plenty to tide us all over until the first act takes the stage. I've heard so much about the concert, but I didn't realize that there's more than just a day-long concert. This whole weekend is packed with events for farmers, farm supporters and food lovers.

Right now I'm at the HOMEGROWN Urban County Fair in St. Louis's beautiful Tower Grove Park. Cornelia, the HOMEGROWN Shepherdess, has brought together an awesome group of local craftspeople, urban farmers, even beekeepers with homemade honey and a portable beehive.

Here at the Farm Aid "Turnip the Heat" booth, family farm supporters are stopping by to sign our petitions to save small dairy farms and stop the taxpayer giveaway to factory farms. These are people who value craftsmanship, locally-raised food, and the DIY spirit – so it's no surprise they're willing to stand up for family farmers. If you want to sign the petitions, just click here to support dairy farmers, and here to speak out against factory farms.

I've already signed the petitions, so I'm going to go check out those bees – and the honey.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Farm Aid Farmer Cook-Off on Saturday

AliciaThe Farm Aid concert always promises to be a blast. Each year we enjoy the process of organizing a series of events during the concert weekend that highlight the great work of people and organizations in the region.

It's in this spirit that we will be hosting the Farm Aid Farmer Cook-Off, a fun, Iron-Chef-like cooking competition that will celebrate local family farm food and the great contributions farmers make to the culinary arts. The event will be emceed by Molly Rockamann, Founding Director of EarthDance FARMS and will feature two local Missouri Farmers, Paul Krautmann and Walker Claridge, who will duke it out on stage in front of a stellar, award-winning judging panel. If you'll be in the area, please join us on Saturday, October 3rd from 11:00am - 12:15pm at the Taste of St. Louis! The free event is being held on Market Street, in between 13th & Tucker St, at the Saint Louis Bread Co. Culinary Stage. Please visit for more information. Bon appetit!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Saturday: The HOMEGROWN Urban Country Fair

CorneliaWe at are connecting to the land and to the family farmer by putting our hands into action - by raising homegrown food, cooking up a storm, canning the season's bounty, and building our own modern homesteads. The HOMEGROWN Urban Country Fair is a gathering of St. Louis HOMEGROWNers who are eager to share their passions and expertise with others - won't you join us?

Here are the details for the fair, and a rundown of the exhibits and workshops we have planned:

The HOMEGROWN Urban Country Fair at Tower Grove Farmers Market

Saturday October 3rd

10am - 2:30pm

Our partners include:

As always, you can join the conversation at Hope to see you there!