In 1985, I made a decision that changed my life: I took a stand for American family farmers. My friends and I organized the first Farm Aid concert. When it was clear that one concert was not enough, we kept going. Back then, I didn’t know the impact this decision would have on my life. But now, 31 years later, Farm Aid is one of the things that I am most proud of.
Farm Aid wouldn’t be here today without you. And so, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for joining me to make a difference.
This year’s Farm Aid concert will take place in Bristow, Virginia, on September 17. I hope to see you there—the concert travels around the country so that farmers, and all of us who value farmers, can take part. When we come together to celebrate family farm agriculture, family farmers know they are not alone. So many farmers have told me that the Farm Aid concert is a day that makes them feel seen, heard… and valued. It’s a day when they get the spotlight. And that makes a big difference in their lives.
Your show of support for family farmers can’t be measured. When you stand with family farmers, you give them hope.
If you aren’t able to join us in Virginia, please consider making a donation of $75 right now. In honor of that gift, Farm Aid will send you the official Farm Aid 2016 t-shirt so that you can be part of this special day.
It’s so important for all of us to show family farmers we support them. Why? Because farmers have one of the most challenging jobs of anyone I know. They don’t just face the challenges of hard, physical work with long hours and no fringe benefits. They also must deal with the weather, and too often they are hit by disasters—like drought, floods, and early springs and killing frosts.
And each and every day, family farmers face a deck stacked against them, competing in a system that favors the “big guys.”
In 31 years, I’ve seen a lot of change on America’s farms. Farm Aid stood with farm families in the ‘80s as their farms were auctioned off. We marched with farm families in the ‘90s as they organized to stop factory farms. In the 2000s, we joined with farmers to champion organic farming. Most recently, we have met with beginning farmers who are working to re-grow local food systems. We have come a long way, together.
But the challenges for farmers have not let up. Each year, the largest farms get bigger, while independent family farmers struggle to make it. The profit margins for farmers are very tight, if they exist at all. The average family farmer earns less than $20,000 a year. Right now, dairy farmers are in grave danger because the price of milk is so low. And prices for grain and livestock have dropped too, leaving many farmers to hope they can ride out what will be a bad year.
Here’s what I believe: Our food is too important to leave to the whims of the market. Agriculture is a business, but it’s not just a business. For family farmers, agriculture is a way of life. It means that they grow good, healthy food. That they care for the soil and water that are critical for our future. It means they support their local community and strengthen the economy.
Your gift of $75 makes a tremendous impact on the work we do every day. It funds the Farm Aid hotline, enabling us to be here each time a farmer calls. Your donation creates essential connections for new farmers, so they can establish their roots. Your support enables us to bring together people like you to change our food system, from the ground up. We put your dollars to work to make sure that family farmers are at the table each time decisions are being made about our farm and food system.
When we come together, the power of people like you and me becomes a force to be reckoned with!
You and I need every family farmer on the land today, and we need new farmers. In order for us to guarantee good food for our families, we need a diversity of family farmers on the land—not just a handful of giant corporate farms.
That’s why Farm Aid’s work is so important. The work we do together deeply impacts farm families, and it’s also essential for all of us. Without family farmers, we don’t have good food to feed our families. Without family farmers, we lose stewards of the land who protect open space, strengthen the soil and keep our water clean. Without family farmers, we lose the backbone of our country, who invigorate local economies, nurture our health and support our communities.
The good news is that you and I can make a difference. Will you give a gift to Farm Aid today? When you do, you support family farmers and you invest in a future of good food for all of us.
I hope to see you at Farm Aid 2016 in September. If you can’t make it, I hope you’ll tune in on the radio or online. We’ll be sharing all the details with you so you can be part of this incredible day to celebrate family farmers and all the good they bring to each and every one of us.
Thank you for joining me.
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