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A 23-year-old music tradition continues on September 20 as Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young grace the stage at Farm Aid 2008.

While it’s the first time the event will be in New England, it’s not the first time Farm Aid will make a lot of noise. With the mission of combining great music and a great cause, musicians and organizers hope to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep struggling family farms afloat.

While not often covered in the media, there is a crisis facing family farmers in the United States today. Farmers are under intense economic pressure, especially during a recession, and every year thousands are forced off their land. As a result, our quality of food, environment, and food security suffers as large factory farms dominate the rural countryside.

Some think that with that loss of small family farms comes a loss of America.

“We’re at a moment when a lot of people are asking, ‘What is America? What represents America?’ Certainly, I think that the family farm is a main ingredient of what made America,” says Dave Matthews, musician and member of the board of directors of Farm Aid since 2001.

With the scares of tainted tomatoes, spinach, and jalapenos still fresh in American’s minds, people are looking to local farmers to provide safe, delicious, and organic goods. As a result, family farmers are at a higher demand than ever before and it is important to keep these people financially safe and secure.

“There’s a new food movement sweeping the country and Farm Aid is doing all we can to promote that movement,” says Willie Nelson, well-known folk musician and president of Farm Aid.

Every year Farm Aid funds farm support organizations that assist farmers with services including financial and credit counseling, legal advice, and disaster and emergency services. After the recent flooding in the Midwest in June, Farm Aid provided emergency funds for families to buy food and cover living expenses, as well as provided groups to help farmers avoid foreclosure. However, without the nation’s attention and support, Farm Aid’s work could not continue. It is the annual high-profile concert that ultimately keeps Farm Aid alive and running.

“Farm Aid puts family farmers on center stage,” says Caryoln Mugar, Executive Director. “We shine a national spotlight on family farmers – for our food, our health, our environment, our country. Farm Aid has always done that.”

As the longest running benefit concert in America, its ties have remained strong with famous musicians. Young, Mellencamp, and Nelson first organized the event in 1985, which took place in Champlain, Illinois. Throughout its run, famous musicians such as Elton John, Billy Joel, and Bob Dylan have performed in the hope of saving America’s family farmers.

This year’s lineup includes the three founding members of Farm Aid, as well as Kenny Chesney, Jamey Johnson, Dave Matthews, and One Flew South. While the concert is sold out, Farm Aid is sponsoring the Farmer Hero Sweepstakes that will give one winner and three lucky guests the chance to see the concert — which takes place in Mansfield, Massachusetts — for free. There are two ways to enter. One is to simply enter your name and email address on the Farm Aid website. The second option is to submit a 150 word true story about a farmer who you believe is a true hero.

Even if you can’t make it to this year’s concert there are always ways to help support Farm Aid and its mission of saving the family farmer. Anyone can make a donation or become a member. Even a visit to the Farm Aid shop will help support family farmers.

Every little bit counts, as through the efforts of Farm Aid and people across the nation, over $30 million dollars has been raised to support the family farmer, which in turn, has helped build a sound agricultural future for America.

To learn more about Farm Aid 2008 and the sweepstakes, visit http://www.farmaid.org.

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