Blog | September 20, 2008

John Talks About the Messages of Farm Aid’s 2008 Concert

Blog post from John Voket of Music industry leaders may have reached out to contemporary family farmers at that first Farm Aid in Champaign, Illinois – the heart of America’s midwest – in 1980. But this year may be the most exciting Farm Aid in the historical sense that folks who traveled here to Mansfield, Mass. from all over the country to attend this exciting event could drive just about 30 miles and visit the place where Native Americans reached out to some of America’s first immigrants, and helped them learn to farm this great land.

Farm Aid has played in 15 states, but it’s never been closer to the site where America’s agricultural heritage sank its first roots. Back there in the distant past, in 1621 the Pilgrims sat down with their native brothers and sisters to celebrate their first harvest. According to numerous local sources, that meal not only included five deer, but stock that still populates many of our family farmyards, waterways and fields – wild turkeys, fish, beans, squash, corn and berries.

So I come to Farm Aid today not only excited to see great American acts established and new – from Jerry Lee Lewis to Grace Potter; from jam acts like moe. and Dave Matthews to classic rockers Neil Young and John Mellencamp; from one of country’s contemporary superstars Kenny Chesney to one of its icons, Willie Nelson. The ’80s will be represented by vegan Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. And the ’70s and ’60s with consummate storytellers Steve Earle, and Arlo Guthrie, who may tell us one about another certain ‘Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat.’

This morning’s press conference took place on the last weekend of summer. The weekend that America’s financial empire teetered in crisis. The air was crisp like a New England morning should be. And the fresh apples and squash decorating the stage and the smell of hay – even and old red Farmall tractor made the atmosphere all the more authentic. Willie, John, Neil and Dave made individual pitches about why this event is still so important.

John solemnly reminded the crowd that today, suicides among farmers outpace deaths from equipment and farm-related accidents. Dave’s comments about the increasingly vital roles farmers are playing in saving the planet was particularly impassioned- ‘the world will be fine-we want to work with the planet so we can make it too.’ Neil credited university agricultural programs that are growing the food that is feeding their entire student bodies. And Willie recalled growing up in Abbot, Texas where he was taught how to grow food. He mentioned that today’s farmers not only grow food, but fuel as well. And that if folks can’t plant a garden, they can sign up on a farm share program or CSA, and have their fresh food grown for them by a farmer right in their home town.

It’s time to eat our farm fresh lunch – all the food being vended here today is certified local or sustainable – another historical milestone. Then it’s off to get some home grown religion out in the Farm Yard.

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