Monday, August 29, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Neil Young

MattFarm Aid Music Monday has taken a break for a couple weeks, but now it's back with the first video from Farm Aid 2011 from Kansas City! You may have seen the concert in person or on our live webcast, but we'll be posting videos from the show to our YouTube channel over the coming weeks so you can relive your favorite moments. This is one of my favorite moments — Neil Young being introduced by fellow Farm Aid co-founder and board member John Mellencamp and then singing "Comes A Time" off the album of the same name from 1978. If you've got a relatively modern computer, try watching this fullscreen in HD, the quality is amazing!

As a little bonus, here's Neil performing the same song at Farm Aid II back in Austin, Texas on July 4, 1986. How time flies!

Check out more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel and see you in Kansas City!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Family farmers in Wisconsin help drought-stricken farmers in Oklahoma

JoelHeld at the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas, on August 11 & 12, our National Meeting of Farm Advocates was, like our Farm Aid 20l1 concert the following day, a rousing success.

Organized and hosted by Farm Aid and the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), the meeting attracted farm advocates, counselors, attorneys, disaster experts, social workers, state and federal officials and many others from all over the country. The larger purpose of this unprecedented meeting was to bring together a diverse array of established and upcoming farm advocates from all of the organizations Farm Aid works with to create a national farm advocates network through which training, recruitment and support of farm advocates might smoothly proceed. Farm advocates are our “front line troops” who work directly with farmers and ranchers who call or email the Farm Aid hotline seeking financial, legal, disaster and all other kinds of help.

Some of the Farm Advocates who attended the National Meeting

For the moment, one quickly told success story that resulted directly from the meeting: prior to the meeting’s very last session, an Oklahoma advocate named Willard Tillman appealed to the assembled group of nearly 100 advocates for hay for livestock belonging to limited resource farmers he works with in the Oklahoma City region. Immediately after Willard’s appeal, we from Farm Aid, Family Farm Defenders, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and Rural Coalition put our heads together to organize what we call a hay lift as fast as possible. A haylift basically involves donation of hay from a region of country unaffected by drought to farmers in an area of drought so affected that there is no pasture of hay left to feed livestock. Twelve days later, the trucks were rolling.

As this morning, the first truckload of hay, donated by Wisconsin farmers, picked up and trucked by Shomotion, a company providing specialized transportation solutions for touring acts, arrived in drought-parched Oklahoma City. The second truck arrived this afternoon. Mr. Tillman is distributing the hay to farmers in need. He knows this is in fact a farmer-helping-farmer effort, and his farmer crew will “pay it forward” as soon as they possibly can.

It’s 105 degrees in Oklahoma City today. It’s been over 100 there for almost two straight months, and you can bet your bottom dollar that those Oklahoma farmers are sweating bullets as they unload the hay. But they now know that the National Farm Advocates Network (no formal title yet, but that sounds pretty good!) is up and running and this is the first of many coordinated efforts to help keep America’s farmers on the land.

If you'd like to be part of the effort to help family farmers affected by drought, please make a donation to Farm Aid today. If you have hay or transportation to donate, please contact or call 671-354-2922.

Here's a shot of Willie pitching in to help pull off a previous haylift organized by Farm Aid

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tour de Farms recap

JenOn Saturday, I joined about thirty riders on the 5th annual Boston Tour de Farms. It was a beautiful day for a ride, and after way too many hours of work in preparation for Farm Aid 2011, it was great to be on my bike for a leisurely ride to visit some of the Boston area’s farms.

Our first stop was Allandale Farm, Boston’s oldest working farm, started in 1765! Jim Buckle, Allandale’s farmer, told us about the history of the farm, what he and John Lee, the farm's general manager, have been up to to diversify the farm (Chickens! Cattle! Pigs!), and some of the challenges of farming in a city—-not to mention two cities, as Allandale straddles the Boston/Brookline line. Fueled up with Allandale’s tart Gravenstein apples, we got back on our bikes.

Jim Buckle tells us riders about the farm

Our next stop was Newton Community Farm, where we were met by Greg Maslowe, the farm manager. He told us about the farm, on two acres with just one of those acres in intense cultivation that yields a huge diversity of crops for CSA members, the honor system farm stand at the farm and local food pantries. When he said that this kind of intensive, diverse production centered where people live is the future of farming, it was easy to agree. We were treated to fresh-picked melons and a fresh cucumber salad. By this point, we were getting full!

Newton Community Farm

The third stop was at a site that is part of an innovative new farm started in 2008. Kate Canney, the founder of The Neighborhood Farm didn’t let not having her land stop her from growing! The Neighborhood Farm is a collection of market gardens in private yards in and around Needham, MA. Homeowners lend the farm a portion of their yard and Kate and her team grow vegetables, herbs and flowers. In exchange, the owners receive produce from the gardens during the growing season. Our host was extremely green—while he showed us Kate’s farm plot on his front lawn, he also showed us his own garden and his collection of solar panels, which produce more than enough energy for his entire house. As he put it, his energy meter runs backwards, putting power back into the grid!

Chickens and bike shoes

Our final farm stop was Brookwood Community Farm, where we were treated to lunch of heirloom tomato and cheese sandwiches. The founders of Brookwood petitioned the town of Milton to put farmland that was in conservation back into production. So far, Brookwood has been granted a lease to work four acres of the 160 in conservation, and just like the other farms on our ride, they use that land to best use, using organic methods to grow vegetables for their CSA members and local farmers markets. Brookwood has as part of its mission to produce and make good food accessible to low-income residents, and they helped found a farmers market in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, which we rode past on our way to our final stop.

Farmer Anna at Brookwood Community Farm

To cap off our ride, we finished at the Roslindale Village Main Streets Farmers’ Market, where we picked up produce from many of the farms we had just visited. The Neighborhood Farm has always impressed me with their variety, quality and farmers market display, but knowing the ingenuity and creativity that goes into that operation (not to mention the hard work of working as many as 20 different farm plots!), gives me that much more respect for Kate. So I made a beeline for her stand and purchased as many heirloom tomatoes as I could fit in my bike jersey pocket and rode for home intent on making my own farm-fresh salad for dinner. That evening, my friends and I enjoyed those tomatoes and I told them all how lucky we are to have such amazing farmers right in our own backyard!


Many thanks to our friends at Urban Adventours for their help in guiding the ride and fixing flats!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lauren on her first Farm Aid concert!

LaurenLast weekend was a weekend of “firsts” for me: my first visit to Kansas, my first farm advocates meeting, my first Farm Aid press event and my first time at a Farm Aid concert as both a spectator and Farm Aid intern. It was incredible to see all of the projects and ideas that have been brewing in the office in the past months converge into such a fluid series of events.

The Farm Advocates meeting at the National Agricultural Hall of Fame was the perfect precursor to the concert: those who have been defending farmers’ rights for years gathered under the watchful eye (at least in portrait form) of the institution’s most recent inductee—Willie Nelson himself. Although I didn’t get to attend the workshops, the advocates and Farm Aid staff who did seemed to come away from them energized. I think it must be invigorating for advocates to know that they are not alone in their fight for family farmers, and that their cause is more relevant than ever.

The Farm Advocates Meeting participants

In what seemed like no time at all, the weekend flipped from the quieter, more thoughtful advocates meeting to the frenzy of concert set-up. I watched the empty plaza outside of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park transform into a lively HOMEGROWN Village—even through the downpours everyone was happily hustling around in preparation, hauling banners and boxes up and down the stadium stairs all afternoon. We were all tired after the Friday night kickoff party, but the day ended on a high note, as most of the Farm Aid staff took the opportunity to watch Neil Young’s sound check. Hearing him sing “Heart of Gold” to a nearly empty 20,000- seat stadium was so powerful.

Neil Young at soundcheck on Friday Night

The next morning at the press event that kicks off concert day, each member of the panel spoke briefly but urgently about the importance of family farms to our nation’s economy, health and community. Being in that room was a two-sided experience. I felt the weight that the four Farm Aid founders’ words carried as a result of their fame, and simultaneously saw them as real people, just a group of old friends. When all the speakers, including Kansas farmers, had their say, it was suddenly concert time.

The Farm Aid Artists at the press event

Concert day was the best kind of insanity. People from all over the country poured into LIVESTRONG Sporting Park and were overwhelmingly impressed with the HOMEGROWN Village, the food, the music, and most importantly, the cause behind it all. The participation in our “Turnip the Heat” booth (at which concertgoers could contact their representatives about fair farm policies) was phenomenal, and seeing Neil Young signing a petition while he was touring the HOMEGROWN Village really struck a chord with everyone working to save family farmers not just on concert day, but every day.

Getting ready for a demonstration in the HOMEGROWN Village

With so many amazing goings-on at this year’s concert, I feel only slightly odd that I’ve made no mention of the music yet! Although I spent a lot of the day camping out in the makeshift Farm Aid office to blog, I had possibly the coolest live workday soundtrack of all time. Well, assuming that you can call a Farm Aid concert a work day—I’m not quite convinced that you can.

Farm Aid's next generation

**All photos by Cathy McDermott-Tingle.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Farm Aid Meets the President

aLICIAThis Tuesday, Farm Aid had the distinct honor of joining the White House Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa. Attended by several Cabinet members and President Obama himself, this invitation-only event gathered farmers, rural business owners and organizations to discuss strategies that will spur economic growth in rural America.

Fresh off the heels of our Farm Aid concert in Kansas City, Kansas, so many thoughts crossed my mind as I drove through Iowa to attend the event.

I thought about the tiny town of Osceola, where I stopped for coffee. Despite the partisan politics that overwhelm Washington, there was little sense of divide in this town. Conversations revealed keen political awareness, sure, but also a shared concern for economic recovery, worry about things like post offices closing across the countryside and disappointment in political leaders bought out by corporate money.

I thought of the cornfields flanking the highway east from Des Moines. While the landscape wasn’t drought-stricken as parts of Kansas were, nor flooded like towns along the Missouri River, the corn stalks were lower than normal, hinting at ecological stresses on crops, and thus, on our family farmers.

I thought of the people heading to the Iowa State Fair as advertisements flooded the radio stations, boasting new attractions (the new red velvet funnel cake was a hit, apparently!) and sharing enthusiasm for the state’s agricultural heritage.

In so many ways, our annual Farm Aid concert combines all of this, as we join concertgoers in celebrating our family farmers, but also raise awareness and activism around the issues they face. The concert is a much-needed pause, where we honor the special population of Americans who feed us, while inspiring eaters to do their part to support family farmers and good food.

At the forum, I listened to President Obama’s opening remarks. He was hopeful about America’s ability to come back strong from the economic downturn and acknowledged that the hard work of recovery will occur in farm fields and Main Streets nationwide. Sitting next to Joel Greeno, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and outspoken farm activist, we commiserated that true recovery was impossible unless family farmers get the prices they deserve in the market.

Following the opening remarks, I joined a small breakout session on Ag Innovation and Energy, led by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. With others, I insisted that innovation will be squashed if a few corporate powers continue to dominate farming, that economic development is impossible if farmers don’t receive fair prices and if farmers and eaters who join the good food movement aren’t supported by federal policies. We stressed the importance of fair markets and the Administration’s role in enforcing fair competition for farmers old and new.

To our surprise, President Obama joined our conversation (and sat right across from me!). No matter one’s political beliefs, it’s always an honor (and a thrill!) to meet a President. I’ve had some beef with nearly every President during my lifetime, but I deeply respect the stress and responsibility an individual holding the office must endure. Personally, I was impressed by his depth of knowledge of the issues and his support for fairness in agriculture. The sentiments are more than welcome, of course, but I don’t need to tell you that action is what we really need. As the President himself said, it’s our job to keep our leaders on the hook and accountable.

In the meeting’s final moments, the President approached each of us. Shaking his hand, I smiled and said, “We gotta get you to another Farm Aid concert.” (Senator Barack Obama attended our 20th anniversary concert in Chicago in 2005). He perked up and smiled back warmly, saying, “Some of my best times have been at Farm Aid shows.” I couldn’t help but smile.

A nice punctuation for a whirlwind – but fulfilling – concert week. And yet, with so much work to be done and so much need in the countryside, there’s little time for pause. Onward!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Join us for the 5th Annual Tour de Farms in Boston

JenIf you Boston-area folks weren't able to join us in Kansas for Farm Aid 2011 last weekend, now's your chance to get a taste of Farm Aid! Join us Saturday August 20th for the 5th Annual Tour de Farms ride.

The goal of the ride is to promote awareness for sustainable agriculture and our local farms. Riders will meet at Franklin Park in Boston at 9AM and travel out through Brookline, Newton, Needham and the Blue Hills visiting Allandale Farm, Newton Community Farm, and a Neighborhood Farm site before arriving at Brookwood Community Farm. At Brookwood Community Farm we'll take an extended break from riding to explore the farm and have a delicious locally-grown lunch. After lunch, the ride will continue on to Roslindale Village Main Street Farmers' Market, where riders can purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and meat for themselves (we'll have a truck to transport your goodies back to our starting place, or bring your own panniers).

The tour is about 40 miles long and will travel at a pace of about 10-15 miles per hour. Our friends at Urban Adventours will lead the ride and provide support all along the way. The tour costs $35, bikes not provided. If you need to rent a road bike for the tour, Urban Adventours offers a special rate of $60 for both a bike rental and delivery (regularly $75 plus $15 for delivery).

There are limited spots available for this ride so reserve one now! Book online, give Urban Adventours a call at 800-979-3370, or visit their shop. Bring a bike, your friends and your appetite for good food from local farms!

The annual Tour de Farms is a true celebration of local food, healthy bodies and good fun. Discover the farms and meet the farmers who are feeding us good food, right in our own backyards!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Family Farmers: The Seba Family is Homegrown!

LaurenToday, as their t-shirt slogan requested, I asked the Seba family about their blackberry patch. Renee and Charlie started their 2-acre blackberry farm, Mule Barn Berries, in Lathrop, Mo. 2 years ago to get their kids outside more and to teach them the value of hard work and managing money. And Hailey, 12, Regan, 10, Trevor, 8, and Elise, 6, couldn’t be more thrilled. Hailey says, “It’s a really cool learning experience. I could give you a speech off the top of my head about blackberries!”

The kids worked at the Farm Aid Youthmarket Farm Stand today, selling berries from their farm, roasted corn and apples. The family picked 460 half-pint containers of berries to sell at Farm Aid and at their state fair going on for the next 2 weeks. It took them about 10 hours!

Charlie grew up on a hog farm and Renee has always lived in the country, so moving to town was a big adjustment. Their solution for staying in touch with their roots and getting their kids involved was to plant blackberries in their yard.

Planting the patch was no small feat, but family and friends made it possible. Uncles, grandparents, and neighbors all came to help out while the family got the berry patch up and running. As Hailey put it, her dad and uncles would “trade Saturdays.” They would come over for a few Saturdays to help dig irrigation trenches in the spring, and then after the harvest when they weren’t as busy, Charlie would go to help them out with their projects.

The kids’ grandparents were also prepared to help. After 6 weeks of heavy harvest, the laundry really starts to pile up! “Grandma came to set it straight,” Regan said. “She did laundry for 4 days!” Elise said, "I was there, and it was a mess!”

With only a few weeks left of berry-picking, the Seba family has almost made it through their first growing season. And reflecting back on their first harvest, Renee says “We’ve experienced it. All hands on deck. Seriously.”

Renee says that their goal on the farm is sustainability, and they want to be profitable while preserving the land. They use as little pesticides and herbicides as possible. The family weeds the two miles of blackberry bushes by hand, and this year they only sprayed to prevent an influx of stinkbugs from destroying the crop.

The family has mapped out a 10-year plan for their farm, which they hope will eventually include a hillside of raspberry plants and a building for storage and selling. Renee says that operating the farm is still a little overwhelming, but she’s very happy with the positive impact it has had on the kids. And the influence of their farm has already started to spread. A neighbor bought two rows of blackberry plants from the family, and is raising them to get an early start on his high school project for Future Farmers of America (FFA).

Despite all of the good that has come out of starting their farm, the Seba's face the same challenges as so many other farmers. This year, they planted sweet corn, peppers and tomatoes in addition to blackberries. The additional crops didn’t fare very well because they were affected by the after-spray from a surrounding 6,000-acre corn farm. “We’re scared whenever the over-sprayer goes by,” says Renee. “The blackberries are very sensitive to pesticides and herbicides.”

The Sebas' farm is located in historical Clinton County, which was a mule capital in the 20th century and was once home to the largest barn in the world. During World War I, soldiers got mules from the barn, and watered the animals at the 60-acre lake that was built nearby.

Renee says she hopes that the farm will teach the kids about hard work, as there are not a lot of opportunities for summer jobs in their area. She also hopes the farm will eventually provide a second income for their household. But overall she says that even if they never make much money, they’ve seen such a change in the kids—-they’ve gained self-confidence, learned to interact with people and gained experience managing money. “We’re very pleased,” she says, “We’re already very pleased.”

And she has every reason to be pleased. The kids are some of the most polite and well spoken I’ve ever met, and they have nothing but good things to say about being young farmers. Trevor says, “We’ve learned a lot. And it’s a lot of hard work!” And Regan adds, “It also shows us you can start a small business by yourself. You can!” Perhaps we’ve got some farm advocates of the future on our hands!

Farm Aid sure is tasty!

JenCatering at the Farm Aid concert is pretty incredible—ask any of the roadies and they'll tell you the other shows they work don't even come close to being as tasty as Farm Aid. But I skipped the catering tent tonight in favor of HOMEGROWN Concessions, our family-farm sourced food. This year, our HOMEGROWN Concessions is the best yet!

I was just tucking into a brat (or sausage) when I saw a couple wearing Paradise Locker Meats t-shirts. Their shirts piqued my curiosity so course I introduced myself to Louis and Amy. Turns out Louis' family operates Paradise Locker Meats in nearby Trimble, Missouri, and the brat I was eating came from their operation! Talk about Know your Farmer, Know your Food!

Patchwork Family Farms, as always, served up family farm pork all day long! Even though I had a brat, I got into the LONG line for the most amazing pork chop sandwich you'll ever have! It did not disappoint, and ordering from the Missouri farmers that make up Patchwork Family Farms, in their red STOP FACTORY FARMS tshirts is always a pleasure. In line, I chatted with people around me, many of whom were coming back to have their SECOND taste of Patchwork pork!

Finally, for dessert (and you have to realize that Farm Aid Day only comes once a year--normally I don't eat this much!) I shared an organic funnel cake with a friend.

And there's so much delicious family farm food that I missed! If you chose to have a hamburger at Farm Aid 2011, you'll be pleased to know that the beef was raised right here in Kansas. It was supplied by Ranch Direct Foods, founded by Mike Callicrate who spoke at our press event about the need for fair markets for family ranchers and farmers. And that bun your burger came on? It was made with flour made from organic Kansas wheat. Sonya Dagovitz, our Culinary Director, worked with three local Kansas City companies to make that bread rise: Heartland Mill, Roma Bakery and Farm to Table. There was locally grown corn, roasted to perfection. The Farm Aid Youthmarket Farm Stand, staffed by our friends Tom and Olivia from New York's GrowNYC and youth volunteers from KC's Front Porch Alliance, sold Missouri peaches and pecans, local honey, heirloom tomatoes and the season's first tart apples. And did I mention the organic corndogs?

As Dave Matthews came to the stage, all of us here at Farm Aid rose to our feet with full bellies and happy smiles. Farm Aid Day is the best day and boy do we eat well!

Out on the Plaza & Homegrown Village Fun!

Lauren“My name is Neil Young and I want a Fair Farm Bill because real money should go to real farmers.” Neil Young struck a pose with the message he wrote for Food and Water Watch’s photo petition in the HOMEGROWN Village today, creating quite a stir on the plaza. The village has been bustling all day with organizations presenting interactive games and activities on food and farm issues.

Susan Marshall of the Harvesters Community Food Network based in Kansas City, Mo. said, “This is the most impressive food-related display I’ve ever seen, and I work at a lot of non-profit events. There’s so much great information here.”

The Harvesters is a network of food banks that collects food and related household products and distributes them to more than 66,000 individuals nationwide each week. In their activity, “The Hunger Game,” each participant was given a profile of a real person living in a state of food insecurity. They then received cards outlining events that further jeopardize their food security such as not making it to the food bank in time or having to pay an unexpected bill in place of groceries.

The Kansas Farmer’s Union focused their activity on the financial difficulties of a different sector of the food chain: the farmers. They displayed the retail prices of common food items like a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs and asked participants to guess how much profit the farmer makes from each of the items. People were shocked to find out that of the $3.89 they pay for a loaf of bread, the farmer only receives $0.19. As the game shows, farmers are really struggling to turn a profit because large corporations control the prices.

The HOMEGROWN tent was another hopping place to be today, with demonstrations on how to make your own baby food, composting and canning. When I walked by there was purple cabbage flying through the air as Nate Poell showed off his expert sauerkraut-making skills. Rebecca Pidgeon and Jason Mraz also stopped by to talk about their take on good farming, good food, and good music.

One woman lounging on some hay bales in the shade told me she was having a blast at her first Farm Aid concert and she hadn’t even heard any music yet. She said, “I’m so impressed at how well-organized everything is out here (in the Homegrown Village). I love how laid-back everything is.”

While exploring the village, I saw a bunch of concertgoers strolling around while gnawing on roasted corn and munching on apples. Naturally I followed the trail of people to the source: the Farm Aid Youthmarket Farm Stand! Teens from GrowNYC were selling the snacks and the line was keeping them busy all afternoon.

My attention was also drawn to some photos hung around the New Roots for Refugees booth, and I stopped in to find out more. The beautiful photographs were of refugees who have been permanently relocated to the United States after fleeing conflict in their home country. They work on a training farm as part of a 4-year program involving weekly workshops on farming and English classes. As time goes on, the refugees must become more and more self-sufficient, buying their own seeds and funding their own transportation to the farm. At the end of the program New Root helps them find their own land to farm, sending them off with confidence to start a new and successful life.

I also ran into Jerry Vogler, an organic cotton farmer who grows for Anvil, the maker of this year’s Farm Aid t-shirts! He has a 750-acre operation in Texas and has been certified organic for 19 years. Forty percent of his cotton goes to Anvil, and he says they just can’t get enough. Anvil’s goal is to double cotton production in the United States, but Jerry says it’s been tough trying to find new farmers to take on the challenge. For a lot of farmers, going through the process to become certified organic is just too daunting—especially in today’s unpredictable farming industry.

Talking to Jerry about the troubles of cotton farmers prompted me to check out the progress of Farm Aid’s “Turnip the Heat” booth. Tons of people signed on to notify the government that family farmers and concerned consumers won’t be ignored. Great job Farm Aid-ers!

Farm Aid 2011 Press Event

LaurenJim Hightower, national radio commentator and self-proclaimed populist, spoke for us all when he said, “I’m happier than a flea at a dog show to be here.”

Sound checks are done, the Homegrown Village is alive with activity, and concertgoers are revved up after the press event for a day of music with a purpose.

At 11 a.m. a 10-person panel including Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews addressed the media and reminded us all of the historic and current importance of keeping American soil in the hands of family farmers.

The meeting began with Missouri farmer and advocate, Roger Allison, introducing Willie before 2009 Farm Broadcaster of year, Ken Root, inducted him into the Agricultural Hall of Fame. The first Farm Aid concert came after 5 years of Ken reporting about the despair of American farmers during the 1980s farm crisis. He pointed out that hundreds of individuals have been nominated for the honor, but Willie is only the 38th person to be inducted since Dwight D. Eisenhower chartered the Hall of Fame in 1960. Ken applauded Willie for his creative approach to aiding American farmers through the Farm Aid concert, and also cited his work advocating to achieve fair farm policies, end discrimination against farmers, and overhaul farm loan accessibility. Upon receiving the award Willie gestured to his fellow board members and said, “I gladly accept this as long as I can share it with you good guys.”

The press event continued with each panelist discussing what needs to happen for American agriculture to remain strong and vital. Between lots of jokes and Dave Matthews’ hilarious demonstration of the sound a chicken makes when laying an egg, the group consensus seemed to be that we must call for change—and that we cannot run the risk of being complacent while change is happening.

Neil Young warned against turning a blind eye towards the influx of genetically modified products entering our food system. He said, “As we modify and modify to protect the crops, we become more and vulnerable. This happens over years and years and we just don’t notice it.”

John Mellencamp touched on the same idea, saying, “One of these days we’re going to wake up and not even recognize this place. Not recognize the place we grew up.”

Neil also said that we don’t have time to bicker about where the proof lies with issues like climate change and genetically modified foods. He said, “It’s not about ‘Are they right?’ It’s about ‘What are we going to do if they’re not right?’”

Neil ended by saying that now is the time to mobilize the next generation of farmers. “Farm aid needs new blood. We need to educate kids in school that being a farmer is really good … We need to stay together. Lets go forward and keep our food clean and pure and grow it together.”

Dave Matthews spoke hopefully about the prospect of youth involvement in farming. He purchased land in Virginia to prevent it from being developed, and started a program for disadvantaged teens to work the land. He spoke with immense enthusiasm about how inspiring it is to see the youth so excited about working with the earth.

Willie remained largely quiet through the event, but listened intently to all of the speakers. Without exception, he turned his squinty eyes and warm smile on any member of the audience that a fellow panelist recognized.

Other panelists included Mike Callicrate, owner of Ranch Foods Direct in Colorado Springs, Col. and creator of the mobile meat processing unit; Roger Allison, founder of the Missouri Crisis Center; Diana Endicott, founder of Good Natured Family Farms (an alliance of more than 100 farms that support each other in using sustainable practices); Katherine Kelly, farmer and founder of Cultivate Kansas City; and Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid.

It was great to see so many familiar people at the press event who also attended the farm advocates meeting, volunteered at concert set-up, or have been coming out to Farm Aid concerts for years and years. But the panelists stressed that it is imperative that we don’t get complacent in seeing those same faces all the time. We need to grow the Farm Aid force and make our messages heard. Jim Hightower said it best again when he quoted Mary Elizabeth Lease’s charge for Kansas farmers to fight monopolies and corporate control: “Raise less corn and more hell!”

Friday, August 12, 2011

Farm Aid 2011 Schedule

MattHere in Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park the last details for tomorrow's concert are coming into place. I managed to secure the schedule for this year's show, so I wanted to share it with everyone. Please be aware that it's definitely still subject to change!

Between 1pm and 3
Willie Nelson welcomes everyone to Farm Aid!
Blackwood Quartet
John Trudell
Hearts of Darkness
Rebecca Pidgeon
Ray Price

Between 3 and 4
Robert Francis
Billy Joe Shaver

Between 4 and 6
Will Dailey & the Rivals
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Jakob Dylan

Between 6 and 7:15
Jamey Johnson
Jason Mraz

Between 7:15 and 11-ish
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
John Mellencamp
Neil Young
Willie Nelson

Doors open at noon and be sure to check out the policies for LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on our Venue Information page.

Please 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.

Remember to tune into the live webcast starting at 5pm Central on And if you're on Twitter, use the hashtag #FarmAid11 to share your experiences!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Will Dailey, The Concert and Inspiring Appreciation for Family Farmers

MattOne thing that's really rewarding about the Farm Aid experience is seeing how a concert can do more and be more than just about the music. Seeing the spark go off in someone's mind about the importance of family farmers after they meet a farmer at the show, or eat the HOMEGROWN concessions we serve is really inspiring. It extends to watching how the musicians themselves react before, during and after the show.

Will Dailey's played at Farm Aid twice before, and will play again on Saturday with The Rivals, but this video shows him in Kentucky on his Road to Farm Aid Tour. As he makes his way to Kansas City, he's been inviting farm groups to his shows and bringing a little of the Farm Aid experience to more cities. Listen to his thoughtful discussion here with Beth Nolte from the Community Farm Alliance, and I think you'll agree that he's a perfect artist to spread the Farm Aid message across the country.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Take a Bite of Farm Aid!

JenWe could all use some good news, right about now, couldn’t we? Things are pretty tough out there. While we have a serious message about what family farmers are up against, the truth is Farm Aid is also a celebration. It’s a celebration of the value of family farmers (and their values!) and the solutions they represent for us in terms of our economy, our environment and our health. It’s also about the inspiration family farmers represent and the deeper connection they can help us make every time we eat. And as Willie has said, “We all eat!”

The Farm Aid concert is a chance for us to shine a spotlight on these people who work every day to put good food on our tables. Farm Aid is a way for all of us to meet our farmers, understand the heart and soul they put into their work, the care they have for the land and for our food, and the ways they’re helping to build and strengthen local economies and communities. At Farm Aid folks can shake the calloused hand of a farmer--or in the case of the new young farmers coming on the land, the not-yet-calloused hand! They can meet farmers who have returned from war to farm—trading swords for plowshares. Concertgoers can put their hands into the good dirt that farmers grow—yes, grow—because most soil in this country needs loving care to grow good food, and our farmers are giving that care.

You know, in the divisive world we’re in right now, isn’t it refreshing to step away from all that and rejoice in a basic truth: that good care creates good food that sustains us all? That connection--it's huge! And to see it happen at the Farm Aid concert is a beautiful thing; this being my ninth concert, I've seen alot of it. We’ve got this amazing lineup of artists--Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews… and on and on--and a lot of folks come out to see the show, to enjoy the music. But we don’t just let them do that. NO! They get the full-on Farm Aid experience, complete with a little dirt under their fingernails.

They visit our HOMEGROWN Village and get inspired by farmers, they meet city-dwellers making a living from a quarter acre plot downtown, they learn how to plant their own seeds, and then they imagine the bumper crop of tomatoes they’ll have next year as they learn how to preserve the harvest. The conversion is complete when they taste our HOMEGROWN concessions—a BBQ sandwich made with all natural, family farm pork 129 miles down the road from here and a roll baked from Kansas grown wheat, with a sunkissed Missouri peach for dessert.

And that’s it--the next weekend they’re at their local farmers market or they’re looking up their local farmers online. And they’re beginning to understand how supporting our farmers keeps local farms in our regions, and keeps local dollars there too, where they circulate 2-7 times more than they would had they shopped at the national chain store with its headquarters (and profit center) who knows where! It makes us all richer, and I'm not just talking about dollars.

Sadly, in our crazy lives, we don’t think about these things that often. We’re running from here to there, stuffing whatever convenient food in our mouths without considering what’s in it, who made it, under what conditions, who gets paid what, and what it’s doing to our natural resources, our health, our economy. But if we slow down just a little and begin to think about maybe even just one of those facets—after all, if our body is our temple, what is our food? Shouldn’t we think about it just a little? Well, when we do think about it, what joy it can give us. And what good we can do.

Today, when so much seems out of our control, more and more people are taking power back through the decisions they can make about their food. The movement is spreading more and more each day. And, man, it tastes good!

The White House Tells Farm Aid: We Heard You Loud and Clear

AliciaWith drought, flooding, increasing production costs and the corporate stranglehold over our food and farm system, it’s a tough time to be a family farmer. But it’s a promising sign that our government wants to help them a bit. A few weeks ago, Farm Aid traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with key White House staff and the newly-formed White House Rural Council—a critical group of economic and policy advisors to the President that also includes staff from the U.S. Treasury, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other government agencies.

As Farm Aid’s representative, I joined the National Family Farm Coalition, Food & Water Watch, the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA and the Rural Coalition for our first meeting to discuss the barriers to credit that farmers are facing in light of the economic downturn. We shared the findings of our Don’t Bank On It report, a national survey of farm credit counselors that reveals giant gaps in credit availability for our nation’s farmers. The point was to underscore that (despite what big banks may say) the financial situation for many farmers is dire and isn’t getting the attention it deserves. We also touched on broader issues related to rural investment and the role of government in spurring economic development in the countryside. I made sure to point out that the family farm is a unique business--one that requires special attention and is critical to our nation’s economy. As Willie always says, “Family farmers are the backbone of our nation. When family farmers thrive, Main Streets thrive.”

The next day, Farm Aid was among several food and farm organizations to meet with White House staff about the GIPSA rule. This proposed rule—issued by the USDA—is the most important piece of farm policy to emerge in decades, one that will protect farmers and ranchers who raise livestock from corporate abuse. Perhaps not surprisingly, corporate meatpackers and poultry processors have put their lobbying dollars to use, using all sorts of antics to delay the USDA process and even pressuring the U.S. House of Representatives to strip funding for implementation of the rule.

But those of working for fair markets haven’t given up! Perhaps the most satisfying moment of the trip was hearing a senior White House advisor acknowledge our weeklong phone campaign (which so many of you participated in!) to urge President Obama to support the GIPSA rule. His words?

“The White House heard you loud and clear.”

That’s great to hear. But it’s not enough—we need to make more noise! Please join us in demanding the U.S. Senate to protect the GIPSA rule. Take action with Farm Aid and tell your senator to support GIPSA on our website.

If these meetings showed me anything, it’s that the biggest threat to family farmers is time. Timely credit is always crucial to family farmers as they take out loans to buy seeds, fertilizer and equipment to plant their crops or maintain their herds. But time is also crucial as they struggle to grow our food in an increasingly concentrated, anticompetitive and corporate-dominated market. With corporations making it harder and harder for family farmers to make a living, we’re losing more and more of them every day. So help us put the pressure on and keep America’s family farmers growing!

Monday, August 08, 2011

A Road to Farm Aid Update from Will Dailey

We had an amazing show in Philly last night (check out a video below). Thanks to everyone who came out and a special thank you to Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). We are in a hotel somewhere between Philly and Vienna, VA. Four days of being on the road is really driving home the importance of our family farms and access to fresh food. Why? For miles in each direction of where we are there are at least 2 of every fast food chain, strip malls and sprawl. It's nearly impossible to find good food with quality ingredients.

If anyone knows about any farm stands, farm fresh restaurants in Vienna, VA. Let us know!

We have a cooler for now and we hope to see you out there. If you have any fresh tomatoes or apples please bring them. We're starving for real food.

Love Will Dailey & The Rivals

Farm Aid Music Monday

MattFor this Farm Aid Music Monday, I thought I'd post one video from each of our four artist board members: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. They've worked to keep family farmers on the land since the very first Farm Aid back in 1985 and their mission continues this weekend at Farm Aid 2011. We hope to see you at the LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City on Saturday. But if you can't make it, visit our website to experience Farm Aid with our live webcast starting at 5pm Central!

Willie Nelson performing "Whiskey River" from Farm Aid 2001:

Neil Young performing "Down By the River" from Farm Aid 2010:

John Mellencamp performing "Rain on the Scarecrow" from Farm Aid 1985:

Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds performing "The Dreaming Tree" from Farm Aid 2007:

Check out more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel and see you in Kansas City!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Road to Farm Aid has begun

KariThe Road to Farm Aid (RTFA)is a musical road show featuring singer/songwriter Will Dailey, who will be performing at clubs and farms along the way to and from his performance at Farm Aid 2011.

Will Dailey and his band The Rivals will help raise awareness for Farm Aid's mission to keep family farmers on their land in order to guarantee an agricultural system that ensures farmers a fair living, strengthens our communities, protects our natural resources and delivers good food to all. At each event, Farm Aid's partners in the region will highlight the work they are doing to support family farm-centered food systems. Dailey and his band will also be offering free and discounted tickets to farmers.

Here's Will's first update from the road:

The Road To Farm Aid has begun. We are on our way to Philly to play the World Cafe Live. Three dates into our tour, we are currently two hours late for load-in in Philly thanks to one van/trailer switch-out. Nice to have one melt-down under our belts. I'd call that smooth so far.

The tour started in Burlington VT, Northampton MA and then Naukabout festival last night. Today however is the first RTFA event. We will be joined at the club by PASA (Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture)- They'll be letting everyone know about their efforts in the region.

And us? We'll be your entertainment and there to remind everyone that the even though the 26th Farm Aid is in Kansas City this year, the road farm aid reaches every corner of our country.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Will Dailey & the Rivals Are on the Road to Farm Aid!

KariThe Road to Farm Aid is a musical road show that two-time Farm Aid artist Will Dailey created to raise awareness for Farm Aid’s mission to keep family farmers on the land. A portion of the proceeds from each show will go directly to Farm Aid. We hope you can join Will Dailey & the Rivals when they come to your area.

Farm Aid's partners in each region will highlight the work they are doing to support family farm-centered food systems. You will be able to meet the folks in your area who work on behalf of family farmers and eaters like you! Will and the band will be posting to our blog from the road about their experiences. You'll also find Farm Aid literature and merchandise available at each show. Tickets are available now!

Click here for information on the Road to Farm Aid and when Will Dailey will be in your town.

About Will Dailey: Will Dailey is an acclaimed recording and performing artist, who is a two-time winner of a Boston Music Award for Best Singer/Songwriter. Dailey has released two full-length albums (Back Flipping Forward and Torrent) through CBS Records and his music has been featured on over 50 TV programs and films. He has appeared on stage with Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp at two Farm Aid concerts, and recently completed work on a Stephen King/John Mellencamp project produced by T Bone Burnett. After seeing Will Dailey in concert, the New York Post’s Dan Aquilante favorably contrasted him with the performers on American Idol, writing, “Forget the last five months of force-fed artificial pop music on TV that just crowned a king (who I'm betting will be forgotten as quickly as he was created) – Will Dailey is the real deal."

We at Farm Aid agree! Not only do we love the music of Will Dailey & the Rivals, but they're committed Farm Aid supporters and friends.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Ride the Boston-area Tour de Farms August 20th

LaurenAll the excitement of the Tour de France without the gelatinous protein bars and fifty bike pile-ups!

On Saturday, August 20th, Farm Aid and Urban AdvenTours will host the 5th annual Tour de Farms cycling event to raise awareness and appreciation for our local farms. About 60 to 80 riders will depart from Franklin Park and pedal through Brookline, Newton, Needham and the Blue Hills area, visiting Allandale Farm, Newton Community Farm, The Neighborhood Farm and Brookwood Community Farm. At each farm stop riders will learn about the farm and at the last stop everyone will be able to hop off their bikes to explore the farm before having a light lunch featuring fresh produce grown on-site. They’ll then have the opportunity to shop at the Roslindale Village Main Street Farmers’ Market for produce to take home.

Allandale Farm is Boston’s last working farm, and specializes in sustainably grown produce. They market a majority of their produce independently, but also supply some to Whole Foods markets in Brighton and Cambridge, and to local restaurants. Their field crops are Certified Naturally Grown using organic methods. Allandale’s specialties include seasonal cut flowers, hardy chrysanthemums, pumpkins, fresh native turkeys and Christmas trees.

Newton Community Farm is a non-profit community farm (and Newton’s last working farm) located on the historic Angino farmstead.
They provide locally-grown produce to the community through their CSA, their farm stand, and Newton Farmers’ Markets. They also teach the public about the sustainable use of land and other natural resources through hands-on classes, workshops, and drop-in farm hours. A portion of the food grown on the farm is donated to people in need through the Newton Food Pantry.

The Neighborhood Farm is a collection of 9 gardens in and around Needham, totaling about ¾ of an acre. The lack of undeveloped, reasonably priced land in the Boston suburbs forced the farm’s founders to think about farming in a different way. Inspired by the victory gardens of WWII, they felt that many market gardens might be the most practical way to bring a new “farm” to the suburbs.

Brookwood Community Farm is a working organic farm and education center located in Milton and Canton. The farm is dedicated to preserving historic farmland through sustainable agricultural production that improves access to healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables in urban communities. The farm operates a CSA, sells produce at local farmers markets and provides on-farm employment, and educational and volunteer opportunities to members of the surrounding communities.

The Tour de Farms will be a great ride for local agriculture and sustainable farming. The pacing of the ride will be of a moderate road ride of about 10-15 miles per hour covering 35-40 miles. But have no fear—the thought of delicious local food and the scenic route will make the miles fly by! Urban AdvenTours guides will lead the ride and provide discounted bike rentals on the day of the tour. The ride will begin at 9a.m. and end between 12:15 and 12:30. Tickets are $35 and registration is available online at or over the phone at 617-670-0637.

We hope you'll join us for an exploration of our local Boston-area farms and their bounty!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Willie Nelson To Enter the Agricultural Hall of Fame

LaurenIn regard to the struggle of American family farmers, Willie Nelson has always said, “If you eat, you’re involved.” Similarly, the Agricultural Hall of Fame finds its foundation in the idea that “Agriculture touches the lives of every living person.” So it came as little surprise when the institution announced on July 21st that Willie would be inducted as the latest outstanding contributor to the success of American agriculture.

The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame was issued a rare federal charter by the act of the 86th Congress to serve as the national museum of agriculture and to honor the American farmer. Given Willie’s commitment to family farmers, it makes perfect sense that Willie is part of that legacy! His induction ceremony will be held on August 13th in Kansas City, Kansas, before the start of Farm Aid 2011, the annual Farm Aid concert and the centerpiece of Willie’s approach to saving small American farms.

Willie grew up in Abbott, Texas, where he picked cotton and corn, baled hay, and gained respect and admiration for family farmers and the value of hard work. Willie founded Farm Aid on those principles in 1985, pledging to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farmers on their land. Over the past 26 years, Farm Aid has raised more than $39 million to promote family farm agriculture. Beyond raising money, Willie has also put the family farmer center stage, raising awareness about the crucial need to have family farmers on the land, for good food, our health and a strong economy. By strengthening the voices of family farmers, Willie and Farm Aid ensure that they will continue to thrive and nourish our country for years to come.

Upon being inducted into the Agricultural Hall of Fame, Willie will join the ranks of several household names in addition to a number of understated agricultural pioneers. George Washington was inducted for his innovations in fertilization and soil erosion prevention on his 12,000-acre plantation, Mount Vernon. Abraham Lincoln enacted legislation that allocated land for the establishment of agricultural colleges and homesteading communities that would help to settle the nation. John Deere was inducted for his role in developing a durable steel plow that could turn the tough soils of the Midwest, and Eli Whitney for his invention of the cotton gin. Squanto was another inductee, honored for helping the starving Pilgrims to survive by teaching them to fish and plant corn using fish as fertilizer.

Perhaps less familiar figures, Arthur Capper and Andrew Volstead were both inducted in 1984 for their sponsorship of the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922. The Act guaranteed the rights of farmers to organize and operate cooperatives without fear of governmental anti-trust backlash. Luther Burbank is another highly influential inductee, as he developed over 800 plant hybrids and crossbreeds, giving us delicious varieties of peaches, plums, and blackberries.

All of us staff here at Farm Aid are so happy that Willie has been recognized with this award. It couldn’t have happened to a more vocal, committed supporter of family farmers (though, of course we’d love to see John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews inducted next!).

Congratulations, Willie!