Farm Aid—Still Going Strong

When musicians gathered for the first Farm Aid 21 years ago did you think that its efforts would still be needed today? I didn’t… and neither did organizer John Mellencamp. The rocker who founded the charity in 1985 with fellow musicians Willie Nelson and Neil Young recently told reporters that he and his friends were mainly concerned with saving family farms which were going out of business.

“We thought we’d have the concert and the government would change things,” Mellencamp said.

But, alas, that hasn’t been the case. Before taking the stage at the “almost-annual concert” Saturday, Mellencamp addressed the need to keep farms commercially viable. But he also brought a new concern to light—one that affects all parents—the need to get kids to eat fresh food. So now Farm Aid has a new mission. Whereas the concert’s initial aim was to keep farmers afloat in a time when land values were falling and interest rates were soaring, it now wants to shine the spotlight on teaching people (namely city-dwellers) where food comes from.

Famous country crooner Willie Nelson told reporters he was shocked when the founder of a south Philadelphia grocery cooperative told him that most kids in her neighborhood don’t know milk comes from cows. “They think milk comes from the store,” Nelson said.

By all accounts the message didn’t fall on deaf ears. Some fans that turned out for this year’s event brought monetary donations… and their appetites for music (this year’s artists included Southern rockers Gov’t Mule, rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and reggae band Steel Pulse) and country cooking. Well, a version of country cooking. Instead of the traditional amphitheater fare of hot dogs and hamburgers, Farm Aid concertgoers’ downed organic beer, pork sandwiches from a Missouri family’s hog farm, soymilk and $9 organic burgers.

In the two decades that the concert has been held, Farm Aid has raised nearly $29 million, which it uses to help farmers in crisis and support organizations with missions like setting up farmers markets and encouraging farmers to go organic.

Did you know Farm Aid still took place?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.