Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Farm Aid Goes Back to the White House

AliciaEarlier this month, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with White House staff. This was the second time the White House reached out to Farm Aid (see our blog from April 2010) to talk with us about the rural economy, farm credit issues and how family farmers and food systems can fuel economic development nationwide. Music to our ears here at Farm Aid!

I was joined by Farm Aid partners National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA) and Food & Water Watch. We shared the findings of our recent report, Don't Bank On It, a survey of farm credit counselors and advocates nationwide that found that farmers have had a harder time finding credit since 2009. Available, affordable credit is crucial for all farmers--to plant the seeds, to expand their herds, to purchase equipment and oftentimes, especially after bad years, to keep the farm afloat. When farmers can’t find credit, they risk losing their farms altogether, which in turn hurts the economies and communities that depend on them.

We also highlighted the barriers that organic and sustainable farmers and value-added producers face in accessing credit and risk management programs like crop insurance (we’ve heard countless stories on our 1-800-FARM-AID hotline of organic farmers practically getting laughed out of banks and other lending offices when looking for loans!).

Like us, the White House sees these farmers as the kinds of entrepreneurs and innovators that can spur wealth and job creation in the countryside. Yet, farmers could be set up for failure if the glossy language of programs like Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food isn’t supported by the USDA programs, private banks and service infrastructure that actually lend to and work with farmers. We need to properly invest in the farmers and food systems that are environmentally-sound, economically viable and provide Americans with the healthiest food possible.

We hope that this is one of many conversations with the Administration about the critical needs of America’s family farmers and how to work toward our vision for a family farm-centered system of agriculture in America.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring John Denver & Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

MattA Memorial Day Farm Aid Music Monday is here! This week, I bring two videos of John Denver performing with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at the very first Farm Aid concert back in 1985.

Here's "Take Me Home, Country Roads":

And this is "Thank God I'm A Country Boy"

For more Farm Aid videos, visit our YouTube channel.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Farmer Hero Friday: Kenneth Barber from Ithaca, NY

MattThis edition of Farmer Hero Friday is an interview we did in 2007 with Kenneth Barber of Stone Arch Farm northwest of Ithaca, New York. The farm produces grapes, peaches, cherries, pastured-raised chickens and eggs, and includes an on-farm bakery, a woodshop, and much more.

Kenneth Barber

Q: Back on the farm, what’s an average day like?

A: There’s never an average day on the farm. Every day is different. But of course we have our rural community here, too. We have local heroes you’ll never see on the sports page or on the national news. But they’ve pulled people up the ladder with them by sharing ideas. Nowadays, some people get up to the top of the ladder and then kick the ladder away.

Like in most places, we’re losing farmers, and when you lose numbers of farmers, you also lose your infrastructure, your parts dealers, etc. Today, to get parts for my tractor, it’s a full day’s trip. When the farm community crumbles, your costs go up, and everyone loses.
Click here to read the rest of our interview with Kenneth.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Join us for a good movie, good food and a good discussion!

KariPlease join us for a screening of the documentary film Ingredients on Tuesday, June 7. All the details are below or visit our website for more information!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring John Mellencamp

MattThis week's Music Monday draws once again from Farm Aid: Concert for America, which was held on September 29, 2001 in Noblesville, Indiana. This time, it's John Mellencamp performing "R.O.C.K. in the USA," which he originally recorded in 1985 for the album Scarecrow.

You can get this performance and others from the 2001 concert on DVD. Visit our online store to take a look.

For more Farm Aid videos, visit our YouTube channel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tornado Response in Rural Alabama

MatthewImmediately after the tornadoes of April 15 and 27, our long-time partner The Federation of Southern Cooperatives began working hard to help rural residents and farmers who lost so much. Farm Aid immediately made a $5,000 grant from our Disaster Fund to help the Federation, and we thank everyone who made generous donations to our Family Farm Disaster Fund. But responding to disaster also involves supplies and hands to do work--and that's what the Federation so crucially needs right now. And everyone can help! Here is an excerpt from their website:

“The Federation has been working to make its Rural Training and Research Center (RTRC) near Epes, Alabama, a staging area for relief and recovery efforts. We have focused our work on small, in some cases isolated, rural communities in the Alabama Black Belt counties surrounding Tuscaloosa to the south and west. We have also http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifserved some neighboring areas in east Mississippi. Click here for recent photos and here for the more detailed updates on the relief efforts.”

The Federation is in need of non-perishable food, toiletries, personal care items, baby food and diapers, cleaning kits, towels, linens, furniture, building materials, generators and other supplies. If you are in the area, they could use your help as a volunteer to help distribute and transport the goods as well as help with record keeping. Your efforts will help ensure that this aid is distributed in a fair and timely manner to families in need.

If you can lend a hand, you can contact the Federation through their website: www.federation.coop or by phone: 205-652-9676.

Thanks for all you do to support family farmers--in times of disaster and every day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

John and Kate Bike For Food

KariJohn and Kate Suscovich are a passionate duo. They have ridden over 1,000 miles in the last year on their touring bikes, visiting farms around the Northeast United States. This is in addition to bicycle commuting and racing. But they're about to set off on their biggest adventure yet!

As of April 30, John is on the road again, cycling from New York City and heading South, for a trial run of the two-year voyage that he and Kate will take together (after she graduates at the end of May!), on their bikes, across the U.S. and then the world! They have pledged a commitment to Farm Aid and hope to raise $1 for every mile they ride to support our work! As you can see on their route map below, they plan to cover about 24,000 miles.

Their mission? To see how good food is produced, and learn why supporting our local family farmers when we shop is so important. They want to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers with the knowledge they pick up along the way. You can follow their adventure at their blog, Food Cyclist.

John and Kate will also be promoting good food and healthy lifestyles. They hope their effort will encourage people to think about what they put on their plates and into their bodies. They want to capture the differences in food production, farmer stories and farming techniques from all over the world.

The Suscovich's will kick off their tour on May 28, with a party dedicated to Farm Aid at Roberta's in Brooklyn, New York. Please click here for tickets so you can support Farm Aid and this quest for good food!

Good luck, John and Kate! And thanks for spreading the word about good food from family farms!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Farm Aid 2011 will be in Kansas City, Kansas!

MattWe're thrilled to be in Kansas City, Kansas, today to announce that we're bringing our annual concert to the heartland! Farm Aid 2011 will shine a spotlight on the family farmers and ranchers whose livelihood and ingenuity are essential for all of us. Farm Aid 2011, on Saturday August 13, will be Farm Aid's first concert in Kansas, and the first concert at the new LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City.

Farm Aid board members singing, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Mickey Raphael, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews at Farm Aid 25 at Miller Park on October 2, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Photo by Paul Natkin/Wire Image)

Ticket Pre-Sale

Our members-only ticket pre-sale gives you access to the best seats before the public sale. The pre-sale starts tomorrow, May 12 at noon EDT, 11am CDT — click here for more information. Tickets for Farm Aid 2011 will go on sale to the general public on Friday, May 20, at 10 am CDT, by phone at 1-800-745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Ticket prices range from $29 - $149.

For the latest concert updates and information, Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Neil Young and Crazy Horse

MattThis week's Music Monday draws once again from Farm Aid: Concert for America, which was held on September 29, 2001 in Noblesville, Indiana. Here, Neil Young and Crazy Horse perform "When I Hold You in My Arms," with Neil playing the piano, guitar and also singing.

You can get this performance and others from the 2001 concert on DVD. Visit our online store to take a look.

For more Farm Aid videos, visit our YouTube channel.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Farmer Hero Friday: Hedlin Farms in Mount Vernon, Washington

MattThis edition of Farmer Hero Friday is an interview with David Hedlin and Serena Campbell, third generation farmers of Hedlin Farms in Mount Vernon, Washington. We interviewed them back in 2008 and talked about the importance of being stewards of the land on their 400 acres of farmland; half of which is certified organic and half of which is farmed conventionally.

David and Serena

Q: What is the best thing about being a farmer?

A: It's a wonderful way to raise a family—an interesting and diverse circle of friends and acquaintances. When you're harvesting cabbage seed and you realize that every pound of seed that comes into the combine tank will make thirty thousand heads of cabbage somewhere in the world – it could be sauerkraut in Germany, kim chee in Korea, or coleslaw in New York—that’s a good feeling; it’s a feeling of connectedness, it makes you feel like your work is important. At the end of the day, I like sitting down to a dinner of fresh vegetables and knowing that because of our farmstand and our family farm, people all over our county are eating well.
Click here to read the rest of our interview with David and Serena.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Farm Aid Music...Tuesday? Starring Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and many more

MattI delayed today's post to give more attention yesterday to our efforts to help family farmers affected by the destruction caused by last week's tornadoes across the south (read Willie Nelson's post on it here). So, to make up for the delay, today I'm bringing you two videos from the Farm Aid archives.

If you've been to a Farm Aid concert, you'll know people should stay until the end to see a collaboration between many of the day's performers in a group song (or occasionally, several group songs). Today's video is from the finale of Farm Aid III, which took place at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska on September 19, 1987. It's Arlo Guthrie singing his father's song, "This Land Is Your Land" with Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson and many more. Keep your eyes peeled to see John Mellencamp playing the washboard with another musician, Dennis Hopper, Levar Burton and many others all on stage helping out.

In addition to performances from these old Farm Aid shows, I'm also running across videos from celebrities, and regular people too, explaining the farm crisis that gave rise to Farm Aid in 1985. Here, Bill Cosby invites us to "keep America growing strong."

For more Farm Aid videos, visit our YouTube channel.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Tornadoes Devastate Southern Farmers—You Can Help

Willie NelsonTornadoes ripped through seven southern states last week, killing 350 people and leaving wide swaths of devastation in their paths. The storms hit rural residents and family farmers hard, reducing their homes and farms to splinters. Residents are without electricity; running water is scarce; farmers have lost their livestock and crops; and with rain in the forecast, the need to repair and rebuild is urgent.

Farm Aid is working now with local farm groups, churches and rural organizations to get emergency funds out quickly to affected farmers.

Today, we made our first grant of $5,000 to our longtime partner, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, to provide emergency assistance to farmers in need right now. Already, the Federation has turned their training center in Epes, Alabama, into an emergency shelter. The center—a destination for farmers and rural citizens from all over the South for empowerment and training—now serves to provide shelter, food and water for folks who have nothing left but hope and the strength to rebuild.

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 make sure your donation goes to the people who need it most.