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 2014

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 $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. The following Farm Aid programs accomplished our mission in 2014:

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 2014 was held at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, in Raleigh, North Carolina, on September 13. A crowd of more than 20,000 enjoyed performances by Farm Aid Board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Additional artists included Jack White, Gary Clark Jr, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jamey Johnson, Carlene Carter, Delta Rae, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Todd Snider, Jesse Lenat, Insects vs Robots, and the Raelyn Nelson Band. All of the artists generously donated their time and travel expenses.

On September 13 at Farm Aid 2014:

  • Farm Aid served local, organic, family farm food throughout the venue with Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Concessions®, which brings family farm food to the concessions stands at every concert venue where Farm Aid plays. This year, HOMEGROWN Concessions® included local NC food and farm businesses, and the menu highlighted local flavors and fresh foods from NC farmers and fishermen. Farm Aid also sourced family farm food in the backstage and VIP catering areas.
  • The HOMEGROWN Youthmarket sold local produce from family farmers to concertgoers. The Youthmarket was coordinated by GrowNYC and staffed by local North Carolina youth. Plans are proceeding to develop and support a permanent Youthmarket in Raleigh in partnership with GrowNYC. This HOMEGROWN Youthmarket will be a model to replicate as the Farm Aid concert moves around the country.
  • In Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village more than 40 farm and food groups engaged concert-goers in hands-on interactive exhibits about family farmers, soil, water, food production, and renewable energy.
  • Our annual food drive and food rescue, held at the concert with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, collected food for thousands of meals for North Carolina families in need.
  • Food and service-ware waste from this year's concert is in the process of being turned into compost to sustain future crops. Farm Aid sold reusable aluminum water bottles to reduce plastic use. Concert t-shirts were made with certified organic and transitional organic cotton, including a special edition t-shirt that was grown and sewn in North Carolina. Farm Aid merchandise sales broke Farm Aid's per-person sales record.
  • The concert generated several major donations as well as individual gifts. Corporate sponsors included Amy's Kitchen, Rudi's Bakery, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Horizon Organic, Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley Coop, Applegate, PRO*ACT, Garden of Eatin', PLOTSAVER, Big Boss, Lonerider and StubHub.

Farm Aid hosted a number of pre-concert events and activities in Raleigh 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 landmark gathering of farm leaders from across the country and civil rights leaders to learn about the legacy of civil rights organizing, Black land loss, and power-building in the Southeast. The galvanizing event was an opportunity to inspire new thinking about racial justice in food and agriculture, the power of community organizing and the need for the farmer voice to speak out and define a values-based practice for how we produce food and support farmers in the future. In 2015 Farm Aid will build on this groundwork that was laid in Raleigh.
  • Three North Carolina farm tours. One tour focused on the loss of Black-owned farmland with a visit to one of the few remaining Black-owned dairy farms in North Carolina and Operation Spring Plant, a co-op focused on strengthening minority and limited-resource farmers. A second tour focused on transitions, with one featured farmer shifting production from tobacco to organic produce, and another shifting his career from military service to sustainable agriculture. The third tour focused on urban agriculture and what it takes to grow food in the city and build the infrastructure needed to make local and regional family farm food available within city limits.
  • A gathering of farmers, farm leaders and farm 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 Farm Aid's core community the evening before the concert.

Before Farm Aid 2014 kicked off, Farm Aid held a press event attended by hundreds of members of the media. The event featured Farm Aid's board artists, Scott Marlow of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), and North Carolina farmers Kay Doby, Craig Watts, Russ Vollmer, and Dorathy and Phillip Barker. This marked the first time the press event was held on Farm Aid's main stage, making use of the stage's video screens to broadcast videos Farm Aid produced of each of the farmers on their own farms. The end result was a deeper look at the issues affecting family farmers and a deeper connection by the audience with the experience of family farmers.  

Farm Aid 2014 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. Nearly every story about the concert included information about HOMEGROWN Concessions®, the HOMEGROWN Village and the family farmers in attendance. The concert was televised live on AXS TV and webcast on and Farm Aid's channel. A one-hour special aired in December and will be replayed throughout 2015 on AXS TV. Additionally, the concert was broadcast live on Sirius XM satellite radio across the country, with interviews with family farmers and advocates featured between music sets.

Farm Aid launched its second event app, available for Apple and Android devices. The app was downloaded by more than 8,000 people, who logged more than 50,000 sessions, with the average session at more than 5 minutes.  

Farm Aid continued the success of our #Road2FarmAid social media campaign, building excitement for Farm Aid 2014 and allowing everyone to share how they are part of family farm agriculture. The campaign greatly expanded exposure for Farm Aid and its mission. On Instagram there were 1,385 photos tagged with the Road2FarmAid hashtag. The #Road2FarmAid campaign reached 1.2 million on Facebook on concert day and 2.6 million on Twitter during the week of the concert.

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 2014, there were more than 810,000 visits to by more than 595,000 unique visitors, up 7% over last year. Farm Aid 2014 brought in 48,955 unique visitors on the day of the concert, where the average webcast viewer watched for 34 minutes.

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 and concerns about food and farming. Special features on included "10 Things the New Census of Agriculture Tells Us About Family Farmers and Our Food System" and "A New Farm Economy Rises from Tobacco's Ashes," which highlighted the changing farm economy of North Carolina. In 2014, Farm Aid grew its email list by 14,515 new contacts by focusing on timely, relevant topics and offering online tools to take action to influence policy.

Farm Aid continued its social media endeavors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The number of fans and connections on these networks grew by thousands of users (currently nearly 80,000 on Facebook, nearly 26,000 on Twitter, 2,100 on Instagram, and more than 33,000 subscribers on YouTube), engaging people with updates from, links to relevant news articles and concert updates. Farm Aid videos on YouTube have been viewed more than 46 million times.

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. As an open and trusted source of information created by and for eaters and growers, aims to empower everyone to live homegrown. Visits to increased 4 percent from January to November 2014 over the same period in 2013, and unique users increased 6 percent. In September, hit a major milestone when it reached 50,000 fans on Facebook.

The ever-expanding HOMEGROWN 101 library of how-tos on all things food (gardening, cooking, baking, crafting, etc.) continues to be a major traffic driver to the website. There were nearly 50 new 101s in 2014, on topics ranging from bone broth and cold frames to growing horseradish, transplanting, homemade harissa, the basics of bartering, and starting a food-buying club.

HOMEGROWN once again partnered with Maker Faire to host the HOMEGROWN Village at Maker Faire Bay Area in May. HOMEGROWN led two workshops on making butter and recruited first-time presenters on topics including home brewing and mushroom cultivation. More than 100,000 people attended the event. We captured some 300 of them in our HOMEGROWN photo booth and sent them home with a magnet.

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 2014. This year's lineup included more than 40 interactive exhibits and the return of the popular HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, a daylong classroom in which local food and farm advocates led concertgoers in workshops on seed saving, sustainable fishing, canning pepper jelly, crafting flower crowns from family farmer­–grown flora, and making friendship bracelets from natural fibers.

Growing the Good Food Movement

In addition to the concert and HOMEGROWN activities described above, during 2014, Farm Aid and its partners continued to implement strategies that bolster the Good Food Movement — the growing number of Americans demanding family farm-identified, local, organic or humanely raised food. Farm Aid awarded grants in the amount of $46,000 to organizations that build connections between farmers and consumers and create new markets for family farm food.

Farm Aid has partnered with GrowNYC to support a permanent HOMEGROWN Youthmarket in Raleigh, set to debut in 2015, to involve youth in agriculture.  

In October, Farm Aid partnered with the National Farm to School Network to celebrate National Farm to School Month, highlighting resources available for family farmers to participate in farm to school programs, as well as tools for schools interested in building relationships with local farms.

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 nearly 700 calls and emails to the Farm Aid hotline in 2014.

Farm Aid's Resource Network offers an interactive website and database of more than 750 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. Farm Aid points farmers and advocates to our most referred resources, new offerings and timely opportunities via the Resource Network Guides and the Resource Spotlight blog.

In 2014, Farm Aid laid the groundwork for a Texas Drought Summit, to be held in January 2015 with Texas-based organizations Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Sustainable Food Center and National Center for Appropriate Technology/San Antonio, as well as disaster response experts RAFI-USA and Farmers' Legal Action Group.

Farm Aid awarded $250,500 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 $7,500 was granted to farmers in the form of emergency grants and $13,000 was granted through the Family Farm Disaster Fund to support farmers affected by ongoing drought across the country. 

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 $262,500 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.

Farm Aid's Farmer Leadership Fund granted $6,200 to defray expenses for farmer leadership training programs, strategy meetings and other opportunities to elevate the voice of family farmers. The leadership fund covered expenses for farmers and ranchers to travel to Washington D.C. in April to attend the Reject + Protect Rally against the Keystone XL Pipeline; for women farmers to attend NC Choices' second annual Women Working in the Meat Business Conference; for Georgia farmers to attend the annual Georgia Organics conference; and for limited-resource farmers to attend the gathering of farmers and civil rights leaders hosted by Farm Aid prior to Farm Aid 2014.

During 2013, Farm Aid rallied our audience to take action to fix the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules to ensure the viability of family farmers, particularly small and mid-sized, diversified, organic and value-added producers. Due to the public outcry, FDA issued new proposed regulations in the summer of 2014 that address the needs of a full range of farmers and food businesses. Farm Aid again called on our audience to weigh in for the second round of regulations, and will continue to support efforts to ensure that the interests of family farmers are considered as the FDA moves into the implementation stage of food safety reform.

Farm Aid launched an action to engage concertgoers and Farm Aid fans to stand with family livestock producers, calling on Congress to preserve critical rules and regulations that protect growers from corporate abuses. These rules have been consistently attacked by meatpackers through their Congressional sponsors.

Farm Aid continued its support of mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients, endorsing and promoting the labeling ballot initiatives that took place on Election Day in Oregon and Colorado. Farm Aid also lent a hand to farm organizations working on critical state policy issues, including efforts in Missouri to prevent a new tax on beef producers and the so-called "Right to Farm" pro-corporate legislation that threatens communities' ability to address or prevent the construction of new factory farms.

Farm Aid is a leader or contributing member of various collaborative efforts to bring change to our farm and food system, including an effort to increase the supply of non-GMO crops and products; a multi-sector, multi-issue effort to reform industrial animal agriculture; a national coalition to address the needs of limited-resource farmers and contract poultry growers; and the Rural Climate Network.

Farm Aid continues to increase its visibility in the food systems funding community to bring attention to the varied challenges faced by family farmers and to encourage collaboration and collective problem solving. Farm Aid made presentations to the funding community on issues including using public narrative to build power around food and farm issues, the impacts of corporate concentration in agricultural sectors, and what's at stake for family farmers with the recent federal efforts at food safety reform. Farm Aid staff also served on the planning committee for the first annual Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders policy briefing, held in December in Washington, DC.

Management and Fundraising

During 2014, Farm Aid focused on building organizational capacity, zeroing in on strategic planning and branding to better understand Farm Aid's mission, goals, values and standing in the landscape of farm and food organizations. As an example of the positive results of that work, Farm Aid was able to capture its distinct imprint on all aspects of the concert. In post-concert surveys that were conducted with concertgoers, artists, sponsors, volunteers and others, it was demonstrated that Farm Aid clearly conveyed its work and impact. This work strengthens the organization, its messaging, and its impact as we work toward our vision of a strong system of family farm agriculture and the best possible food system for everyone.

With three consecutive years of successful concerts, along with strong fundraising and business partnerships, Farm Aid has established an operating capital fund that provides a safety net, as well as a source from which to draw funds for investment in programming.

To strengthen Farm Aid's fundraising capacity, the organization formed a Development Advisory Board, made up of major donors who have expertise in various areas, from fundraising to organizational strategy. The Development Advisory Board begins its second three-year term in 2015, and will increase in size from eight to 13.

In addition to the organization's primary fundraising activity--the annual Farm Aid concert--Farm Aid held two fundraising events: Farm Aid Eve in Raleigh, NC, the night before the concert, and An Evening with Farm Aid, in McKinney, TX. Farm Aid Eve gathered more than 450 farmers, volunteers, donors, fans and partner organizations in an event celebrating the "Farm Aid Family." James Beard Award winning chef Ashley Christensen was the chef, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band made a surprise appearance, leading a lively second line procession. In October, An Evening with Farm Aid attracted 180 guests to a family farm north of Dallas. Chef Robert Lyford and local community members acted as hosts for the event. Farmer Robert Hutchins opened the evening's remarks with a story about his relationship to Farm Aid as a family farmer and emergency grant recipient after his farm was destroyed by a tornado in 2014. All of the local farmers that were sources for the food served attended as Farm Aid's honored guests. These events are an important way to celebrate and steward the strong network of support for Farm Aid, strengthening investment in Farm Aid's work among the Farm Aid Family.

Business partnerships continue to strengthen Farm Aid's ability to reach broader audiences, and financially support its mission. Farm Aid partnered again with Rhode Island-based company Alex + Ani, and the Charity by Design jewelry line. The Farm Aid Cowboy Boot Bangle bracelet, sold online and in stores around the world, informs about the work of Farm Aid and results in a donation to Farm Aid of 20% of all sales revenue.

Most Recently Audited Financials (2013)




Program Expenses




Promoting Food from Family Farms



Growing the Good Food Movement



Helping Farmers Thrive



Taking Action to Change the System








End of Year Assets



Audited Expenditures 1985 through 2013

Program Services: $34,279,821 (79%)
Fundraising & Management: $9,193,316 (21%)
Total Expenditures: $43,473,137

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

2014 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
Jessica Kurn, Program Associate
Toni Tiemann, Volunteer Coordinator

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