We could all use some good news, right about now, couldn’t we? Things are pretty tough out there. While we have a serious message about what family farmers are up against, the truth is Farm Aid is also a celebration. It’s a celebration of the value of family farmers (and their values!) and the solutions they represent for us in terms of our economy, our environment and our health. It’s also about the inspiration family farmers represent and the deeper connection they can help us make every time we eat. And as Willie has said, “We all eat!”
The Farm Aid concert is a chance for us to shine a spotlight on these people who work every day to put good food on our tables. Farm Aid is a way for all of us to meet our farmers, understand the heart and soul they put into their work, the care they have for the land and for our food, and the ways they’re helping to build and strengthen local economies and communities. At Farm Aid folks can shake the calloused hand of a farmer–or in the case of the new young farmers coming on the land, the not-yet-calloused hand! They can meet farmers who have returned from war to farm—trading swords for plowshares. Concertgoers can put their hands into the good dirt that farmers grow—yes, grow—because most soil in this country needs loving care to grow good food, and our farmers are giving that care.
You know, in the divisive world we’re in right now, isn’t it refreshing to step away from all that and rejoice in a basic truth: that good care creates good food that sustains us all? That connection–it’s huge! And to see it happen at the Farm Aid concert is a beautiful thing; this being my ninth concert, I’ve seen alot of it. We’ve got this amazing lineup of artists–Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews… and on and on–and a lot of folks come out to see the show, to enjoy the music. But we don’t just let them do that. NO! They get the full-on Farm Aid experience, complete with a little dirt under their fingernails.
They visit our HOMEGROWN Village and get inspired by farmers, they meet city-dwellers making a living from a quarter acre plot downtown, they learn how to plant their own seeds, and then they imagine the bumper crop of tomatoes they’ll have next year as they learn how to preserve the harvest. The conversion is complete when they taste our HOMEGROWN concessions—a BBQ sandwich made with all natural, family farm pork 129 miles down the road from here and a roll baked from Kansas grown wheat, with a sunkissed Missouri peach for dessert.
And that’s it–the next weekend they’re at their local farmers market or they’re looking up their local farmers online. And they’re beginning to understand how supporting our farmers keeps local farms in our regions, and keeps local dollars there too, where they circulate 2-7 times more than they would had they shopped at the national chain store with its headquarters (and profit center) who knows where! It makes us all richer, and I’m not just talking about dollars.
Sadly, in our crazy lives, we don’t think about these things that often. We’re running from here to there, stuffing whatever convenient food in our mouths without considering what’s in it, who made it, under what conditions, who gets paid what, and what it’s doing to our natural resources, our health, our economy. But if we slow down just a little and begin to think about maybe even just one of those facets—after all, if our body is our temple, what is our food? Shouldn’t we think about it just a little? Well, when we do think about it, what joy it can give us. And what good we can do.
Today, when so much seems out of our control, more and more people are taking power back through the decisions they can make about their food. The movement is spreading more and more each day. And, man, it tastes good!