The Emslie family at Farm Aid 2019. William (Bill) Emslie III (center), a 5th generation farmer, holds the t-shirt he purchased at the first Farm Aid concert in 1985!

Blog | November 7, 2019

Farm Aid Merchandise: Behind the Scenes

by Lauren Cotnoir

Whether you stood in line in the rain at one of our merch booths at the festival, or carefully selected your Farm Aid 2019 merchandise online, your purchase helps to support the work of Farm Aid year-round. But a lot happens before your new favorite hat or tee gets to you. Our process is rigorous, and at times lengthy, between sourcing materials, selecting designs, and ordering and fulfilling, all of which is done by hand by our very small team.


First, we source the blank apparel and accessories with our experienced merchandise partner, Mirror Image. That means finding great shirts, hats and bags that we can envision our designs on. We source merchandise that reflects our mission by using organic cotton and, whenever possible, utilizing U.S.-grown organic cotton. We often work with multiple wholesalers to get variety, but each of our items represents the family farm values of protecting health, economy, water and soil, and supporting farmer livelihoods. Each item is closely analyzed by the Farm Aid team based on the production conditions, both for the land and the people producing it, and, of course, style.

Willie Nelson on stage during the Farm Aid 2019 Festival Press Event wearing one of this year’s shirts. Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro.


Once we’ve determined the lineup of items  selected the colors, and considered the variety of fans who come to Farm Aid festivals we work with a talented roster of designers to find designs to suit everyone. A couple tweaks, friendly disagreements, and final approvals later, we place the orders in carefully calculated numbers for sizes and designs based on an average of merchandise sales during previous years. It’s our goal that no one should get to the front of the line only to realize the shirt they had their heart set on is sold out, nor do we want to over order and produce waste. We minimize our environmental impact and unnecessary costs as much as possible, a critical mission of Farm Aid. As with most things, it’s a fine balance!

The items are all printed “by hand” in Mirror Image’s unionized print shop and delivered to the festival to be organized and counted in preparation with the venue’s merchandiser. At the same time, photos are captured and uploaded to our online store so that we’re ready to roll for sales both at the festival and wherever you may be tuning in from remotely.

Once your purchase is made, you may have noticed a response letting you know that your purchase will take six to eight weeks to arrive. What gives? While we strive to get your items in hand as soon as possible, due to the record-breaking merchandise sales at Farm Aid 2019, we found ourselves in the position of needing to reprint and restock. Because of the volume of orders we receive, and the fact that we pack and ship each order by hand, this process can take some time! All reordering and reprinting is complete and items will be shipping this week.

Thank you so much for your support of Farm Aid’s merchandise operation. Each purchase helps further Farm Aid’s mission to keep America’s family farmers on the land and thriving by bringing in critical funds that we put to use right away.  Thanks for wearing our designs and spreading awareness of Farm Aid’s work and our brand. We love when we see Farm Aid t-shirts from years gone by at the concerts of the wonderful artists of Farm Aid.

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