Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America

2010 marked the 25th anniversary of the first Farm Aid concert, which was held in Champaign, Illinois.

Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to keep family farmers on their land. At that time, family farmers were in a fight for their livelihoods and their farms in an economic situation that closely mirrors what so many Americans face today. Since that first concert, Farm Aid has been a relentless champion for family farmers. Through the dedicated hard work of its board of directors, which added Dave Matthews in 2001, many thousands of donors, and the nearly four hundred artists who have generously donated their time and performances, Farm Aid is now the longest running benefit concert series in America.

Our YouTube channel has classic Farm Aid performances, like these from the first Farm Aid concert:

Want information about who's playing at this year's Farm Aid's concert, how to get the best tickets, and how you can help keep family farmers on their land? Sign up for email updates, Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Check out our slideshow to relive just a few of the many incredible moments from Farm Aid's first 25 years.

What are your favorite Farm Aid memories? Please share yours and take a look at some of our staff's favorite memories.

From Glenda:In 2008, the historic floods hit Iowa, and Joel Morton and I went to survey the devastation. Farm Aid’s generous donors responded immediately and we were able to bring some much-needed funds to the region. As Joel and I arrived we flew over miles and miles of inundated fields and overflowing rivers. The next day we walked along washed out country roads with farmers and they soberly explained what the losses meant. We brought farmers to meet with Willie Nelson who was doing a show there in Iowa, because he wanted to meet with farmers before the concert and hear what had happened.

Seeing the farmers crowded on the bus talking with Willie was deeply moving. He listened carefully and asked thoughtful questions. And, later, when he handed over a check from Farm Aid to distribute to those who had lost so much, some farmers wiped a tear. It wasn’t that the money was going to solve the huge problems, but it was evidence of the solid commitment of Farm Aid to be present in time of trouble. Later, I watched smiling farmers and families enjoying Willie’s music, cheered by "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain."

From Joel: One among my many favorite Farm Aid memories is sight of the harvest moon hovering over the venue as Neil Young and band did their sound check the night before the St. Louis concert in October, 2009.

From Alicia: Clocking in at just seven months on the job here at Farm Aid, I already have many great moments to reflect upon! However, the most profound occurred at the Farm Aid concert in St. Louis last year. My concert job is to manage an area called the FarmYard, where we invite family farmers to mingle, learn from each other and even field the occasional question from a reporter! As I started the day, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, who attended the concert, came my way asking if she could chat with farmers. She wanted to hear any of their concerns and needed me to wrangle up any interested farmers. Boy were they interested! Watching the Deputy Secretary sit on a pile of haystacks, speaking with farmers at length was a sight for sore eyes. It was an exciting and humbling moment that reflects that power of Farm Aid to bring people big ways and small.

From Kari: The press conferences are my best memories — the moment when all of our work culminates into one moment and everyone is excited about possibilities, ready to tackle the problems.

From Jennifer: After seven years at Farm Aid, I've got a lot of amazing memories. But the thing I look forward to most every year is the part of the day where I can take a break from working backstage and get out to the front of the house to hear some music and feed off the audience vibe. I grab a brat from the Patchwork Family Farm stand and head into the pavilion to see who's on stage and catch up with farmers, activists, and Farm Aid friends and supporters who I usually only get to see once a year at the Farm Aid concert. The music, good food, friends, and excitement in the air never fails to bring tears to my eyes—I get overwhelmed by this tremendous day that we all helped make happen together. It's an awesome feeling.

From Anna: I'm Farm Aid's volunteer coordinator and I love to hear from volunteers who tell me they came for the music, but now they "get it," and they want to be more involved in Farm Aid's mission.

From Hilde: My favorite Farm Aid memory is my first visit to the Farm Aid office in 2003. As a graduate student studying agricultural science and policy, and having spent every summer on my grandpa's farm, I had always had a warm place in my heart for Farm Aid's mission. When I found out the Farm Aid office was in my backyard in Boston, MA, I simply had to stop by. Mark Smith, Communications Director at the time, welcomed me warmly to the kitchen table, and took sincere interest in my studies and ideas. He introduced me to the other staff, all of whom responded with the same openness and care. The inclusive spirit of the organization, a potent representation of Willie Nelson's leadership, was thick in the air — and from that moment on, I've been hooked! Now that I am staff at Farm Aid I try to never let an opportunity pass to welcome students in the area into the office and into the Farm Aid fold.

We encourage you to share your memories below, but there will be a delay before they are posted since all comments are all held for moderation to protect against spam. Farm Aid does not censor or refuse comments for content unless they are spam or a personal attack.

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