There are no shortages of good causes to support if you want to make a difference on this planet and in the lives of others. Anyone can find a way to do something on any given day. You can toss some spare change into a bucket or do a good deed as simple as lending a hand to someone in need at the right moment. Some people think big and build organizations that truly make their communities and the world a better place. Like most of you, I find myself somewhere in that broad spectrum, delighted when I can help to support a cause that is important to me.
I had heard of Farm Aid for years, but I did not know of the details of their work to promote a vibrant family farm system until 2001 when I became friends with Joe McKenna. Joe had been Neil Young’s bus driver for 15 years or so. Joe had become passionate about the spirit of Farm Aid from his efforts working with artists who generously donated their performances, and from becoming acquainted with the incredible hard-working directors and staff. When Joe was fighting cancer, he believed strongly in the value of nutrition and being a part of the Good Food Movement took on greater importance as he pursued various treatments. Joe was proud to associate with rock stars, roadies, farmers and volunteers alike. Even 11 years after his death, Joe remains a beloved member of the Farm Aid family.
I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Joe on his organic farm in central Florida, learning how to grow amazing fresh food. I was very fortunate to attend Farm Aid for the first time in 2001 as Joe’s guest. I paid attention to the issues and quickly learned that Farm Aid was working to support market environments that connected farmers directly with customers. I embraced the message and wanted to assist in some way. I put better habits into practice in my own life, and purchased more produce directly from farmers as much as possible. Besides making monetary donations to Farm Aid through ticket purchases, VIP packages, or merchandise purchases, I made a choice to honor my old friend by volunteering and staying involved.
I have returned each year to offer assistance in some way for a few days leading up to the annual concert. I have learned so much. I have witnessed the implementation of a model for including family farm food in the concessions at large events. I have had the pleasure of seeing a recycling and composting program evolve at each concert. I have had the privilege of discussing food system, farming, business, environmental and conservation issues with young and old farmers, market coordinators and advocacy leaders. I have had the opportunity to work with so many positive people, devoted staff of numerous organizations as well as veteran Farm Aid supporters and volunteers. I have also been able to invite my friends and family to join the Farm Aid family, making it an annual reunion, as many of us do.
Not everyone can make the trip to wherever the Farm Aid concert travels each year. I have greatly enjoyed being able to dig in deeper and get exposed to more of the issues as they progress and as things twist and turn. What I know for sure is that it is critical for small farmers to thrive in order to maintain an agricultural system full of good food choices. At a time when corporate agribusiness has come to dominate our food production systems, Farm Aid continues to fight for the small family farm, to consider health and nutrition concerns and to promote responsible stewardship of resources and the environment.
What I have also come to know is that many charitable organizations rely on volunteers and other forms of generosity besides monetary donations. Giving time and talent has connected me in a way that I could have never imagined. I highly recommend it.
On this Giving Tuesday, I recommend supporting Farm Aid. Start with a Farm Aid T-shirt made with organic, family farm cotton, or give a small donation…and take a moment to read and learn about Farm Aid’s good work. You won’t regret it.