Farm 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.
Charity Watchdog Ratings
Charity watchdogs have established standards to measure the efficiency of how non-profits perform.
- Farm Aid has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator
- Farm Aid also earned an ‘A’ rating from American Institute of Philanthropy’s charitywatch.org.
- View Farm Aid’s 2016 IRS Form 990 here.
- View Farm Aid’s independent audited financial report for 2016.
- View Farm Aid’s IRS Letter of Determination and Form 1023 Exempt Status Application.
- Farm Aid is 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization as defined by the IRS. The IRS requires that the organization benefit the general public for the purpose for which it was established.
Overall Farm Aid performance 1985 to 2016
- Total Program Services Expenditures: $39,245,980
- Total Fundraising & Management Expenses: $10,534,975
- Total Expenditures: $49,780,955
- Program Expenditure as % of Overall Expenditures: 79%
Farm Aid performance for 2016
- Total expenditures: $2,030,482
- Program expenditures: $1,573,693
- Fundraising & Management expenditures: $456,789
- Farm Aid maintains a surplus of both restricted and unrestricted assets. In 2016 year-end Net Assets were $2,145,733.
Farm Aid Activities for 2016
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 2016:
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 2016 was held at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA, on September 17. 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 Alabama Shakes, Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Jamey Johnson with special guest Alison Krauss, Margo Price, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Insects vs Robots, Ian Mellencamp and Star Swain. All the artists generously donated their time and travel expenses.
On September 17 at Farm Aid 2016:
- 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 HOMEGROWN Concessions® builds a strong relationship between farmers, food companies, our concessionaire and concertgoers. Food companies and sponsors donated family farm food for HOMEGROWN Catering backstage and in VIP areas.
- The HOMEGROWN Youthmarket sold local, fresh produce, staffed by local youth from The Neighborhood Resource Center, La Cocina, Common Good Farm and the Elgin family.
- 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 hemp papermaking, fermentation, composting and seed saving. On the FarmYard Stage, journalists from The Washington Post hosted conversations with farmers, activists and artists that explored issues in-depth and inspired concertgoers to action. The public’s participation in these exhibits 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. Farm Aid sold reusable water bottles to reduce plastic use. Concert t-shirts were made with certified organic cotton.
- The concert generated several major donations as well as individual gifts. Corporate sponsors included Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Prairie Organic, Horizon Organic, HimalaSalt, Lagunitas Brewing Co., Applegate Farms and Organic Valley. Media partners included The Washington Post, which hosted The FarmYard Stage, iHeartMedia and On Tap Magazine. Hundreds of volunteers donated their time to make the concert a success.
Farm Aid hosted several pre-concert events and activities in Virginia and Washington, D.C. to bring farmers together, engage the public and invite the media to highlight issues of concern to family farmers and eaters.
- A screening of Farm Aid’s documentary short film, Homeplace Under Fire, took place at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday, September 15. The premier of the film was followed by a dialogue between USDA and White House leadership, farmers and farm advocates about how we can support America’s family farmers.
- A farmer meeting, attended by farmers from across the country, was held on Friday, September 16.
- Farm Aid hosted a preview screening of Under Contract for a small focus group, as well as a screening of an
extended trailer for the broader food and farm community that joins us at the concert. The screening was followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Sally Lee and key advocates working to reform the poultry industry.
- Farm Aid Eve, a celebration of family farmers and good food, brought together more than 500 donors, farmers, activists, volunteers and other members of Farm Aid’s core community the night before the Farm Aid Eve featured family farm food and a performance by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
Before doors opened at Farm Aid 2016, 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 reshaping agriculture in the Virginia/DC area. Over the summer, Farm Aid staff members visited with featured speakers on their farms and in their workplaces to film video spots that told their stories in a compelling way and created a jumping off point for the press event conversation. The videos featured farmers partnering with community members to bring hope and economic opportunity to Appalachia, to deliver healthy food to people who need it across Virginia, and to create community gardens in DC that strengthen neighborhoods and teach people how to grow food.
Farm Aid 2016 received significant local and regional media coverage, including The Washington Post as well as national attention, including Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine. 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. Each story included information about HOMEGROWN Concessions®, the HOMEGROWN Village and the family farmers in attendance. Farm Aid 2016 was broadcast live on Sirius XM satellite radio across the country, with artists, family farmers and advocates interviewed between music sets. The concert was webcast live on www.farmaid.org, Farm Aid’s YouTube channel (60,000 views), and on Facebook live (59,000 views). AXS TV recorded the concert to create a 90-minute special that will air in Spring 2017
Farm Aid launched an event app for Farm Aid 2016, 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 2016 app was downloaded by 6,521 people, with 408,000 screen views and an average session time of just under 6 minutes.
Farm Aid continued the #Road2FarmAid social media campaign, allowing people to share how they are part of strengthening family farm agriculture. Nearly 900 people submitted their stories of how they’re changing the farm and food system at road2.farmaid.org.
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 2016, there were more than 580,000 visits to the site by more than 415,000 unique 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 (currently 107,000 on Facebook, 29,700 on Twitter, 11,300 on Instagram, and 64,500 on YouTube). We added more videos to Farm Aid’s YouTube channel, bringing the total to more than 2,000 videos, with more than 65 million lifetime views.
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 2016.
Growing the Good Food Movement
In 2016, 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 released Farm to School Rocks!, an online toolkit for those interested in exploring farm to school programs. The toolkit includes our first ever infographic, the 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. We utilized our online action center to mobilize supporters, and at Farm Aid 2016 concertgoers decorated paper plates with messages to support a robust Farm to School program in the CNR; the plates were delivered to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in October.
Through the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and email@example.com 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 455 calls and emails to the Farm Aid hotline in 2016.
Farm Aid’s Resource Network (farmaid.org/ideas) offers an interactive website and database of more than 800 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, which received more than 3,000 visits in 2016.
In 2016, we completed Homeplace Under Fire, our short documentary film that tells the story of the unseen, grassroots work of farm advocates and their fight to keep family farmers on the land. Its premier took place on September 15, 2016, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The film premier was followed by a panel of farm advocates and USDA and White House officials that highlighted reactions to the film. Following the panel, breakout sessions were held on dairy and livestock reform, allowing the farmers present to speak with federal administrators about their current challenges. A film tour is planned for 2017, beginning in the rural communities where farm advocates do their work under the radar. We want 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.
In June, Farm Aid invited key practitioners and strategists together for a meeting in Louisville, KY, to consider the current state of our Farm Advocates Link. The intensive gathering sought to set a plan for stabilization that would establish a strong footing to innovate and evolve this critical work to meet the needs of a growing diversity of farmers. This conversation is especially important as signs continue to point toward a looming farm crisis. Participating organizations have been inspired to deepen their own farm advocate services and work together to heighten awareness of the efficiencies and systemic impacts of this under-valued work.
Farm Aid awarded $274,703 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. An additional $26,500 was granted to farmers to support farmers affected by economic and weather disasters across the country, including low dairy prices and historic flooding in West Virginia. Farm Aid also granted $11,003 to individual farmers and farm organizations to cover travel costs for participating in the USDA gathering prior to the Farm Aid concert.
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 $234,365 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 $6,600 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 the Food Solutions New England Summit; the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference; the 5th Annual Soil and Nutrition Conference; and the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project Factory Farm Summit.
In 2016, Farm Aid devoted significant resources to revamping our online action hub, building our online capacity for grassroots advocacy and developing new tools for grassroots engagement. We also expanded the menu of offerings for people who want to make a difference – including resources for people to bring national issues campaigns into their own communities and an expanding set of fact sheets for people to download and print.
Farm Aid continued important partnerships on national campaigns around GMO labeling, fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, advancing the rights of contract poultry growers in the chicken industry, and supporting farm to school programs nationwide. We also supported key state campaigns to advance family farm agriculture in North Dakota and Missouri. Throughout the year, Farm Aid brought forward opportunities for farmers and eaters to influence public policy in support of GMO labeling, the Child Nutrition Act and farm to school programs, and antitrust enforcement in the livestock industry. Our improved Action Center earned us our most participatory action yet, with nearly 13,000 taking action on the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act on GMO labeling.
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. These rules target the most harmful corporate practices hurting farmers and clearly outline common sense protections to restore fairness to the poultry industry and reduce the burden for farmers seeking justice under the Packers and Stockyards Act. This is a huge win in a fight that has been ongoing for years. But the rules will no doubt come under attack by corporate interests, and there is much to be decided regarding how the pro-farmer community keeps the pressure on.
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 challenged 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.
As part of its effort to improve operational infrastructure and effectiveness, Farm Aid has engaged experts in accounting, auditing and exempt-organization tax law to review its finance and accounting systems.
In addition to the organization’s primary fundraising activity–the annual Farm Aid concert–Farm Aid held four additional fundraising events: An Evening with Farm Aid in Geyserville, CA, featuring a performance by Grace Potter; An Evening with Farm Aid in McKinney, TX, featuring a performance by Kacey Musgraves; A Starry Night on the Farm, partnering with Modern Farmer Magazine and featuring music from Bronze Radio Return; and Barnraising with Farm Aid in Boston, MA, featuring Nelly Rojas Trio and Avi Jacob. These events sourced food from local family farmers (In fact, the caterer for Farm Aid Eve has since changed their business practices to source from local farms!), and the farmers who raised the food attended as our honored guests. These events are an important way to celebrate and strengthen investment in Farm Aid’s work and spread the Farm Aid spirit beyond the concert region.
Most Recently Audited Financials (2015)
Net Assets, Beginning of Year: $2,217,182
- Program Expenses: $1,709,521
Promoting Food from Family Farms: $310,840
Growing the Good Food Movement $242,097
Helping Farmers Thrive $664,156
Taking Action to Change the System $492,428
- Fundraising: $165,049
- Administration: $375,478
- Total Expenses: $2,250,048
Change in Net Assets: ($27,318)
Net Assets, End of Year: $2,244,500
Audited Expenditures 1985 through 2015
Program Services: $37,672,287
Fundraising & Management: $10,078,186
Total Expenditures: $47,750,473
Farm Aid Board of Directors
Willie Nelson, President
Paul English, Treasurer
Lana Nelson, Secretary
Carolyn Mugar, Vice President
Glenda Yoder, Assistant Treasurer
Jess Rosen, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Atlanta, GA
Eve Borenstein, Borenstein & MacVeigh, Minneapolis, MN
Cambridge Trust Company, Cambridge, MA
Accounting Management Solutions, Waltham, MA
Edelstein & Company LLP, Boston, MA
2016 Farm Aid Staff
Carolyn Mugar, Executive Director
Glenda Yoder, Associate Director
Hilde Steffey, Program Director
Jennifer Fahy, Communications Director
Caroline Campbell McCormick, Operations Director
Matt Glidden, Online Marketing Director
Kari Williams, Development Director
Alicia Harvie, Advocacy & Issues Director
Jennie Msall, Farm Advocate
Caroline Malcolm, Development Manager
Jessica Kurn, Online Communications Specialist
Kassia Perpich, Program Manager (through June)
Laura Brookshire, Program Manager (since July)
Emily Eagan, Special Projects