The Road to Farm Aid 30: with Dave Matthews

Come with us on the (virtual) Road to Farm Aid as we celebrate Farm Aid’s 30th anniversary concert in Chicago by profiling the amazing musicians involved  – and join us there in person on September 19th!

Organized in 1985 by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, the first Farm Aid concert set out to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. Since then, Farm Aid has raised more than $48 million to promote a vibrant family farm system.  

Name: David John Matthews

Born: January 9, 1967 in Johannesburg, South Africa

Hometown: Charlottesville, VA
(but spent his teenage years in South Africa)

A Bit of Background

Known for the Dave Matthews Band hits of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Dave Matthews is a two time Grammy winning singer songwriter with an ardent following. According to my sister, a die-hard Dave Matthews Band fan, it’s all about the fluidity of the music, Matthews’s voice, the saxophone and the beats. 

Despite the popularity of songs like “Crash Into Me” and “Ants Marching,” many fans have no idea that Matthews spends much of his time in the sustainable farming arena, sometimes farming and sometimes playing his music to rally support for America’s small farms. Matthew’s work supporting sustainable agriculture and community seems as integral to his work as an artist as the music itself.

Farm Aid Role

Matthews has been involved with Farm Aid for 17 years. His first Farm Aid concert was in 1995 in Louisville, KY, with the Dave Matthews Band; they played the concert two more times after that, in 1997 and 1999. In 2001, Matthews joined the Farm Aid board of directors – with Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp - and has performed at every concert since.

Farm and Eco Focus

There’s no question that Dave Matthews cares a lot about the future of our environment and communities. When touring, the Dave Matthews Band’s Bama Green Project works with venues to reduce waste, uses biodiesel fuel energy and source locally-grown ingredients for the band’s and crew’s meals. Bama Green also encourages fans to bring reusable water bottles, carpool to the show and donate food or money for the purchase of local, non-GMO farm products for local food banks (and a chance to win fun stuff like ticket upgrades!). On site, the band partners with Reverb to construct Eco Villages at each concert, where local non-profits table.

Outside of touring, Matthews gets in the dirt at his own vineyard in Virginia. Influenced by his wife who is neuropathic medicine doctor, his friend Willie Nelson and his upbringing, Matthews began to care a lot about the quality of food and the stewardship of land, sparking his interest in returning the farm he purchased - initially to save a historical piece of land from developers - back to organic standards. Matthews and his wife also purchased another 1261 acres of farmland in 2002 that they placed under a protective land conversation easement and turned into an organic, pasture-raised cattle farm called Best of What’s Around.

In addition to supporting, and engaging in, sustainable farming, Matthews also helps to raise funds for charitable programs in Charlottesville, VA, and around the world through his band’s foundation, The Bama Works Fund.

Musical Tidbits

Our Favorite Song

Satellite (1995 )