Each year after the Farm Aid concert, we begin the process of combing through the grant applications we receive and making our recommendations to board president Willie Nelson as to which family farm, community and food organizations Farm Aid will fund.
While the program department heads up this process, many other staff members take part so that they too can learn about all the great efforts to keep family farmers on the land and thriving, expand markets for farmers and make healthy food accessible to all, and work against industrial agriculture and corporate control of farming. It’s a great way to keep in touch with all the good stuff that is happening in local communities all over the country. But it’s a painful process, due to the sheer number of applications we receive and the finite money that we have available to distribute to farm and food organizations all over the country.
This year, like every year, we have more requests than we’ll be able to fulfill. Unlike foundations which exist solely to give away money to other organizations, Farm Aid balances our own work with the work of other organizations we’d like to support. In other words, we’ve got to hold back enough money to do our day-to-day work, which includes answering the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline for farmers in need, keeping up the Farmer Resource Network, bringing attention to the issues family farmers face and informing folks about the value of family farmers and why it is so important that we support them. It’s a nice balance, I think, focusing attention nationally but also helping to provide the resources local and regional groups need to keep family farmers thriving.
Once we’ve narrowed down our recommendations we let Willie know and once he’s approved the grants he’ll sign the checks and we’ll get them out in the mail to the groups on the ground who are helping to move the Good Food Movement forward. It’s a happy coincidence that our grant season falls at the same time as Thanksgiving… reading about the hard work and creative ideas of these groups makes you thankful that there are so many good people out there working to create positive change.