Monday, December 31, 2012

Together we made a difference for family farmers

CarolynFarm Aid relies on the support of people like you to do the year-round work to keep family farmers on the land. We truly appreciate that you're a partner in this work with us.

Click here to give a gift to Farm Aid now. Your tax-deductible donation will enable us to build on Farm Aid's solid accomplishments for family farmers in 2012.

This year, with your help, Farm Aid:

  • Assisted farmers affected by the worst drought in more than 50 years.
  • Answered nearly 800 hotline calls from farmers, ranging from farmers in crisis to new and beginning farmers just getting started on the land.
  • Gave $532,300 in grants, supporting 67 farm and rural service organizations around the country that help farmers thrive, increase availability of family farm food, and take action to change the dominant industrial food system.
  • Raised thousands of voices demanding support for new farmers, for conservation programs that protect our soil and water, for fair markets for farmers and ranchers, and for transparency in our food system.
  • Brought together farm advocates in Pennsylvania, from across the country, to strengthen and grow a network of first responders who provide resources to farmers in need.
  • Led the nation in standing up for family farms with inspiring music and cultural change in our food system.

All of this extraordinary work makes a real difference in the lives of farm families, and all of us who eat. But we can't do this work without you. Please, don't miss your last chance in 2012 to keep family farmers on the land.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds at Farm Aid 2012

MattAs we wind down 2012, today's Music Monday also winds down the sets from Farm Aid 2012. See below for the performance by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, which features these songs: "Gravedigger," "Stay or Leave," "Don't Drink the Water," "Funny the Way It Is," "Crush," "Mercy," "Dancing Nancies," and "Some Devil."

For a bit of a throwback, here's a set of videos from the first time Dave Matthews played at Farm Aid in 1995 (before he joined the board of directors in 2001). He's with the full Dave Matthews Band here - enjoy!

Our YouTube channel now has over 700 Farm Aid videos! Who do you want to see on Music Monday next?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"As a child, I experienced how precious a farm is..."

KariGrowing up in Nebraska, I enjoyed family vacations on my grandparents' farms. For us kids, those trips meant unlimited fun. We could explore hundreds of acres, swim in lakes or cow tanks, and sled down hills in wintertime. There were goats to chase and pigs to feed. I'll never forget when a game of chase ended with me bouncing off an electric fence, or the time I accidentally pulled the reins sideways on a horse and sent my sister flying into the air.

Make Your Gift

Those moments gave me a connection to my family's history and to the ground that my ancestors have farmed for more than 150 years. I didn't realize then how hard my grandparents, aunts and uncles worked to keep growing year after year—it was just what they did. Working at Farm Aid allowed me to see farmers in a new light. Now I understand the challenges many farmers face in a system that often seems stacked against them.

As a child, I experienced how precious a farm is, and at Farm Aid I've learned how threatened that life has become. I feel tied to the memory of my relatives and am proud to honor their legacy through my work.

That emotional connection, that shared history, goes to the core of my being. I give to Farm Aid to honor my grandparents, and to ensure that someone else's family can stay on the land, growing good food and creating lasting memories in a new generation.

Will you join me in making a gift to honor a farmer in your family? Or will you make a donation in appreciation for the farmer who grows food for your family? Farmers do so much for us. Let's do all we can to ensure a bright future for family farmers and memories for farm kids like me.

All the best to you and yours.

Francisca's Farm & Food Roundup

FranciscaRecent studies identify farmers in Mexico and Central America as being among the most vulnerable to global warming. Warmer weather in addition to less rainfall in the coming years will drastically reduce corn and bean crops. Mexico could lose up to a third of its agricultural production by 2080. Central America should prepare for a production loss of up to 24 percent. Farmers can prepare for tougher weather by switching to new seeds or hardier crops. Governments in both locations have invested millions in seed development programs and training for farmers to get ready for the new climate.

Mark Bittman, in his column this week, calls attention to the lack of good policies in place to support our public health. He says, "Forget the fiscal cliff: we’ve long since fallen off the public health cliff. We need consistent policies that benefit a majority of our citizens, even if it costs corporations money."

If Congress does not pass the farm bill by early 2013, the price for a gallon of milk is at risk of doubling. The current dairy price support program is set to expire in January and will revert to the 1949 farm bill. Under the 1949 law, market prices would double and government-supported prices would be about four times higher than the current law. Industry officials and lawmakers say that a gallon of milk could increase to $6 - $7 a gallon in the first weeks or months of 2013. One popular solution is to pass a temporary farm bill to avoid the fiscal cliff. Many agriculture officials plan to support the solution while they continue to push for a multi-year farm bill.

‘Peak Farmland and the Prospects for Sparing Nature,’ a study that will be published next year, outlines steps for regulating the amount of land needed for food. Slowing population growth, more efficient farming methods and a moderated demand for land-intensive food has decreased human dependency on land. Researchers explain that if people continue to be conscientious about life choices, humanity is likely to release at least 146 million hectares.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture is currently being mailed to millions of farmers and ranchers. The census is conducted every five years and looks at land use and ownership, production practices, expenditures and other factors. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained that census information affects policy decisions as well as community growth and development. All individual information collected is kept confidential. Forms are due by February 4th, 2013 and can be submitted by mail or online.

In Portland, Oregon, farmers are split on whether or not to allow canola production in the Willamette Valley. Canola farmers are eager to start growing the yellow-flowering plant. Other seed farmers would like to ban canola because of its ability to attract new pests and cross-pollinate with plants that produce organic vegetable seeds. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has decided to allow for limited canola production. Canola can be planted on up 2,500 acres in the Willamette Valley. Seed farmers fear that the cap will only increase with time. The department plans to give the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association power to choose which fields are reserved for canola production.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Francisca's Farm & Food Roundup

FranciscaOne of Tennessee’s oldest and largest organic farms is shutting down. Jeff Poppen, owner of Long Hungry Creek Farm, plans to close the business due to possible contamination. Recently, a neighboring farm began raising 40,000 chicks for Tyson Foods, Inc. Poppen believes that because the two farms are so close together, Long Hungry Creek will be polluted with excessive waste and he will be unable to maintain organic certification. Many natives are upset about the shutdown of Long Hungry Creek Farm. Since 2000, the number of organic farming operations in Tennessee has more than doubled. Still, small organic farmers face challenges such as competition with larger operations and the increasing costs of labor.

The Environmental Working Group published a new reported titled ‘Muddy Waters.’ The report focuses on the water quality in Iowa. Runoff from farm fields has been a major contribution to river and stream pollution. The group criticizes the Clean Water Act because farmers are excluded from its requirements thus allowing farm pollution to remain unchecked. From 2008 to 2011, water quality was rated poor or very poor for 68 percent of the 98 streams monitored by the Iowa Water Quality Index. Several farm groups believe that major pollution restrictions should not be imposed on farmers. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack maintains the hope that farmers will follow the restrictions on a voluntary basis.

In 2005, Congress passed a law that required gasoline to contain ethanol, a fuel produced mainly from corn. Big fast-food chains are working to convince Congress to repeal the law. The mandate has caused major competition between the automobile and fast-food industries. Cars require ethanol to run and fast-food animals are raised on corn. According to restaurant chains, the competition has resulted in higher corn and meat prices. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that even if the law were repealed, the price of corn would only decrease by a few cents.

Childhood obesity rates have dropped in several cities across the United States. Researchers noted that the declines have been concentrated among higher income populations. Mississippi and New York reported a much smaller decrease among their poorer, minority neighborhoods. Researchers are not sure what has caused the declines, but they have noticed common elements in cities where the obesity rates dropped. Declines occurred in cities that routinely measured the weight and height of students and had obesity reduction policies in place for years.

In 2010, health experts and lawmakers worked together to modify school meals in an effort to combat the growing obesity rate. U.S. regulators agreed to manage calorie intake and portion sizes within schools. There was also a push to limit fat and salt while increasing fruits and vegetable servings. When the modified meals were implemented earlier this year, many complained that the new policies left children feeling hungry. Regulators have decided to relax the school meal policies. The USDA has decided to put an end to daily and weekly maximum amounts for grains and meats. School districts are now allowed to serve larger meal portions.

Earlier this year, a federal study identified Western Massachusetts as an untapped source of shale gas. It is unlikely that Massachusetts has large reserves and no companies have yet expressed an interest in exploring for shale gas. Still, plans have been made to hold an information session at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to educate landowners on gas extraction. A group opposing hydraulic fracturing has also been formed in hopes of keeping fracking out of Massachusetts.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Congratulations to our 2012 Grant Recipients!

Alicia‘Tis the season for giving, as they say, and in that spirit, Farm Aid is proud to report on our 2012 grant program!

Our grant program is one part of the year-round work of Farm Aid to bolster family farm agriculture in America. This year, we gave a total of $527,800 in grants to 66 farm and food organizations across the country, as well as emergency and disaster assistance funds to farmers facing hard times including this year’s historic drought.

The span of programs and projects we support is wide. Many of our grantees are crucial members of our Farmer Resource Network and referrals on our 1-800-FARM-AID hotline. They offer services like crisis counseling to farmers in dire straits or hands-on technical advice and training for beginning farmers. Others organizations are on the front lines of grassroots organizing and advocacy, addressing corporate control in agriculture and making sure we have fair farm policies that support family farmers and promote their good food. Still others are building new local and regional food systems, investing in farmers close to home by creating new markets and models that bridge the distance from farm field to your table.

In addition, we give special attention to farm organizations in the region that hosts our annual benefit concert. This year, Farm Aid 2012 was held in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and we granted $49,000 to Pennsylvania organizations. Grantees in Pennsylvania include Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), Rodale Institute, Lancaster Farmland Trust and The Seed Farm. The total amount distributed in the Mid-Atlantic region – including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia – was $126,050.

Farm Aid President Willie Nelson takes great pride in this part of Farm Aid’s work, approving every grant award that goes out our door. For all of us on staff who read the many grant proposals submitted, seeing Willie sign the checks always brings a great sense of completion to the grant season.

Our heartfelt thanks goes out to all who applied. While it is always exciting to announce our fantastic list of grantees, it is just as humbling to see all the great work going on around the country that we weren’t able to fund.

For a full list of our grantees in 2012, click here.

This post was updated to correct the grant totals in the first paragraph.

"The only thing I want to do is farm."

JoelAs Farm Aid's farm advocate, I work directly with family farmers to find solutions. Even when the constant refrain on the Farm Aid hotline this year was drought, I felt uplifted by the hopefulness and determination of the new and aspiring farmers who call. They include rural as well as urban folks, farm kids and college students, military veterans, new immigrants, mid-life professionals and retirees. All are longing to connect to something authentic.

One of my favorite calls was from an 80-something-year-old woman from rural Arkansas who called to learn how to set up a CSA farm. She wants to create an alternative to the industrially processed food products available in her neighborhood. "The food here is pathetic," she said. "There are just too many hungry people here eating bad food."

A young Oklahoma couple in their mid-20s emailed seeking help finding land on which to pursue their dream to raise pastured poultry, pigs, and cows as well as vegetables.

And a returning veteran from Ohio, seeking to re-start the defunct family farm, recalled being 10 or so when his dad taught him to plow. He said, "It was hard but I loved every minute of it. I'm now 36 and the only thing I want to do is farm."

As the hotline continues its work to save family farms, the silver lining is that more and more Americans, of all kinds, are investing themselves personally in growing, sharing and celebrating good food. Will you invest yourself in this mission too?

Every farmer deserves a fighting chance at success: access to land, affordable and dependable financing, training in sustainable and organic production methods, and fair markets in which to compete. Please consider a gift to Farm Aid today to make these things possible.

Even as the drought drags on, I'm heartened to know that family farmers are working to stay on the land and new farmers are following in their footsteps. Here's to a future of good food from family farms, and to the role we each play in making this future a reality.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 2012

MattToday's Music Monday and it seems time to celebrate Willie Nelson and his performance at Farm Aid 2012 in Hershey, Pennsylvania a couple months back. Willie has been on my mind lately because his new album, The Classic Christmas Album provided the soundtrack to my Christmas tree decorating last week.

Here's a video playlist of Willie's set, which closed out the concert, including, "Whiskey River," "Still is Still Moving to Me," "Beer for My Horses," "Funny How Time Slips Away," "Crazy," "Night Life," "Just Breathe" (with Lukas Nelson), "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys," "On the Road Again," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" (also the title of his new book).

Also, be sure to check out this beautifully-shot video highlighting Willie and his one-of-a-kind guitar, Trigger. It was directed by Andrew Shapter for Texas Monthly Magazine.

Our YouTube channel now has over 700 Farm Aid videos! Who do you want to see on Music Monday next?

Friday, December 07, 2012

An Invitation from the Road

WillieAs I crisscrossed the country on my bus this year, I saw firsthand the impact drought and extremes of weather have had on this land and our farmers. On the Farm Aid hotline, we worked with many distressed farmers seeking help to survive the worst drought in more than fifty years. When extremes of weather like this hit, it's hard to keep the faith. And yet that's what farmers do, each and every day.

I am inspired by family farmers. I know you are too. It's with your help that we've grown and strengthened family farm agriculture. Together we have put more farmers on the land and made family farm food more available to all of us.

In spite of the hardships, thanks to Farm Aid supporters like you, family farmers are leading the way to a future of good food. We answer the Farm Aid hotline every day and the greatest number of calls we receive come from folks looking to get started in farming or from farmers who want to learn how to farm more sustainably. This is good news for farmers — and great news for all of us.

With a gift to Farm Aid, you can ensure we keep growing the Good Food Movement and a brighter future for all of us. We need family farmers — they are essential for helping us solve the challenges we face with our economy, climate change, and chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity.

Family farm food on our tables guarantees the health and strength of our families and communities. The work of Farm Aid depends on gifts from people like you. Please, give a gift today, to ensure that family farmers not only survive extremes of weather today, but grow and thrive into the future.

Stay Strong and Positive,

Willie Nelson
President, Farm Aid

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Francisca's Farm & Food Roundup

FranciscaThe New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is a nonprofit organization in Lowell, Massachusetts that trains farmers in organic farming and helps them find land. New Entry has created a matching service that uses GIS mapping to find landowners who are interested in renting their property to farmers. The program can screen properties based on size, soil quality and zoned usage. It can also pick out patches of unused land on homesteads, so there are several property options to offer farmers.

Livestock on farms near hydraulic fracturing sites have been falling ill and dying. Earlier this year, a peer-reviewed report was published in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health. The report documented 24 cases of food animals that experienced neurological, reproductive and gastrointestinal problems after being exposed to fracking chemicals. Proponents of hydraulic fracturing criticize the article because it uses anonymous sources and does not name specific chemicals as the cause for illness.

Lawmakers are urging Congressional leaders to pass the 2012 Farm Bill because of its potential to save billions of dollars. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner believes that farm policy should be included in talks about deficit reduction between President Obama and Congress. Geithner and lawmakers say that changes to farm subsidies and agriculture programs will raise a substantial amount of money. Lawmakers warn that if the bill is not passed before January 1, many farm programs will revert to a 1949 farm law, which is the last permanent Farm Bill. The old law did not provide price support for crops like soybeans, peanuts or sugar. Farmers' markets and minority farmers would also be left without government support.

A recently published study from Washington State University found that urine from animals treated with cephalosporin, an antibiotic used in veterinary medicine, may cause antibiotic resistance in soil. According to researchers, bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, developed resistance to the antibiotic within 24 hours. Food animals can pass drug resistant bacteria from their urine to the soil. The soil then becomes contaminated and could infect any other animal that settles onto the bedding. Researchers would like to see farmers and ranchers use improved waste management, the addition of adsorption agents to the soil, and bioremediation to solve this problem.

Recently, the California Farm Bureau Federation conducted an online survey. Of the 800 members who participated, 61 percent have experienced worker shortages. Several farmers have cut back on production to compensate for the lack of workers. They have also tried to offer higher wages, delay harvesting and leave part of their crops to rot in the fields. Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger suggests more effective programing that allows people from foreign countries to work legally in the U.S.

Earlier this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that the recent series of extreme weather could severely increase the prices for foods. The UN now reports that the prices of basic foods fell by 1.5 percent last month. Sugar costs went down the most, followed by oils and cereals. The international prices for all commodities except for dairy decreased.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Neil Young & Crazy Horse at Farm Aid 2012

MattLast week, several staffmembers from Farm Aid were lucky enough to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse perform in Boston. The next day, our office was filled with impressions and interpretations from the night before. So, with that experience in mind, this week's Music Monday brings Neil Young and Crazy Horse's set from this year's concert in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Before this year, they hadn't played together at Farm Aid since 2003. Turn up the speakers or grab the headphones and settle in for the high definition hour-long set, including, "Country Home," "Ramada Inn," (from their new album Psychedelic Pill) "Mr. Soul," "Homegrown," (with Willie Nelson) and "Like A Hurricane."

Our YouTube channel now has over 700 Farm Aid videos! Who do you want to see on Music Monday next?