Against the backdrop of a growing national farm crisis, Farm Aid 2019 emphasized the determination of farmers and ranchers in Wisconsin and across the nation to survive mounting challenges that include devastating weather, low prices and harmful farm and trade policies.
At the sold out event that took place at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, Farm Aid President and Founder Willie Nelson said family farmers, especially those in Wisconsin, are showing resilience despite the many challenges they face.
“It’s the right time to bring Farm Aid back to America’s Dairyland,” said Nelson. “We’re proud of the farm families who are coming together in the face of adversity to stay on their land. Now is the time to rally behind them and show our appreciation for all they do for our country and for each of us.”
Joining Nelson’s urgent call to back family farmers were Farm Aid board members John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews (performing with Tim Reynolds), as well as Bonnie Raitt, Luke Combs, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Margo Price, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Jamey Johnson, Tanya Tucker, Yola, Jamestown Revival, Particle Kid, Ian Mellencamp, Wisdom Indian Dancers and Ho-Chunk Thundercloud Singers.
The daylong festival kicked off with a conversation about how farmer-led coalitions Dairy Together and Soil Sisters are working to improve the current farm system and encourage more participation in government and politics. The morning press event also highlighted efforts by the Oneida Nation and a community of Hmong immigrants to reconnect to the land through farming, as well as efforts by Paris Family Farms and farmers, millers, bakers, scientists and others involved in the Artisan Grain Collaborative to improve farm profitability while recreating local grain supply chains and caring for the environment.
At a time when uncertainty is contributing to farmer stress, Farm Aid also highlighted a new partnership with the American Psychological Association (APA) to advocate for farmer access to behavioral and mental health support.
“Farm income has been cut nearly in half since 2013. On top of that, farmers are dealing with extreme weather and harmful farm policy. Despite these challenges, they are showing their determination to survive this crisis by coming together to offer solutions and push for change,” said Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. “They can’t do this alone. As community members, voters and eaters, we need to join their efforts by supporting family farm food and policies that give every farmer a fair price.”
On Friday, longtime Farm Aid community members were honored with the Spirit of Farm Aid award for their unwavering support of the organization and family farmers. Awardees included Mona Lee Brock (posthumously) for her work to counsel farmers in crisis; Mike Wanchic, John Mellencamp guitarist and band leader; Joel Greeno, Wisconsin farmer and activist; Benny Bunting, farm advocate; and Karl Adams, Live Nation Midwest senior vice president.
Farm Aid 2019 offered menu items that adhered to Farm Aid’s annual HOMEGROWN Concessions criteria: all ingredients are sustainably produced by family farmers; the food is produced with ecological practices; and farmers receive a fair price for their products. Food choices for concertgoers included Wisconsin cheeses served on burgers and in a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, Milwaukee Pretzels made with locally grown wheat flour milled by Lonesome Stone Milling, fish and chips featuring Lake Superior walleye, and pickled eggs from Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs.
Sponsors of Farm Aid 2019 included Patagonia Workwear, Farmer Focus, Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, Horizon Organic, New Glarus Brewing Company, Cheese City Beer and Toy Farmer.
“Farm Aid 2019” aired on AXS TV at 6:30 p.m. CT, as well as at www.farmaid.org from 2 to 11 p.m. CT. Willie Nelson’s SiriusXM channel (59), Willie’s Roadhouse, also aired the show live from noon to 11 p.m. All broadcasts included backstage interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage of the event.
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 festival to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. For more than 30 years, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised $57 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.