Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons gets up close and personal with fans at Farm Aid 30. Photo: Ebet Roberts

Blog | January 28, 2016

Looking back, moving forward

by Jessica Kurn

As the old adage goes, hindsight is 20/20. So to kick off 2016, we’re taking a look back at 2015 and learning from the year.

From a rocking concert that kicked off our 30th year, to popular efforts to shift policy, to an innovative new website, 2015 was a meaningful year for Farm Aid. Below are a few things that caught our attention.

jennie_msallIn 2015, Farm Aid brought on four new staff members! One of those is Jennie Msall, who fields hotline calls from farmers as our Farm Advocate. Some farmers are looking for financial and business counseling, some are transitioning to organic methods, and this past year Jennie received many calls from farmers dealing with natural disasters (like farmers in South Carolina, where record rainfall caused farm losses upwards of $300 million).

Darius_Jones-1Our travel to Illinois for the concert introduced us to some impressive Farmer Heroes. There’s Darius Jones, a charismatic, Chicago, urban farmer. We also met the Kilgus and Schneider families, who operates an innovative and sustainable hydroponic farm in Strawn, IL. And last, but not least, we got to know Andrea Hazzard in Pecatonica, IL, who grows heirloom varieties and ancient grains, and touts the art of seed-saving as one of her farm’s sustainability measures.

21283935619_d8c711f04a_bWe hear a lot about the concert’s significance to farmers and concertgoers, but volunteer extraordinaire, Meg MacDonald, offers a different perspective, one that demonstrates how magical the experience is for people working behind the scenes as well.

quiltvectorsThis year we thanked our valued partners and grantees for the boots-on-the-ground work that they do across the country. We highlighted many of them in our beautiful online grant quilt, and we’ll be adding squares for our 2015 grantees.

Of course, a look back wouldn’t be complete without reliving the energy and enthusiasm from our September 19th concert in the heart of Chicago. Recreate the day: Watch a compilation of the press event and the HOMEGROWN Village, and then watch a musical performance, or two, or ten (don’t be shy) from Farm Aid 30.

Willie Nelson smiling

A major tenet that has guided Farm Aid since 1985 is listening to farmers and following their lead. Here Willie Nelson describes just that — how by listening closely to family farmers, he learned about the critical threats they were facing, giving rise to the first Farm Aid concert, and all of our work since then. Willie implores all of us to connect with farmers, because changing the food system isn’t just about knowing where our food comes from, but knowing and listening to the people who grow it.

Coming off of such an important year, we’d like to keep the momentum going. So, for 2016 we’d love to hear from you: What issues should we address this year? And, what questions do you have about food, agriculture and family farming that we should investigate? Email us and let us know!

Read more stories from 2015

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