In 1985, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp joined forces to create the first Farm Aid concert. Its mission was to heighten public awareness about the dwindling number of family farms and to raise money to keep family farmers on their land. Dave Matthews added his support in 2001 along with other musicians. Over the years, the organization has succeeded in raising over $45 million in support of American farmers while keeping fans across the country delightfully entertained.
This year's concert - the 28th - takes place September 13 in Raleigh, North Carolina. In addition to the celebrated concert, Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village features a profusion of lively and educational hands-on exhibits presented by food and farm groups and artists from across the US; workshops run the gamut from land and water husbandry to how to make pepper jelly. (Last year, we hosted a photo booth. Unfortunately, you won't be able to place yourself inside the classic painting, American Gothic, but we'll be back next year!)
The day before the concert, Farm Aid is also offering a trio of tours, an opportunity for visitors to explore unique farm venues, including a fifth-generation organic CSA (formerly a tobacco farm) and one of the few African American-run dairies in North Carolina.
The number of family farms in the US has been diminishing steadily since the peak in 1935 - almost 5 million fewer. Further, the average age of farmers continues to rise; the average farmer in America is over 57 while the percentage of farmers over 65 has increased 10 percent since 1969. Our reliance on large-scale industrial farms is becoming untenable - but Farm Aid is taking center stage in effecting change for the better.
Farm Aid has been working at an ever-increasing tempo over the years. Their approach is straightforward: promote the good food movement and encourage more people to buy from family farmers - all to help family farmers thrive. Farm Aid now offers an online resource network that offers assistance through a directory of organizations that provides services, resources and connections to funding opportunities and financial planning. They have worked hand in hand with national and local organizations in efforts to rectify the food system, from advocating for family farms and protesting factory farms to enlightening consumers about making good food choices. Their Action Center provides tools for concerned eaters and farmers alike that address issues such as genetically engineered foods and the abuse of antibiotics in raising livestock. In addition, Farm Aid strives to sow the seeds of interest among a new generation of young farmers. Their evolving concert lineup reflects their commitment to the future, with rising stars like Insects vs Robots joining this year's show.
GRACE is proud to continue our longtime support of this celebration of family farmers. Our Eat Well Guide, a free online directory of over 25,000 farms, restaurants, stores and other sources of locally grown and sustainably produced food, has been working in harmony with Farm Aid 2014 and has created a featured page with a customized Raleigh, North Carolina Good Food Guide and a personalized map displaying Eat Well Guide restaurants you can stop by on the road to the concert.
Can't make it to Raleigh? Farmaid.org will be streaming the concert starting at 7 pm EDT. You can listen to the concert starting at noon EDT on Willie Nelson's SiriusXM channel 56. There's also an app bringing the whole Farm Aid experience to your phone. Lend your voice to the chorus of fans who support these heroes of the homeland: get yourself on the #Road2FarmAid and Keep America Growing!