Farm Aid Annual Report

Orchard photo by paul natkinFarm Aid's role always has been to serve as the public defender of America's family farms. Willie Nelson, with colleagues Neil Young and John Mellencamp, founded Farm Aid to use their voices and the support of the American people to raise awareness and funds to strengthen family farm agriculture.

Farm Aid Activities for 2013

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 support Farm Aid's work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose food from family farms. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $45 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. The following Farm Aid programs accomplished our mission in 2013:

Promoting Food from Family Farms

The heart of Farm Aid's work to promote food from family farms is our annual concert event. Farm Aid 2013 was held at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), in Saratoga Springs, New York, on September 21. A crowd of more than 25,000 enjoyed performances by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Additional artists included Jack Johnson, Amos Lee, Jamey Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Sasha Dobson, Carlene Carter, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Bahamas, Pegi Young & the Survivors, Jesse Lenat, Insects vs Robots, The Blackwood Quartet, Will Dailey, and The Parlor. All of the artists donated their time and travel expenses. Ninety-four-year-old Pete Seeger was our surprise guest, joining Willie, John, Neil and Dave onstage for "This Land Is Your Land." The entire audience rose to its feet and participated in a sing-along.

On September 21 at SPAC:

  • Farm Aid served local, organic, family farm foods throughout the venue with our HOMEGROWN Concessions®, as well as in backstage and VIP catering. An Associated Press story about HOMEGROWN Concessions® was published in newspapers across the country.
  • The HOMEGROWN Youthmarket sold local produce, cider and baked goods to concertgoers. The Youthmarket was coordinated by GrowNYC and staffed by local FFA youth.
  • We built Farm Aid's largest HOMEGROWN Village, where more than 50 food and farm groups engaged concert-goers in hands-on interactive exhibits about soil, water, food, renewable energy and family farmers.
  • Our annual food drive and food rescue, held at the concert with Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, collected more than 4,000 pounds of food for New York State families in need.
  • In our continual effort to green the concert event and reduce waste, we implemented our seventh consecutive recycling and composting program at the concert. Waste from this year's concert is in the process of being turned into compost to sustain future crops. We also sold reusable aluminum water bottles to reduce plastic use. Concert t-shirts were made with certified organic cotton and sales broke Farm Aid's per-person sales records.
  • The concert generated several major donations as well as individual gifts. Corporate sponsors included Chipotle Mexican Grill, Amy's Kitchen, Farm Family Insurance, Horizon Organic, American Harvest, Rudi's Organic Bakery, Organic Valley Coop, Applegate, Greener Fields Together, Ecoscraps, PLOTSAVER, Taste NY and Dean's Beans.

Farm Aid hosted a number of pre-concert events and activities in upstate New York to bring farmers together, engage the public, and invite the media to highlight issues of concern to family farmers and eaters. These events included:

  • A free, public screening of Growing Cities, a documentary film about urban farming, followed by a panel discussion;
  • Two farm tours: one on a dairy farm focused on the challenges of dairy farmers and trends to diversify their farm operations for economic and ecological sustainability, and another on a direct market farm demonstrating how small family farms can be profitable and support a farm family;
  • Gatherings of farmers and service providers from across the country to network and discuss their challenges and successes;
  • And a celebration of family farmers and good food with donors, farmers, activists, volunteers and other members of our core community the evening before the concert.

Before Farm Aid 2013 kicked off, Farm Aid held a press event attended by hundreds of credentialed media. The event featured Farm Aid's board artists, Jack Johnson and local New York farmers Lindsey and Ben Shute and Chuck Curtiss. The press event was moderated by Curt Ellis, director of the film King Corn and co-founder of Food Corps.

Farm Aid 2013 received significant local and regional media coverage, as well as national attention. The stories promoted the entertainment value of the concert, as well as Farm Aid's message about connecting people everywhere with fresh, healthful food from family farms. In fact, nearly every story about the concert included information about HOMEGROWN Concessions®, the HOMEGROWN Village and the family farmers in attendance. An Associated Press article about HOMEGROWN Concessions® was published in newspapers across the country. The concert was webcast on and Farm Aid's channel. Additionally, the concert was broadcast live on the Willie's Place channel on Sirius XM satellite radio across the country.

Farm Aid launched its first event app, available for Apple and Android devices. The app replaced our paper concert program book and delivered more information about the Farm Aid concert to concertgoers. The app was downloaded by more than 9,000 people, and we look forward to expanding this platform in the future.

Farm Aid launched a social media campaign, #Road2FarmAid, to build excitement for Farm Aid 2013 and allow everyone to share how they are part of family farm agriculture. The campaign greatly expanded exposure for Farm Aid and our mission. On Instagram there were 1,385 photos tagged with #Road2FarmAid. The #Road2FarmAid campaign reached 1.2 million on Facebook on show-day and 2.6 million on Twitter during the week of the concert.

Business Partnerships

Farm Aid partnered with the Rhode Island-based company, Alex + Ani, and their Charity by Design jewelry line. The Farm Aid Cowboy Boot Bangle, sold online and in stores around the world, educates about the work of Farm Aid, and 20% of all sales revenue is returned to the organization.

Growing Our Online Community

Farm Aid's website was a primary tool for communicating with our audience, collecting donations, selling concert tickets and merchandise, engaging users in online advocacy with petitions and letter-writing campaigns, and organizing events. In 2013, there were more than 750,000 visits to by more than 550,000 unique visitors, up 8% over last year.

Farm Aid 2013 accomplished the following on

  • 36,371 unique visitors on concert-day.
  • 31,522 views of the webcast on and Farm Aid's YouTube channel on concert-day. The average viewer watched for 33 minutes.
  • Between September 21-28, brought in $23,906 in donations and merchandise sales.

Farm Aid's email newsletter kept the Farm Aid community informed and inspired with monthly columns that profile America's family farmers and address readers' questions about food and farming. Special features on included Corporate Power in Agriculture and Life Under Contract: Poultry Farming in Arkansas, both of which highlighted the way family farmers are impacted by corporate power. In 2013, Farm Aid grew its email list by 22,584 new contacts by focusing on timely, relevant topics and offering online tools to take action to influence policy.

Farm Aid supporters submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration regarding their proposed food safety rules; the labeling of genetically-engineered foods; and the Farm Bill. Farm Aid also promoted a ballot measure requiring labeling of genetically-engineered foods in the state of Washington.

Farm Aid continued its social media endeavors on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We grew the number of fans and connections on these networks by thousands of users (currently nearly 65,000 on Facebook, and nearly 23,000 on Twitter; we also launched a Farm Aid Instagram account) while engaging people with updates from, links to relevant news articles and concert updates. Farm Aid videos on YouTube have been viewed nearly 30 million times.

In April, Farm Aid gathered up well wishes from farmers, farm activists, artists and friends to wish Willie Nelson a happy 80th birthday. We created a video tribute and invitation for submissions, and a social website to collect photos, videos and messages from around the world and celebrate Willie's contribution to family farmers and the Good Food Movement. A subsequent compilation video was released on 4/30/13, Willie's birthday. In all, the campaign garnered 2,100 submissions, 21,000 visits to the website, and over 100,000 views on YouTube. 

HOMEGROWN is Farm Aid's online community dedicated to enhancing the relationship between family farmers and eaters. By participating firsthand in the culture of agriculture, HOMEGROWN members develop a deeper appreciation of family farmers and the food they grow. This year, focused on populating the HOMEGROWN 101 Library, a new section of the website offering instruction in all kinds of agrarian skills, from building raised beds and growing lettuce to hosting food swaps and beyond. In addition, created Find Good Food, a constantly expanding resource that helps eaters locate good food from family farmers in their own neighborhoods. As an open and trusted source of information created by and for eaters and growers, aims to empower everyone to live homegrown—and the word is spreading. From January through November 2013, experienced 41 percent growth in visitor traffic from the same period the previous year, for a total of 343,425 visits and a 45 percent increase in unique visitors.

The HOMEGROWN Village, a county-fair-style collection of interactive, hands-on food and farm exhibits, was set up on the lawn at Farm Aid 2013. This year's lineup included more than 50 interactive exhibits and the return of the popular HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, a daylong classroom in which local food and farm educators led concertgoers in agrarian activities such as making cheese, curing bacon, growing mushrooms and spinning wool. In May, the HOMEGROWN Village also made its fifth appearance at Maker Faire Bay Area, a gathering of more than 100,000 do-it-yourself enthusiasts.

Growing the Good Food Movement

In addition to the concert and HOMEGROWN activities described above, during 2013, Farm Aid and its partners continued to implement strategies that bolster the Good Food Movement — the growing number of Americans clamoring for family farm-identified, local, organic or humanely raised food. Farm Aid awarded grants in the amount of $75,500 to organizations that build connections between farmers and consumers and create new markets for family farm food.

In April, Farm Aid hosted "An Evening with Farm Aid" at Haven's Kitchen, a recreational cooking school in Manhattan. The night's honoree Steve Ells, Founder and Chairman of Chipotle Mexican Grill, was presented with a "Courage Axe" for his leadership in bringing sustainable family farmer food to more people. The menu featured local food from New York family farmers, some of whom were in attendance. The 80 guests were also treated to an intimate acoustic set by Amos Lee.

Helping Farmers Thrive

Through the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and email service, Farm Aid's Farm Advocate refers farmers to an extensive network of family farm and rural support organizations across the country. Referrals provide immediate support to farm families in crisis and farmers seeking to transition to more sustainable farming practices, as well as for individuals looking to start careers in agriculture. There were more than 500 farmer calls and emails to the Farm Aid hotline in 2013.

In Spring 2013, Farm Aid hired a full-time Farmer Resource Specialist to head up the Farmer Resource Network, an interactive website and database of more than 550 organizations that provide guidance for new farmers, direct assistance to farmers in crisis, and support for farmers looking to transition to more sustainable production methods and markets. Through the Network, Farm Aid builds relationships between individuals, farm service organizations, and businesses to address challenges and create opportunities for farmers. In 2013, there were more than 5,000 searches conducted using the Farmer Resource Network.

Now in its third year of development, Farm Aid's Farm Advocate Link provides training and support to the many farm advocates that make up the Farmer Resource Network. Prior to Farm Aid 2013, core Link leaders met in Saratoga Springs, NY, to focus on strategic planning for the Link.

Farm Aid continues to increase its visibility in the funding community to bring attention to the varied challenges faced by family farmers and to encourage collaboration and collective problem solving. Farm Aid presented to the funding community on issues including factory farms; corporate power and consolidation in the food system; and the impact of natural disasters on family farmers, the role of government in relief and recovery efforts, and the impact of the government shutdown and the failure of Congress to pass a comprehensive farm bill on the farm sector.

Farm Aid awarded $246,000 in grants to help farmers find the resources they need to begin farming, access new markets, grow sustainably, and build resilience in the face of financial and natural disasters. An additional $4,000 was granted to farmers in the form of emergency grants and $28,000 was granted through the Family Farm Disaster Fund to support farmers affected by terrible flooding in Colorado and a freak blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle in South Dakota.

In recognition of Farm Aid's work to stand up for family farmers, Carolyn Mugar accepted the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Clark University, in part for her work with Farm Aid. Willie Nelson received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Berklee College of Music, in part due to this work with Farm Aid.

Taking Action to Change the System

Farm Aid works with local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing efforts. Farm Aid granted $214,000 to family farm groups working to keep family farmers on the land and strengthen local and sustainable agriculture. An additional $20,000 supported scholarships for college students studying agriculture.

In 2013, Farm Aid launched its Farmer Leadership Fund to defray expenses for farmer leadership training programs, strategy meetings and other opportunities to elevate the voice of family farmers. Farm Aid supported travel for two farmers to advocate for fair farm policies in Washington D.C., and for two additional farmers to attend a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the flawed regulation of genetically engineered crops. Farm Aid also supported the attendance of four farmers at the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) conference to help bolster the profile of farmers in public health discussions. Farmer Leadership Fund grants totaled $5,514 in 2013.

Farm Aid funded and is engaged in the Rural Climate Network, which seeks to bring a rural perspective to climate change discussions, policies and on-the-ground solutions, with particular emphasis on family farmers. Farm Aid continued to work on issues of farm credit, land access, and the role of corporate concentration in marginalizing new and established family farmers.

On the heels of an unprecedented report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) linking the rise of antibiotic-resistant pathogens with the misuse of antibiotics in industrial livestock production, Farm Aid issued a statement calling for further investigation of factory farm-related health issues. Farm Aid called for immediate action to end the abuse of antibiotics in industrial livestock production.

Farm Aid rallied our audience to take action to fix the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules to ensure the viability of small and mid-sized, diversified, organic and value-added producers. Farm Aid collected over 15,000 signatures in partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Pesticide Action Network of North America petitioning the FDA to make sure that FSMA does not harm the livelihoods of family farmers.

Farm Aid board artists Neil Young and Dave Matthews added their voices to Farm Aid's engagement in Washington State's ballot Initiative 522 to establish mandatory labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms.

Farm Aid Board of Directors

Farm Aid Board of Directors
Willie Nelson, President
Paul English, Treasurer
Lana Nelson, Secretary
John Mellencamp
Neil Young
Dave Matthews
Mark Rothbaum
Joel Katz
Evelyn Shriver
David Anderson
Richard Fields


Jess Rosen, Greenberg Traurig, Atlanta, GA

Principal Bankers

Cambridge Trust Company, Cambridge, MA
Bankers Trust, Des Moines, IA


Raffa, PC, Washington, DC


The Han Group, Washington, DC

2013 Farm Aid Staff

Carolyn Mugar, Executive Director
Glenda Yoder, Associate Director
Hilde Steffey, Program Director
Jennifer Fahy, Communications Director
Caroline Campbell McCormick, Operations Director
Cornelia Hoskin, Marketing Director
Matt Glidden, Web Marketing Manager
Kari Williams, Development Director
Joel Morton, Farm Advocate
Alicia Harvie, Program Manager
Caroline Malcolm, Operations Coordinator
Jennifer Wehunt, HOMEGROWN Manager
Jessie Deelo, Farmer Resource Specialist

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