First Gustav, and then Ike, one right after the other. As much as we at Farm Aid might have liked to focus exclusively on this year’s concert preparations, there was no way we could or would ignore the two devastating hurricanes that blasted the Gulf coast in the last few weeks. Reports from our longtime ally organizations in the South provided a grimly vivid picture of family farmers and ranchers suffering major crop damage, devastating livestock losses, and extensive structural damage to homes, outbuildings, fences, and vehicles. Farm Aid had to act. It’s what we do. Responding to disaster on the family farm is fundamental to what Farm Aid is all about.
With Willie’s immediate go-ahead, we granted a total of $30,000 to four organizations we know will move fast to identify those farm and ranch families most in need in the worst-hit areas. The four groups — Lutheran Social Services of the South, the Southern Mutual Help Association, the Louisiana Interchurch Conference, and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives — know the territory and understand how to work with folks victimized by natural disaster. We can count on these groups to funnel emergency dollars to those farm and ranch families most in need.
Today at the concert in Mansfield, with Willie, Neil, John, Dave, Kenny Chesney, Grace Potter and the Nocturals, and many other artists and their crews, along with 20,000 or so happy concert-goers, we’ll celebrate the burgeoning Good Food Movement. In the HOMEGROWN Village at the venue, we’ll host and highlight exhibitors from food and farm organizations in New England and across the nation, and we’ll roll out our new Farmer Resource Network online tool (at farmaid.org/ideas). But we’ll also remember those farmers and ranchers whose homes may even now remain inundated with water, or worse. And we’ll continue through our Family Farm Disaster Fund to collect donations for those hit the hardest by nature’s destructive power. We ask you to join us both in celebration of the family farm and in responding to disasters that we all know will just keep coming. It’s going to be a beautiful day.