As we prepare for our annual concert, we often get questions about how and why we work with our sponsors. I’m eager to hear people’s questions and opinions about sponsors because it means that people are passionately engaged in the Good Food Movement, and that enthusiasm and interest in engaging in conversation is key to long-term system change.
First, thanks to the sponsors our concert costs are underwritten so that we can put more money directly towards our work with family farmers. We are pleased to give sponsors recognition in exchange for the support they give to the cause.
The mission of Farm Aid is to support family farmers. One of the ways we work toward that mission is by promoting food from family farmers. We know that when more and more consumers purchase local, organic, or humanely-raised food, farmers are more likely to receive the financial rewards they deserve. That mission drives our general sponsorship philosophy.
Many of our sponsors are food-related, although not all of them. Our food sponsors have given us the added opportunity to inform people about organics, family farmers and growing methods, and to have farmers who grow for those companies attend the concert.
Family farmers need markets and companies to buy their sustainably raised food. And it’s crucial that sustainable farmers have ways to get their food to the broadest possible public. Companies like Horizon Organic, SILK, Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley Family of Farms, and other food sponsors who have been long-time supporters of Farm Aid, are making a contribution to the Good Food Movement. These are brands that can help us find family-farmed foods where we shop. We are proud to receive support from companies like these.
Farm Aid associates with food sponsors who pay family farmers a fair price, have an ecological standard for farming practices and make their commitment to sustainable and family farming known to their customers. The chemical-intensive, industrial food system has been—and continues to be—challenged and changed thanks in part to companies like these.
It’s a challenge to exactly identify family farm food unless you buy 100% direct, and of course that’s not practical for most. But through labels (certified organic being the best defined) and brands, consumers can begin to find food from family farmers who grow in sustainable ways. The marketplace is full of labels, and they convey different values and growing practices. There isn’t any one perfect label or brand, but we think that many of them help us move our food system forward, because they increase transparency about our food—who grew it, and how it was grown.
That being said, all organizations and companies must strive to be better. Our food system is only at the beginning of a profound change, and Farm Aid is all about helping it move forward. The change does not happen evenly or perfectly across all sectors for all farmers, of course. We must support rigorous organic enforcement and increased transparency across the board. When assessing potential sponsors, we look for a solid contribution to family farm agriculture—are these companies opening markets to family farmers and working to put more family farmers on the land?
This philosophy also guides our initial acceptance and constant monitoring of our sponsor relationships. Farm Aid has rejected many offers from potential sponsors that did not fit with our mission. We have also ended relationships with previous sponsors who no longer matched our philosophy. We want sponsors who will help us further our mission of promoting family farmers and the Good Food Movement.
If you have any suggestions of sponsors you’d like to see supporting Farm Aid, or if you have any questions, please contact me.