Saturday, December 28, 2013

What we accomplished together in 2013

carolynAs we count down the days to the end of the year, we look back on what Farm Aid accomplished. We could not have done it without you! Together, we keep family farmers on the land, where they can take care of our soil and water, make our communities stronger, and grow good food for all of us.

Here are a few things Farm Aid accomplished in 2013:

This is Farm Aid's work each and every day, but only with your help is all of this possible.

Can I continue to count on you? Your tax-deductible gift right now will honor family farmers and build the foundation for a strong economy, protected soil and water, and good health.

Thank you for being part of the mission to keep family farmers on the land.

Genevieve’s Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveBeginning in early 2014, Whole Foods will stop carrying the number one selling Greek yogurt brand, Chobani, in all of its locations. Chobani’s products use milk from cows whose feed contains GMO’s, and therefore the popular grocery chain has chosen to make room on its shelves for smaller, exclusive brands that are organic and GMO free.

Since it first appeared in 2005, a disease called “citrus greening,” has devastated Florida’s orange production year after year. The bacterium makes oranges, lemons and grapefruits unmarketable, and could potentially wipe out America’s production of these fruits. As a result, the USDA is stepping up to save the industry by coordinating more research, and donating millions to find a solution.

Last week, Connecticut became the first to sign a state law mandating the labeling of foods with GMO’s. However, the legislation won’t take effect until at least four other states do the same, due to the inevitable corporate legal battles the small state would face.

Nothing says going green during the holidays quite like eating your Christmas tree. While replanting a live tree is one popular method of sustainability, keep in mind that pine needles are actually edible. Bonus points if you get a stone pine tree—you’ll eventually get pine nuts!

The latest suburban trend is not golf courses, not swimming pools, and not matching lawns, but rather farms! Inspired by the local food movement, developers are using a new model called “development-supported agriculture” to draw in new buyers with some form of food production.

Do fresh fruits and vegetables just make you want to go out and buy a new car? Evidently there’s a connection, as several car companies have recently integrated farmers markets and local food products into their commercials, drawing a parallel between quality food and quality cars.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"If we lose them, we lose the future..."

jenFarm Aid measures our impact in numbers — the number of dollars granted, of farmers helped, of awareness raised. But what I find most inspiring are the stories of the real farmers who we talk to every day. I want to share a few of their stories with you.

We received a call on the Farm Aid hotline from Tom, a college student in the Midwest. As graduation approaches he's realized he longs to get back to the farm. Tom said, "I'm not some young guy who just has a romantic view of farm life. I know it's hard work, but that's what I like about it. This is my life's passion. I want to raise my future family on a farm. What tools do you have to help me get started?"

Justine, a New York farmer who went to her first Farm Aid concert this year told us, "I have never felt so well treated as a farmer — ever! The work you are doing is so very important. Thank you for the opportunity you gave to me — it is inspiring."

When a farmer in crisis called our hotline, we connected her to Cissy, a dedicated farm advocate who helped this farmer find reasons to keep going when she had lost her faith. Cissy told us, "Over and over I hear from folks who have called you guys, and the main thing — the first thing — they say is, 'Someone actually answered the phone and listened!' Farm Aid plants the seeds of hope in folks who are ready to give up. We can't always fix every problem, but just knowing someone cares is a huge part of the battle."

And when disaster struck in South Dakota and tens of thousands of cattle were lost in a freak early blizzard, a rancher brought me to tears with his generosity and concern for others. I had called Gary a few days after the blizzard to find out how he and his neighbors had fared. Though he was still missing seven cattle — a terrible loss in a normal year — he told me he was most concerned about his neighbors. He said, "Many ranchers lost nearly their whole herd. The young guys can't absorb this kind of loss because they're just starting out. If we lose them, we lose the future of ranching."

These stories represent the work we do each and every day here at Farm Aid.

Will you give a gift to Farm Aid today? With your help, we can give hope when all hope is lost, make farmers feel valued, and help new farmers find their home on the land.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Congratulations to our 2013 Grant Recipients!

Alicia'Tis the season for giving, as they say, and in that spirit, Farm Aid is proud to report on our 2013 grant program!

This time of year is special to us. Our grant program is part of the year-round work we do at Farm Aid to bolster family farm agriculture in America. This year, we gave a total of $573,514 in grants to 73 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 flooding in Colorado and blizzard in South Dakota.

We support a wide variety of programs and projects across the country. 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 financial counseling to farmers in dire straits or hands-on technical advice and training for beginning farmers. Others organizations are leaders in grassroots organizing and advocacy, addressing corporate power in agriculture and advancing fair farm policies that promote a diverse and resilient family farm system of agriculture. Still others are building new local and regional food systems, investing in farmers close to home by creating new markets and models that shorten the distance between the farm field and your table.

Each year, we give special attention to farm organizations in the region that hosts our annual benefit concert. This year, Farm Aid 2013 was held in Saratoga Springs, NY. We granted $60,500 to New York organizations, including the Agricultural Stewardship Association, National Young Farmers Coalition, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG), GrowNYC, Just Food, Regional Farm & Food Project, Amagansett Food Institute, and The Greenhorns. The total amount distributed in the Northeast region (New England + New York State) was $115,320.

Farm Aid President Willie Nelson takes great pride in this part of Farm Aid’s work, approving every award and signing each check. 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.

For a full list of 2013 grantees, click here.

Willie signs the checks...

...and I check them twice!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Farm Aid says goodbye to Ray Price

MattToday's Music Monday post honors country music legend Ray Price, who is in hospice care at his home with his wife Janie, after battling pancreatic cancer. Ray is a longtime friend of Willie Nelson (as Willie explains in the video below, playing bass in Ray's band helped Willie get his start in Nashville in the early 1960s) and supporter of Farm Aid. Thank you for all the memories and the music, Ray.

Watch Ray Price's most recent Farm Aid performance below from our 2011 concert in Kansas City, Kansas:

A recent RollingStone.com article wrote that Ray's favorite recording from his long career was Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times," which begins:

Don't look so sad, I know it's over
But life goes on and this old world will keep on turning
Let's just be glad, we had some time to spend together.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Genevieve’s Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveNew research finds that organic milk is more nutritious than regular milk. According to the study, organic milk contains 62 percent more omega-3’s, or healthy fats that can reduce your risk of heart disease, and less of the omega-6 fatty acids that aren’t so good for you. The increased omega-3s are likely due to the increased grazing that organic cows tend to do.

Many farmers who have chosen to opt out of the use of genetically modified seeds find that they are making more money in non-GMO markets. Smaller companies that specialize in non-GMO seed have grown 30-50 percent in the past five years.

The FDA has just issued two rules preventing farmers from using antibiotics to boost the growth and weight of their animals. This will restrict the use of antibiotics in agriculture to its original purpose of treating of infections only and hopefully help keep antibiotics working for the purpose they were intended, in animals and humans.

Inspired by her autistic son, Jan Pilarski of South Bend, Indiana has started an organic greenhouse run by farmers with autism. Her project was an immediate entrepreneurial success, allowing her to operate on a commercial-scale with each greenhouse employing five people with autism per year, and producing 45,000 pounds of vegetables.

In the spirit of giving, Montana is helping out ranchers in South Dakota tremendously, as they continue to recover from the winter storm earlier this fall. Heifers for South Dakota, a Montana-based group, recently donated hundreds of bred heifers and cows, as well as money for the Rancher Relief Fund, which has raised more than $1.5 million.

And of course, here’s the latest on the farm bill. The House and Senate admit that it is unlikely that they will come to an agreement by the end of the year, but are confident that the farm bill will pass in January. The fear of a “dairy cliff” and soaring milk prices has put pressure on a decision by the end of the year; however, Congress insists that waiting until January won’t lead to any immediate negative effects.



Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I wish my grandpa could see this...

Willie NelsonI grew up in a farming family—for more than 150 years we’ve lived on the same land in rural Nebraska.

Family farmer values have been passed down for generations in my family. Maybe that’s the case in your family too. We know that things need to get done; we don’t talk about how or when or why—we just do them. There is a quiet dignity and pride in cultivating the same ground that your ancestors laid claim to. I understand the incredible emotional bond a person feels to their home, their land and neighbors, and their community.

Growing up, I didn’t realize how razor -thin the margins were for my family in farming. I only witnessed hard work and determination. I didn't hear any of the worries my grandpa had, and didn't understand that most people don't work for 12 hours on a good day. Working at Farm Aid, I’ve come to understand the challenges many farmers face in a system that is stacked against them. I always knew how precious farm life was; I've now learned how threatened that life has become.

Will you join me today in making a gift to Farm Aid to keep family farmers on the land?

With my grandparents in mind, I give to Farm Aid every year. I am inspired by my co-workers and I know how hard we work to ensure the money we raise is put to good use for family farmers. I want someone else's family to be on the land for hundreds of years. I want a new generation growing good food and creating new memories.

I feel a tug of emotion every year at the concert when I see the outpouring of support people have for this work. And I hug farmers who have no clue who I am because I have an unshakable connection and appreciation for what they do for all of us. I might hug the ones who remind me of my grandpa a little harder, and know he would be proud of the work that we are all doing for family farmers.

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 you and the ones you love? Farmers do so much for us. Let's do all we can to ensure a bright future for family farmers.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Genevieve’s Farm and Food Roundup

Genevieve“NASA's latest mission is one small step for turnips, one giant leap for plant-kind.” The agency just announced its plan for 2015 to cultivate cress, turnips, and basil on the moon, a test to see whether or not humans could live and farm on the moon one day.

The pecan took a hit this Thanksgiving as production dropped 35 percent from last year, and store prices rose 30 percent. Poorly timed rain and drought in the South, hungry pigs and squirrels, and a huge demand for the crop in China, all contributed to the lack of pecan pies on dessert tables this year.

An agreement is still yet to be made on the farm bill after the House and Senate last week. If they fail to work out their differences before the end of the year, farm policy would be legally required to revert back to permanent law, with policy governing dairy going back to the 1949 farm bill. Price supports back then were WAY higher than now , which means the price of milk could rise to $7 per gallon, creating a potential “dairy cliff.”

The makers of Geo-Wiki have created a new smartphone game called Cropland Capture that allows players to be their own scientist by identifying cropland through satellite images. The purpose of the game is to educate players on Earth’s natural vegetation and where humanity grows its food.

Hawaii is bringing more transparency to one island's GMOs after the Kauai County Council recently overrode the mayor’s veto of a law requiring farmers and large agribusinesses to disclose their use of pesticides and GMOs.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Music Monday, Starring Amos Lee at Farm Aid 2013

MattI've been a little too busy to post about Music Monday here on the blog lately, but I'm back at it today with new videos from Farm Aid 2013 featuring Amos Lee. He first took the Farm Aid stage in 2010 in Milwaukee (see videos here and here), then in May of this year, he performed for a few dozen of us at An Evening With Farm Aid in NYC.

Check out the video playlist below to see Amos perform these songs:

  • El Camino
  • Skipping Stone
  • Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
  • Violin
  • A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke cover)

See over one-thousand more videos from the Farm Aid archives on our YouTube channel.

Friday, December 06, 2013

What I’m listening to...

Willie NelsonListening to family farmers on the road is how I found out they were in trouble—in fact, we all were.

I started Farm Aid in 1985 as a way that you and I could help. I'm thankful that you've been an important part of this effort. I am writing today to ask you to continue supporting family farmers with a donation to Farm Aid.

This time of year, we celebrate the holidays with our family by enjoying the good food family farmers grow. Thanks to their hope and hard work, all of us are able to share in the harvest that family farmers bring us. At Farm Aid, we also share in their hard times.

During 2013 I met with eager new farmers who have trouble finding the land and credit they need to start their farms. On the Farm Aid hotline, dairy farmers told about their struggles with low milk prices — some were forced to close up their barns. Ranchers made the hard choice to sell off part of their herds as drought made it hard for them to feed the animals they care for.

The government shutdown left farmers without services and information, just when terrible natural disasters struck. In Colorado, floods washed away fields and crops. In South Dakota, an early blizzard killed tens of thousands of cattle. Both disasters caused financial distress and a heavy emotional toll.

In spite of these challenges and with the help of people like you, Farm Aid stood up for family farmers and the food system we all want. Together, we keep family farmers on the land, where they can take care of our soil and water, make our communities stronger, and grow good food for you and me.

Can I continue to count on you? Your tax-deductible gift right now will honor family farmers and build the foundation for a strong economy, protected soil and water, and good health.

Thank you for standing with me for family farmers — I'm glad you're part of the family.