Annual Report

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 more than $53 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.

Charity Watchdog Ratings

Charity watchdogs have established standards to measure the efficiency of how non-profits perform.

Financial Forms

Overall Farm Aid performance 1985 to 2017

  • Total Program Services Expenditures: $41,124,383
  • Total Fundraising & Management Expenses: $10,926,085
  • Total Expenditures: $52,050,468
  • Program Expenditure as % of Overall Expenditures: 79%

Farm Aid performance for 2017

  • Total expenditures: $2,269,513
  • Program expenditures: $1,878,403
  • Fundraising & Management expenditures: $391,110

Net assets

  • Farm Aid maintains a surplus of both restricted and unrestricted assets. In 2017 year-end Net Assets were $2,224,655.

Farm Aid Activities for 2017

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 $50 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 2017:

Promoting Food from Family Farms

The heart of Farm Aid’s work to promote food from family farms is our annual Farm Aid festival. Farm Aid 2017 was held at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, PA, on September 16. A crowd of 23,000 enjoyed performances by Farm Aid Board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Additional artists included Sheryl Crow, Jack Johnson, The Avett Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Jamey Johnson, Margo Price, Blackberry Smoke, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Valerie June, Insects vs Robots and Blackwood Quartet. All the artists generously donated their time and travel expenses.

On September 16 at Farm Aid 2017:

  • 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. HOMEGROWN Concessions® builds a strong relationship between farmers, food companies, venue concessionaires and concertgoers. Food companies and sponsors donated family farm food for HOMEGROWN Catering backstage and in VIP
  • The HOMEGROWN Youthmarket sold local, fresh fruit and was staffed by local youth from The Grange and Grow Pittsburgh.
  • In Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Village, 30 farm and food groups engaged concertgoers in hands-on interactive activities about family farmers, soil, water and food production. In the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, concertgoers took part in workshops like masonry with concrete made from hemp, fermentation, composting and seed saving. On the FarmYard Stage, journalists from public radio’s The Allegheny Front hosted conversations with farmers, activists and artists that explored issues in-depth and inspired concertgoers to action. The public’s participation in HOMEGROWN exhibits and conversations demonstrate that engaging people in a hands-on way fosters deeper awareness of key food and farm issues.
  • Food and serviceware waste was collected and sent to a local compost facility to sustain future crops. A sizeable volunteer effort helped concertgoers differentiate between landfill-bound trash, recyclables and compostables. Farm Aid sold reusable water bottles to reduce plastic use. Concert t-shirts were made in the U.S.A. with certified organic cotton.
  • Farm Aid 2017 generated several major donations as well as individual gifts. Corporate sponsors included Bonterra Organic Vineyards, UPMC Health Plan, Lundberg Family Farms, Frontier Co-op. Horizon Organic, Applegate Farms, Lagunitas, PA Preferred, ASPCA and Organic Valley.

Farm Aid hosted several pre-concert events and activities in Pittsburgh to bring farmers together, engage the public and invite the media to highlight issues of concern to family farmers and eaters.

  • Homegrown Prosperity, a public dialogue, was held on Thursday evening to celebrate and call for investment in the ingenuity and hard work of farmers to reinvigorate local economies. Panelists demonstrated how in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, rural and urban citizens are building food systems that revitalize economies, create meaningful jobs and refortify the fabric of their communities. The event gathered community leaders, local and state policymakers (including PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman), farmers and others to elevate the role of public institutions like land grant universities, and federal, state and municipal governments in supporting these efforts.
  • A farmer meeting, attended by farmers from across the country, was held on Friday morning, with breakout conversations on particular issues of interest to farmers.
  • Farm Aid hosted two farm tours on Friday afternoon—one to an organic farm fighting nearby energy development, and one to urban farms in Pittsburgh and Braddock.
  • Farm Aid Eve, a celebration of family farmers and good food, brought together 400 donors, farmers, activists, volunteers and other members of Farm Aid’s core community the night before the The first Spirit of Farm Aid Awards were presented in three categories. Kathy Ozer of the National Family Farm Coalition posthumously received the Activist Award; David Amram received the Artist Award; and Corky Jones received the Farmer Award.

Before doors opened at Farm Aid 2017, Farm Aid held a press event attended by hundreds of members of the media. The event featured Farm Aid’s board artists and farmers, advocates and activists growing real opportunity in the region. Over the summer, Farm Aid staff members visited with featured farmers to film video spots that tell their stories in a compelling way and create a jumping off point for the press event conversation. The videos featured dairy farmers doing direct sales and creating local markets, urban farmers revitalizing their communities and empowering youth, organic pioneers feeding their community and growing the next generation of farmers, and farmers who came together to form a cooperative that brings healthy food to local school cafeterias.

Farm Aid 2017 received significant local and regional media coverage, as well as national attention, including Associated Press, New York Times online, CNN, Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine. Stories resulted in 1,788 print, online and broadcast media hits. Feature 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. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette put a story about our farm tours on the front page! Each media story included information about HOMEGROWN Concessions®, the HOMEGROWN Village and the family farmers in attendance. Farm Aid 2017 was broadcast live on AXS TV. AXS TV aired a 90-minute special in March, which will re-air throughout 2018. Sirius XM satellite radio broadcast the entire concert live, with artists, family farmers and advocates interviewed between music sets. The concert was webcast live on www.farmaid.org (68,224 views for an average of 29 minutes) and Farm Aid’s YouTube channel (38,000 views).

Farm Aid launched an event app for Farm Aid 2017, providing details including the music lineup, stories about featured farmers, information about the work of the organizations taking part in the HOMEGROWN Village, and the menu for HOMEGROWN Concessions®. The Farm Aid 2017 app was downloaded by 8,604 people, who logged 87,000 sessions with an average session time of 5 minutes.

Farm Aid continued the #Road2FarmAid social media campaign, allowing people to share how they are part of strengthening family farm agriculture. Farm Aid’s social media communications reached 24 million people during the period between announcement and festival day.

Growing Our Online Community

Farm Aid’s website informs and inspires the public through storytelling about America’s innovative family farmers. In addition, it offers resources directly to farmers and shows readers how they can support family farmers every day in their own lives. FarmAid.org offers timely news and opportunities to engage in food and farm issues. In 2017, there were more than 720,000 visits to the site by more than 510,000 visitors, a significant increase over 2016.

Farm Aid communicated with its audience of more than 62,000 email subscribers and reached millions of people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The number of followers on these networks grew by thousands of users (currently 124,000 on Facebook, 31,800 on Twitter, 15,500 on Instagram, and 89,200 on YouTube). We added more videos to Farm Aid’s YouTube channel, bringing the total to more than 2,100 videos, with nearly 118 million lifetime views.

Growing the Good Food Movement

In 2017, 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 $66,250 to organizations that build connections between farmers and consumers and create new markets for family farm food.

In October, we updated Farm to School Rocks!, an online toolkit for those interested in exploring farm to school programs. The toolkit includes an infographic that explains the benefits of Farm to School programs, stories of Farm to School Rockstars across the country, and comprehensive resources to dig into whether you are a farmer, parent, teacher, student, activist or school food administrator. Farm Aid partnered with the National Farm to School Network to celebrate National Farm to School Month and promote Farm to School Rocks! Farm Aid also advocated for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR), to expand funding for farm to school programs nationwide.

HOMEGROWN.org is Farm Aid’s online community dedicated to enhancing the relationship between family farmers and eaters. Nearly 8,000 members engage in sharing their experiences, skills and excitement about do-it-yourself farm and food projects. By participating firsthand in the culture of agriculture, HOMEGROWN participants develop a deeper appreciation of family farmers and good food. HOMEGROWN.org has 50,500 Facebook fans, 4,000 Twitter followers and 2,000 Pinterest followers. The Young and Green bloggers from the GrowNYC Youthmarket added lively commentary on the site in 2017.

Helping Farmers Thrive

Through the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and farmhelp@farmaid.org email service, Farm Aid’s in-house 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 become farmers. There were 566 calls and emails to the Farm Aid hotline in 2017, a 24% increase over last year.

While we were sad to say farewell to Farm Advocate Jennie Msall, it gave Farm Aid a chance to bring a seasoned farm advocate back to the movement. In August, Farm Aid hired Joe Schroeder as Farm Aid’s on-staff farm advocate. Joe trained and worked with farm advocate Benny Bunting through his employment at Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA). He left RAFI to farm full-time but Farm Aid is very happy to have his experience at work on the Farm Aid hotline and Resource Network.

Farm Aid’s Resource Network (farmaid.org/ideas) offers an interactive website and database of more than 700 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 Farmer Resource Network, Farm Aid makes connections between individuals, farm service organizations, and businesses to address challenges and create opportunities for farmers. Farm Aid points farmers and advocates to our most trusted resources, new offerings and timely opportunities via our curated Resource Guides and the Resource Spotlight blog.

In 2017, we officially premiered Homeplace Under Fire before a public audience. This short documentary film, produced by Farm Aid, tells the story of the unseen, grassroots work of farm advocates and their fight to keep family farmers on the land. John Mellencamp hosted the premier at Duke University and took part in a panel discussion following the film. Panelists also included Carolyn Mugar and Jennifer Fahy of Farm Aid, the film’s director Charlie Thompson, farm advocates Benny Bunting, Scott Marlow, and Savi Horne, and farmers Curtis and Valerie Byrum. In October, Farm Aid screened the film in Tishomingo, OK, where farm advocate Mona Lee Brock lives. A panel discussion followed the film, with Farm Aid’s new on-staff advocate Joe Schroeder and Mona Lee Brock demonstrating how an advocate responds to a farmer at risk of suicide. In 2018, we will continue to screen the film to validate and bring attention to the commitment of these heroes while illuminating the needs of farmers and the unique challenges they face. Furthermore, we want to raise awareness amongst our peers and the movement at large about the essential role of individual farm advocacy work in achieving policy reform goals and systemic change. We hope this message inspires increased investment and commitment to this work.

Farm Aid was honored to lend its experience, and a great deal of donated staff time, to play a role in the long-awaited final disbursement of funds from the historic class action suit, In Re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation. The suit was brought by Black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for decades of discrimination in farm lending. Class Counsel from this case engaged Farm Aid as a technical advisor in the first phase of disbursal of the $12 million fund. Farm Aid was asked to assist Counsel in the first phase of the Cy Pres due to its 32 years of experience collaborating with and making grants to Black farming organizations. It is important to know as well that there is not currently a nationwide Black-led agricultural-sector funder.

Farm Aid was engaged by Counsel to aid in the administration of a Request for Proposals process and an outreach process with the goal of stabilizing organizations that have historically provided and continue to provide meaningful services to Black farmers. After designing the process, doing outreach and receiving grant proposals, Farm Aid staff evaluated each proposal and provided recommendations to Class Counsel. Counsel then submitted their own recommendations to the U.S. District Court, which made final decisions on disbursement of approximately $4 million of the fund.

Farm Aid awarded $396,000 in grants to organizations that help farmers secure the resources they need to begin farming, access new markets, grow sustainably, and build resilience in the face of financial and natural disasters. Due to the remarkable number of natural disasters that occurred in 2017, Farm Aid made grants in the amount of $135,000 to more than 260 families affected by extreme drought, wildfires, severe wind and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, California, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. An additional $14,000 was granted to support farmers affected by emergencies and economic disasters across the country, including low dairy and crop prices.

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 $250,414 to family farm organizations working to keep family farmers on the land and strengthen local and sustainable agriculture.

Farm Aid’s Farmer Leadership Fund granted $33,000 to defray expenses for farmer leadership training programs, strategy meetings and other opportunities to elevate the voice of family farmers. The leadership fund helped cover expenses for farmers and farm advocates to travel to conferences and events including the 100 Farmers Summit, the National Farm Viability Conference, Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference, and the Factory Farm Summit.

Farm Aid continued important partnerships on national campaigns around GMO labeling, fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal (which was defeated in February 2017), advancing the rights of contract poultry growers in the chicken industry, and supporting farm to school programs nationwide. Farm Aid also supported a state campaign to fight confined animal feeding operations in Nebraska. Throughout the year, Farm Aid brought forward opportunities for farmers and eaters to influence public policy against mega mergers in the seed industry, and in support of GMO labeling, farm to school programs, and antitrust enforcement in the livestock industry.

For years, Farm Aid has fought for antitrust enforcement and protections for farmers facing corporate abuse in the livestock sector. Following substantial work in 2014 and 2015 to bring awareness to abuses endured by farmers in the contract poultry system, we were elated when the USDA officially announced the “Farmer Fair Practice Rules” on December 14, 2016, targeting the most harmful corporate practices hurting farmers and clearly outlining common sense protections to restore fairness to the poultry industry and reduce the burden for farmers seeking justice under the Packers and Stockyards Act. As feared, President Trump has withdrawn the rules. Farm Aid continues to call for their enforcement and a recent lawsuit has been brought, alleging the withdrawal was illegal.

Farm Aid continues to serve as a leader and contributing member of various collaborative efforts to change our farm and food system and advance the power and participation of farmers in these efforts. These have included efforts to address economic and social injustices across animal agriculture, efforts to elevate on-the-ground solutions to climate change, and efforts to rebuild the supply of non-GMO food ingredients and animal feed in the United States

Farm Aid also continues to increase its leadership in the philanthropic community to bring attention to the varied challenges faced by family farmers and to encourage collaboration and collective problem solving. Farm Aid developed and facilitated workshops on the value of individual farm advocacy at both the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF) Forum and Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) Retreat this year. Both workshops received positive feedback and have led to ongoing dialogue in the funding community about how to better support this critical work.

Management and Fundraising

This Activities Report demonstrates the continued progress Farm Aid is making toward its three-year strategic goals established at the end of 2014:

  • Rally, mobilize and engage Farm Aid’s full community.
  • Deliver tangible impact that supports family farmers and communities.
  • Drive increased awareness and relevance of Farm Aid as a critical player in the good food movement—in order to attract increased support and increase future viability.

Additionally, Farm Aid maintained its focus on improving organizational infrastructure and effectiveness to enable the stabilization, growth and sustainability of the organization and its resources.

Donate today

Give $75 or more to get our 2018 logo shirt!

Connect with us