The message from Farm Aid 30 rang clear at FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in Chicago on Sept. 19: Every action each one of us takes makes a difference for family farmers.
Farm Aid’s 30th anniversary brought thousands together to celebrate the progress that has been made for family farmers since 1985 and to emphasize the importance of the Good Food Movement. At the concert, Farm Aid reaffirmed its commitment to creating a future of family farm agriculture.
“When we started Farm Aid, a crisis was gripping farm country,” said Willie Nelson, president and founder of Farm Aid. “Farm Aid called on America to stand up for family farmers. They showed up then, and they’re still showing up. All different types of people are coming together for family farmers, and we’re making a difference.”
The day-long festival kicked off with farmers, farm advocates and eaters joining Farm Aid board members Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews in a conversation from the Farm Aid stage about the roots of the family farm movement and the future of family farm agriculture. The conversation, moderated by WBEZ radio’s food and agriculture correspondent, Monica Eng, focused on the many actions people have taken in fields, kitchens and communities since 1985 and how those actions have added up to make a huge difference for family farmers and the food system.
The farmers, advocates, activists and eaters shared stories about how Farm Aid has inspired action and influenced policy changes that are making a difference for family farmers and good food. In 1985, family farmers faced bad policies and big business with few alternatives. With Farm Aid’s leadership, the rise of farmers markets and CSAs, sustainable food companies, organics and local food has given family farmers more economic opportunities than ever before. More new and beginning farmers are breaking ground every day. People are placing their trust in family farmers to grow good food in ways that protect the climate and their health. But all acknowledged the work that must continue.
“Thanks to 30 years of action by farmers, activists and eaters, we’ve experienced big change, and we’re poised for more,” said Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. “But we’re up against some of the same policies and corporate influences that gave rise to the need for Farm Aid in 1985. Now, more than ever, we are rallying to put power — and our food system — into the hands of the people.”
To honor the hard work of farmers, eaters, activists and advocates to build the Good Food Movement, Farm Aid launched the #Road2FarmAid, a virtual campaign that inspired hundreds to share the actions they are taking to support family farmers and grow the Good Food Movement.
More than 26,000 concertgoers had the chance to experience family farm food through Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Concessions. Traditional concert menu items, such as pizza topped with local produce, seasonal roasted non-GMO corn, pasture-raised turkey legs, and pork BBQ, were sourced following Farm Aid’s criteria: food that is sustainably produced by family farmers, utilizing ecological practices, with a commitment to a fair price for farmers.
In the HOMEGROWN Youthmarket, Chicago youth involved in urban agriculture sold apples, pears, grapes, dried cherries and fresh baked zucchini bread prepared by students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.
Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Concessions food service promoted a zero-waste protocol. All compostable waste at the concert will be turned into valuable agricultural material to improve the health of the soil. A sizeable volunteer effort helped concertgoers differentiate between landfill-bound trash, recyclables like plastic, and compostables, such as food waste and compostable food service ware.
Concertgoers also found inspiration in Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Village, which featured hands-on activities that emphasized the experience of agriculture. Concertgoers were invited to take action in support of farm-to-school legislation, learn about the health of the soil and water, and have fun with farming by making seed balls and playing food and farming trivia. In the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, concertgoers had the opportunity to engage with food, farming and crafting. Some of the workshops included cheese making, beekeeping and composting.
Farm Aid 30 featured performances by Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Matthews — who performed with Tim Reynolds — as well as Imagine Dragons, Jack Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Mavis Staples, Old Crow Medicine Show, Jamey Johnson, Holly Williams, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Insects vs Robots, Ian Mellencamp and Blackwood Quartet.
The concert was broadcast live on “Farm Aid 30 Live Presented by Amy’s” at farmaid.org and on SiriusXM channel, Willie’s Roadhouse (59).
Sponsors of Farm Aid 30 include Amy’s Kitchen, Horizon Organic, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Applegate, Canidae Natural Pet Food Company, Greener Fields Together, Lagunitas Brewing Co., Organic Valley, FirstMerit Bank, Rudi’s Organic Bakery, and Time Out Chicago.
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. For 30 years, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised $48 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.