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 support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose food from family farms. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised $60 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.

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Farm Aid Activities for 2019

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, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews host an annual festival 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 nearly $60 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 2019:

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 2019 was held at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin, on September 21. A sold-out crowd of 30,000 (with ticket buyers representing all 50 states) enjoyed performances by Farm Aid Board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds. Additional artists included Bonnie Raitt, Luke Combs, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Jamey Johnson, Margo Price, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Yola, Tanya Tucker, Jamestown Revival, Particle Kid, Ian Mellencamp, the Ho-Chunk Nation Thundercloud Singers, and the Wisdom Indian Dancers. All the artists generously donated their time and travel expenses.

On September 21 at Farm Aid 2019:

  • Throughout the venue, Farm Aid served its HOMEGROWN Concessions®: family farm-sourced food grown and raised with an ecological standard and a fair price paid to HOMEGROWN Concessions® builds a strong relationship between farmers, food companies, the venue concessionaire and vendors. Menu items featured many local Wisconsin products, including bread and pretzels baked with wheat from farmers with regenerative practices. Food companies and sponsors donated food that met Farm Aid’s criteria for HOMEGROWN Catering backstage and in VIP areas.
  • The HOMEGROWN Youthmarket, operated by young people from local youth agriculture organizations FFA, the Grange, Teens Grow Greens and Neu-life, brought local apples, cider and baked goods to festivalgoers.
  • In Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Village, 40 farm and food groups engaged festivalgoers in hands-on, interactive activities about family farmers, soil, water and food In the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, festivalgoers took part in workshops about beekeeping, soap making, grain milling and seed saving. On the Farmyard Stage, renowned ag broadcaster Pam Jahnke hosted conversations with farmers, activists and artists, exploring issues like native food systems and farmer mental health. Festivalgoers’ participation in HOMEGROWN exhibits and conversations demonstrates that engaging people in a hands-on way fosters deep awareness of key food and farm issues.
  • 13,868 pounds of food and serviceware waste was collected by Compost Crusaders to build soils for future A sizeable volunteer effort helped festivalgoers differentiate between landfill-bound trash, recyclables and compostables. Farm Aid sold reusable water bottles to reduce plastic use. A record number of festival t-shirts, made with certified organic cotton, were sold.
  • Farm Aid partnered with Milwaukee’s Hunger Taskforce to organize a food drive and post-event food rescue. More than 17,000 pounds of food was collected to benefit local families in need.
  • Corporate sponsors included Patagonia Workwear, Farmer Focus, Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, Horizon Organic, New Glarus Brewing Company, Cheese City Beer, Organic Valley and Toy Farmer.
  • Farm Aid generated several major donations as well as individual gifts.
  • Farm Aid partnered with Madison’s WKOW and Quincy Media to broadcast a telethon the day before Farm Aid 2019, which brought in nearly $47,000 in donations from viewers across the upper Midwest.

Against the backdrop of a growing national farm crisis, Farm Aid 2019 emphasized the determination of farmers and ranchers in Wisconsin and across the nation to survive mounting challenges that include devastating weather, low prices and harmful farm and trade policies. Farm Aid hosted several pre-festival events in Wisconsin to bring farmers, advocates and activists together, engage the public, and invite the media to highlight issues of concern to family farmers and eaters and the stories of farmer resilience.

  • Farm Aid’s Forward From Here event was inspired by Wisconsin’s unique cultural and populist heritage in order to inspire action, build community, elevate models for exercising farmer power and foster solidarity.
  • A farmer meeting and breakfast, attended by farmers from across the country, was held on Friday
  • Farm Aid hosted three farm tours on Friday afternoon—focusing on Milwaukee’s local food system; healthy soil and regenerative agriculture; and on-farm innovations that are helping farmers survive the current farm crisis.
  • 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 second Spirit of Farm Aid Awards were presented in four categories. Joel Greeno and Benny Bunting received the Farmer Activist Award; Karl Adams of Live Nation received the Production Team Award; Mike Wanchic received the Artist Award; and Mona Lee Brock was posthumously honored for her lifelong work as a Farm Advocate.

Before doors opened at Farm Aid 2019, 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 working in the state. Over the summer, Farm Aid staff 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 told the stories of farmers coming together to build power, including dairy farmers organizing for fair prices; Native American farmers rebuilding food sovereignty; Hmong farmers taking care of the land and feeding their communities; women farmers revitalizing their rural communities; and small grains and pasture-based farmers building new, local markets and mitigating climate change.

Farm Aid 2019 received significant local and regional media coverage, as well as national attention, including from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, NBC Nightly News, ABC News Nightline, USA Today, RFD-TV, Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine. Stories resulted in 2,048 print, online and broadcast media hits and more than 2 billion media impressions. Feature stories promoted the entertainment value of the festival, as well as the current farm economy crisis that puts our family farmers and our food system at risk.

Farm Aid 2019 was broadcast live on AXS TV, and a highlights special will air in 2020. Sirius XM satellite radio broadcast the entire concert live, with artists, family farmers and advocates interviewed between music sets. The festival was webcast live on and Farm Aid’s YouTube channel, with nearly 100,000 views and an average of 30 minutes watch time.

The Farm Aid 2019 app for iPhone and Android provided 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 2019 app was downloaded by 12,012 people (up 36% from 2018), who logged 77,000 sessions with an average session time of more than 5 minutes.

Farm Aid’s social media campaign allowed people to share how they support family farmers and Farm Aid, reaching more than 20 million people during the period between announcement and festival day.

Our Online Community

Farm Aid’s website informs and inspires the public through storytelling about America’s innovative family farmers, the challenges they face and the solutions they hold. In addition, it offers resources directly to farmers and shows readers how they can support family farmers every day in their own lives. offers timely news and opportunities to engage in food and farm issues. In 2019, there were more than 810,000 visits to by more than 580,000 visitors.

Farm Aid communicated with its audience of more than 81,000 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 (133,000 on Facebook, 33,500 on Twitter, 21,000 on Instagram, and 213,000 on YouTube). Farm Aid’s YouTube channel features more than 2,300 videos, with nearly 200 million lifetime views.

Growing the Good Food Movement

In 2019, Farm Aid and its partners continued to implement strategies that bolster the Good Food Movement—the growing number of eaters demanding family farm-identified, local, organic or humanely raised food. Farm Aid awarded grants in the amount of $71,615 to organizations that strengthen infrastructure for local and regional food systems and raise awareness of their value. These grants support work to create new markets for farmers and enhance access to good food for everyone, regardless of regardless of race, color, national origin or zip code.

Helping Farmers Thrive

Since 2013, America’s farmers and ranchers have weathered a 50 percent drop in net farm income. The strain in today’s farm economy is no accident; it’s the result of policies designed to enrich corporations at the expense of farmers and ranchers. In response, Farm Aid continued to expand its direct farmer response and increased its advocacy of solutions to farm policy that needs a massive shift in direction – one that delivers fair prices to farmers that allow them to make a living. In 2019, Farm Aid continued to serve as an expert on the issues of farmer stress and mental health, with many high-profile interviews including on broadcast news such as CBS News, PBS Newshour, BBC and NPR, and in print outlets such as Time Magazine, The Washington Post, New York Times, Bloomberg News, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Progressive Farmer.

Through the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and email service, Farm Aid’s hotline manager, Madeline Lutkewitte, 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. As of October 31, 2019, Farm Aid received 773 contacts to the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and email service. Farm Aid has issued 68 emergency grants to farm families in crisis, totaling $34,000.

Farm Aid’s Resource Network 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.

In January, Farm Aid communicated about the impact of the government shutdown on family farmers, including via an interview on PBS News Hour about how the government shutdown had the potential to shut down family farms.

In the spring, Farm Aid activated the Family Farm Disaster Fund to send immediate relief to farmers in the Midwest and Plains affected by historic flooding. Farm Aid raised and distributed more than $226,500 to help farmers in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota navigate their options on the long road to disaster recovery. Additional flooding later in 2019 expanded Farm Aid’s disaster response to Texas.

Since 2017, Farm Aid has helped bring awareness and action to the issue of farmer mental health via advocacy on the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill calls for $10 million in annual funding to support organizations providing mental health resources to farmers and those working in agriculture. In 2019, Farm Aid was part of a coalition of organizations that won a FRSAN grant to build a farmer support network in the Northeast. “Building an Inclusive and Comprehensive Network for Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance in the Northeast” will convene a network of farmer service providers to build connections and collaboration. Additionally, this project will gather resources, provide feedback on regional needs, develop an online clearinghouse to share available resources and referrals with farmers and service providers, and train service providers on the network, available resources, and best practices for working with farmers under stress. This work will build on the legacy of Farm Aid’s 34 years of direct farm service and its work to build strong farmer networks of support.

In July, Farm Aid partnered with the American Psychological Association (APA) to produce a webinar for APA’s membership of mental healthcare professionals to learn more about the unique stressors that farmers face. APA’s executive director, Dr. Arthur Evans, and other members of APA’s executive team, attended Farm Aid 2019 and the pre-events to meet farmers and learn more about how APA can uniquely bring attention to this issue and serve farmers. Farm Aid will continue and expand this partnership into 2020.

In July 2018, Farm Aid was awarded $219,285 in funding from the Keepseagle cy pres process, the Native American Agriculture Fast Track Fund (NAAFTF). NAAFTF funding supports Farm Aid’s work through 2020 to analyze and bolster the resource offerings specific to Native American farmers and ensure those offerings are effectively networked, catalogued and communicated. In 2019, Farm Aid prioritized outreach to Native American farm organizations and farmers and began the work to convene an advisory group to plan a Native American farmer and rancher training program to take place in 2020. As part of festival outreach, Farm Aid engaged each of the 11 Native tribes of Wisconsin. In November, Farm Aid posted a full-time position for this work with a goal to hire in early 2020.

Farm Aid was honored to continue to lend its experience, expertise and donated staff time to support Lead Class Counsel in its granting of cy pres funds from the historic class action lawsuit, In Re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, brought by Black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for decades of discrimination in farm lending. In 2017, Lead Class Counsel from this case engaged Farm Aid as a technical advisor due to its long years of experience collaborating with and making grants to African American farming organizations. In 2019, Farm Aid supported Lead Class Counsel in is review of reports from the Black farmer organizations that received grants through the process designed by Farm Aid and provided a report to Lead Class Counsel.

Farm Aid awarded $311,500 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

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 $299,500 to family farm organizations working to ensure competitive markets for family farmers, address antitrust and contract violations, fight factory farms, strengthen the grassroots around a unified vision for our farm and food system, and amplify an effective farmer voice to reform the food system.

Throughout the year, Farm Aid brought forward opportunities for farmers and eaters to influence public policy, for example to protect basic rights for livestock and poultry farmers and for federal support of farm to school programs that bring farm-fresh food to school cafeterias. Additionally, Farm Aid lent support to efforts like calling on elected officials, as well as candidates running for office, to ensure a fair marketplace for America’s family farmers and ranchers.

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 build the supply of non-GMO food ingredients and animal feed in the U.S. and to promote regenerative agriculture.

Farm Aid also continues its leadership to in the philanthropic community to bring attention to the varied challenges faced by family farmers and to encourage collaboration and collective problem solving.

Other Granting and Total Granting

Farm Aid’s Farmer Leadership Fund granted $48,386  to defray expenses for farmer leadership training programs, strategy meetings and other opportunities to elevate the voice of family farmers.

Farm Aid’s Agricultural Scholarship Fund granted $20,797 in agricultural-related scholarships to students at three universities.

In total, Farm Aid made grants in the amount of $1,012,300 during 2019.

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