We chatted with Carlene Carter, one of the Farm Aid 2013 artists generously donating their time and talent for family farmers, about her #Road2FarmAid.
FA: Hi Carlene, thanks for sharing your #Road2FarmAid with us! Is this your first Farm Aid appearance? Are you excited to be part of it?
CC: Yes, this is my first Farm Aid appearance! And of course I’m thrilled to be a part of the festivities! I’m not sure why I have never been able to suit up and show up for it…. But here I come!!
FA: You were at the very first Farm Aid in 1985. How did you come to be there? Any special memories?
CC: In 1985 I was there as a supporter. I was with my friend Charlie Sexton and I had a wonderful time even though I wasn’t part of the show.
FA: Do you feel a special kinship with rural America in light of your Carter Family roots in Appalachia?
CC: Being a “farm girl,” as my mother was too and my grandmother, I’ve always appreciated the hard work and sweat that goes into being a farmer.
We always had a huge garden when I was growing up, and I spent most of my summers as a child tending to it. I know it’s nothing compared to being a “real farmer,” but I still always try to keep my hands in the dirt. I love the gratification of growing your own food.
FA: Were members of your family farmers at any time?
CC: My Grandma and Grandpa Smith were farmers, as was my Grandpa “Pop” Carter. I’m sure there were several generations of farmers in my family.
FA: Your dad, Carl Smith, raised cattle. Where was that and would you call it a “family farm?”
CC: My Daddy, Carl Smith, raised horses and cattle in Franklin, TN. I don’t think we ever ate anything except the cattle he raised and put into the deep freeze to feed us for the winter. He had around 500 acres of land there and it was called “Smith Ranch.” But growing up…. I always would say, “Momma, I’m going to the farm.”
Me, Momma and Rosey (my sister) lived on 15 acres in Madison, TN. We had horses and everything I love on it. Then, when I was 12, Momma married “Big John” (Johnny Cash) and he truly loved growing things–I mean anything! He took a large part of the land we owned and filled it with every kind of animal you could think of: emus, ostrich, goats, pigs, chickens, horses, cows, etc. etc.!
Great fun! And, though fishing isn’t necessarily farming, it sure was a part of farm life for us kids!
Back when I first was a young mother at the age of 16, I had learned to can from Grandma Carter, and we had a very large field of every vegetable so we could “put’em up.” LOL.
We had so little money and I was so happy to have learned how to live off the land more than most of my other friends were doing.
I raised a couple of calves every spring so we’d have meat for the deep freezer my Momma and John had given me as a wedding gift.
We raised chickens for eggs, had a couple of goats, and shot rabbits when we could. I can honestly say I hope I never have to pluck another chicken in my life, but feel like I could if that’s what needed to be done
FA: Talk about Willie Nelson — he’s one of Farm Aid’s founders and I’m sure you’ve known him for years.
I’ve known and loved Willie Nelson since I was 11 years old, before he left Nashville for Texas. So I’m extra pleased this year to be part of things because I’ll be performing for the first time some of the songs off my new CD “Carter Girl” being released in early 2014 on Rounder Records! This recording is a tribute to 3 generations of Carter Family music. Willie and I are performing “Troublesome Waters,” which was written by my grandmother Maybelle Carter and my Grandfather Ezra Carter and Dixie Hall back in the early 1960s. I have always wanted to share a song with him! And hopefully someday we’ll be able to perform it live together!!
FA: Maybe at Farm Aid 2013! Thank you, Carlene, for sharing your #Road2FarmAid!
CC: Thank you! Love Ya!