Every year between the time when we pick the concert location and when we announce it to the public several trips are made to the area to check out the ampitheatre, the local scene and the farm groups working in the area.
Yesterday, Ted and I got back from our trip to the site of this year’s concert. We met the venue staff and walked through the compound in order to begin planning for the many different activities that will happen on the day of the concert. Where to place the press tent? How many press can we fit in? How are we going to get artists and farm groups in and out of press briefings? We got a good jump on most of these questions – but just as many as got answered, more popped up. Such is the nature of planning a large live event.
We also had the opportunity to meet a number of people in and around the city where the venue is located to hear about challenges and efforts already underway to boost local, family farm food production. We were excited to hear that a lot of positive things are going on. Farmers are connecting to chefs and restaurants—there is an expanding number of farmers markets, and increasing awareness about the benefits of local and sustainable agriculture.
We also heard many folks speak about the obstacles to getting farm fresh food into low-income neighborhoods and of poor nutrition and high obesity levels among inner-city children. Food and farm activists in every urban area struggle with these glaring disparities: upscale restaurants serving locally sourced organic food for those who can pay juxtaposed to urban neighborhoods with very little access to fresh, whole food.
Ted and I shared ideas about how the Farm Aid concert might act as a springboard to advance the work in the area. We know food is the great connector, linking rural to urban, producer to eater, tradition to innovation, availability to access. It’s exciting to think of this year’s Farm Aid concert as a vehicle to strengthen these links and to highlight the efforts of those who strive to make family farm food available and accessible to all.