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 $57 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

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Financial Forms

Overall Farm Aid performance 1985 – 2018

  • Total Revenue: $57,032,492
  • Total Expenditures: $54,182,944
  • Total Program Services Expenditures: $42,913,109
  • Total Fundraising & Management Expenses: $11,269,835
  • Program Expenditure as % of Overall Expenditures: 79%

Farm Aid performance for 2018

  • Total Revenue: $2,778,913
  • Total Expenditures: $2,132,436
  • Program Expenditures: $1,788,726
  • Fundraising & Management Expenditures: $343,750
  • Program Expenditure as % of Overall Expenditures: 84%

Net assets

  • Farm Aid maintains a surplus of both restricted and unrestricted assets. In 2018 year-end Net Assets were $2,900,891.

Farm Aid Activities for 2018

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 $56 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 2018:

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 2018 was held at XFINITY Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 22. 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 Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Jamey Johnson, Margo Price, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Particle Kid, Ian Mellencamp, and the Wisdom Indian Dancers. All the artists generously donated their time and travel expenses.

On September 22 at Farm Aid 2018:

  • Farm Aid served local, organic, non-GMO family farm food throughout the venue with its HOMEGROWN Concessions®: family farm-sourced food with an ecological standard and a fair price paid to farmers. HOMEGROWN Concessions® builds a strong relationship between farmers, food companies, venue concessionaires and vendors. Food companies and sponsors donated family farm food that met the same criteria for HOMEGROWN Catering backstage and in VIP areas.
  • The HOMEGROWN Youthmarket sold local, fresh fruit and was staffed by local youth from New Britain ROOTS, The Grange, KNOX Farm and the Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience and Technology Program at Nonnewaug High School.
  • In Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Village, 37 farm and food groups engaged festivalgoers in hands-on interactive activities about family farmers, soil, water and food production. In the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, festivalgoers took part in workshops like beekeeping, cheesemaking, plant dyeing, hemp papermaking and seed saving. On the FarmYard Stage, chef/founder of Wholesome Wave Michel Nischan and Hartford Food System’s founder Martha Page hosted conversations with farmers, activists and artists that explored issues like farmer mental health and community food systems in-depth. Festivalgoers’ participation in HOMEGROWN exhibits and conversations demonstrate that engaging people in a hands-on way fosters deep awareness of key food and farm issues.
  • 2,500 pounds of food and serviceware waste was collected and sent to Blue Earth, a local compost facility, to sustain future crops. A sizeable volunteer effort helped festivalgoers differentiate between landfill-bound trash, recyclables and compostables.
  • Farm Aid sold reusable water bottles to reduce plastic use. 7,500 festival t-shirts were sold, almost all made in the U.S. and all made with certified organic cotton.
  • Farm Aid 2018 generated several major donations as well as individual gifts. Corporate sponsors included Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Patagonia Workwear, Lundberg Family Farms, New Belgium Brewing Company, Horizon Organic, Pete and Gerry’s Organic, Shenandoah Valley Organic, Harbor Harvest, Frontier Co-op, Spindrift and Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company.

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

  • Farm Aid’s On the Road to Resilience: Moving from Individual Crisis to Collective Power inspired farmers’ and farm advocates’ strength to persevere and explored strategies for resilience, through speakers, sessions and activities that call upon our compassion and ingenuity in tough times.
  • A farmer meeting, attended by farmers from across the country, was held on Friday morning, with breakout conversations on issues of particular interest to farmers.
  • Farm Aid hosted three farm tours on Friday afternoon—an urban farm tour focused on food justice, an orchard tour focused on ecological growing methods and corporate power, and a local fisheries tour.
  • Farm Aid hosted a film screening of Forgotten Farms, followed by a panel discussion on the nature of the dairy crisis, what’s at stake in the Northeast as more dairy farmers go out of business and how people are rallying for long-term solutions.
  • 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 festival. The second Spirit of Farm Aid Awards were presented in four categories. David Senter received the Activist Award; Jamey Johnson received the Artist Award; Rhonda Perry and Roger Allison received the Farmer Award; and Ron Stern received the Production Award.

Before doors opened at Farm Aid 2018, 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 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 told the stories of urban farmers revitalizing their communities and empowering youth; nutrition incentive doubling programs that double the nutrition benefits low-income residents can spend on healthy food at farmers markets; orchard and produce growers keeping generational farms alive and thriving; and two dairy farming families—one that is diversifying to survive the current dairy crisis and one that has left the dairy business.

Farm Aid 2018 received significant local and regional media coverage, as well as national attention, including from The Hartford Courant, New Haven Register, Associated Press, NBC Nightly News, ABC News Nightline, USA Today, RFD-TV, Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazine. Stories resulted in 1,718 print, online and broadcast media hits. 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 2018 was broadcast live on AXS TV, and a highlights special will air in 2019. 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 www.farmaid.org and Farm Aid’s YouTube channel, with a combined total of 111,539 views and an average of 29 minutes watch time.

The Farm Aid 2018 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 2018 app was downloaded by 8,774 people, who logged 57,000 sessions with an average session time of five and a half minutes.

Farm Aid’s social media campaign allows people to share how they support family farmers. Farm Aid’s social media communications reached more than 22 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 and the challenges they face. 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 2018, there were more than 700,000 visits to www.farmaid.org by more than 500,000 visitors.

Farm Aid communicated with its audience of more than 72,000 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 127,000 on Facebook, 33,500 on Twitter, 21,000 on Instagram, and 133,000 on YouTube). Farm Aid’s YouTube channel features more than 2,200 videos, with more than 151 million lifetime views.

Growing the Good Food Movement

In 2018, 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 $98,000 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 expanded its direct farmer response in 2018. Farm Aid also 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 2018, Farm Aid was recognized 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 and NBC News and in print outlets such as The Washington Post, CNN, AgriPulse and Civil Eats.

Farm Aid was part of a coalition of farm organizations that helped bring awareness and action to the issue of farmer mental health via advocacy on the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which was included in the 2018 Farm Bill that passed Congress in the second week of December. 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 will work to make sure those dollars strengthen the network of service providers who are longtime Farm Aid partners that help farmers in crisis navigate their options and receive the support they need.

Through the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and farmhelp@farmaid.org email service, Farm Aid’s in-house Farm Advocate, Joe Schroeder, 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. Farm Aid received a record number of contacts to the hotline in 2018, such that it hired an additional farm advocate to help field the many calls received. In July, Annie Heuscher joined the Farm Aid team to relieve some of the call volume and conduct a survey of farm service providers across the country to help inform Farm Aid’s understanding of what farmers are experiencing on the ground and the capacity of service providers to keep pace with the need. In 2018, there were 1,034 farmer contacts via the Farm Aid hotline, a 109% increase from 2017, and surpassing any other year the organization has on record. In response, Farm Aid doubled its annual emergency grant budget. Farm Aid has also reconvened the Farm Advocate Link network via regular calls to strategize with our resource partners about how to strengthen the network in times of crisis.

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.

Farm Aid was honored to continue to lend its experience, expertise and a great deal of donated staff time to play a role in the disbursement of 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. Class Counsel from this case engaged Farm Aid as a technical advisor due to its 32 years of experience collaborating with and making grants to African-American farming organizations. Farm Aid provided administrative support to Lead Class Counsel and the organizing group of African American farm organization leaders in planning and implementing an historic Black Farmers Meeting, which took place in March in Atlanta, Georgia. The purpose of that meeting was for leaders and farmers in the African-American farming community to coalesce and develop their vision for a thriving future of African American farming, which will inform the decision making for disbursement of the remaining cy pres funds. An outcome of this meeting was the self-formation of a Black Farmer Leadership Council that will provide leadership and input for Lead Class Counsel’s recommendations to the Court for the phase II cy pres funds.

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 will support 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 the first year of work, Farm Aid will expand resources available to Native American farmers and ranchers and will convene an advisory group and partners to plan a Native American farmer and rancher training program to take place the following year.

Farm Aid awarded $228,000 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. Farm Aid made grants in the amount of $40,500 to assist farm families affected by Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas. An additional $45,000 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 $230,000 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.

Farm Aid’s Farmer Leadership Fund granted $19,179 to defray expenses for farmer leadership training programs, strategy meetings and other opportunities to elevate the voice of family farmers.

In March, Farm Aid authored an op-ed published in The Hill on global trade and the need for supply management in the dairy industry to prevent oversupply of milk, which leads to the current abysmal prices that dairy farmers are receiving. Farm Aid informed the public about the reasons for the dairy crisis and possible solutions via a fact sheet and interviews in the media.

In 2018, Farm Aid created the Farm Bill Hub to help the Farm Aid audience navigate this big, complicated, expensive, and most important legislation for farmers, rural residents and all of us who eat. Features include a Farm Bill 101 that outlines the past, present and future of the legislation; resources from partner organizations across the country who work to engage farmers and eaters in winning a better farm bill; a quiz to engage readers; and an up-to-the-minute blog that explored the most important issues addressed in the Farm Bill and Farm Aid’s take on how the House and Senate versions measured up as they came together throughout 2018.

Throughout the year, Farm Aid brought forward opportunities for farmers and eaters to influence public policy, for example against mega mergers in the seed industry and in support of a strong Farm Bill that benefits family farmers and eaters.

In 2017 and into 2018, Farm Aid joined a coalition effort to urge state attorney general offices to join an active Department of Justice investigation of the Bayer-Monsanto merger and publicize their involvement. Farm Aid joined a coalition of farm groups in fielding a poll of nearly 1,000 farmers across America to examine their views of the pending Bayer-Monsanto merger. The poll, released in March, indicated that farmers overwhelmingly opposed the merger. Nonetheless, it was approved by the DOJ.

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.

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. Farm Aid developed and facilitated workshops on the challenges of helping farmers respond to natural disasters and the value of individual farm advocacy at the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders Forum. Both workshops have led to ongoing dialogue in the funding community about how to better support this critical work.

Management and Fundraising

Farm Aid currently operates with 12 full time staff and one contractor. With several years of successful annual festivals, Farm Aid has built an operating reserve that sustains operations through leaner years. In years in which the organization has greater discretionary funds, it can respond nimbly to strategic opportunities, such as investing greater resources in 2018 to meet the increased demand for direct services to farmers. Farm Aid continues to improve efficiency and effectiveness with the operational foundation of the organization.

One of Farm Aid’s organizational accomplishments in 2018 was hiring a new Development & Brand Director, Steve Snyder, to help Farm Aid attract increased support and advance its work into the future. The development team continues to nurture longstanding donor relationships and to identify and engage prospective new donors, foundations and other revenue streams in a variety of ways.

On March 14th, in partnership with the Luck Reunion team in Austin, Farm Aid produced An Evening with Farm Aid in Luck on the eve of the festival there. The 250-person benefit event featuring a farm-to-table feast sourced from local farmers performances by members of the Nelson family and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, raised more than $106,000. We’re also building upon and expanding the success of previous initiatives, including contests and auctions for festival and travel experiences as well as memorabilia. This year’s #GivingTuesday campaign at the end of November saw an increase of more than 35% in revenue over last year, propelled by “matching funds” that were committed by a small group of our donors.

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