Last week, hundreds of farmers and their allies gathered in Washington, DC, for a three-day mobilization called Farmers for Climate Action: A Rally for Resilience. On Tuesday, March 7, this coalition of more than 50 farm organizations held a rally with inspiring speakers and music performances by John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and more. After the rally, we marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to demand support for farmer-led climate solutions, racial justice and the prioritization of communities over corporations in the 2023 Farm Bill.
“We care for our Earth Mother. We care for our grandchildren. We care for the future that we leave our grandchildren. We care because we are farmers.” — Chili Yazzie
Michael Stewart Foley, Farm Aid’s Cultural Impact Director, published an article in The Washington Post about the rally and similar past farmer mobilizations, including Tractorcades in the 1970s:
Last week, hundreds of farmers and their allies came to Washington to take part in a three-day mobilization called “Farmers for Climate Action: A Rally for Resilience.” This broad coalition of farm groups held a spirited rally and march to demand support for farmer-led climate solutions, racial justice and the prioritization of communities over corporations in the 2023 Farm Bill.
Such activism has a long history. Dating to the founding of the Grange in the 1870s, farmers have organized when faced with threats to their lives and livelihood. This was especially the case in the 1970s, when a family farm movement famously mobilized in “tractorcades” at the Capitol to try to prevent farm foreclosures and keep farmers on the land. The diverse coalition of farm, food, climate and social justice groups that gathered last week differs in important ways from the White, male-led farm movement organizations of the past. But like those farmers from nearly 50 years ago, they are mobilizing out of a sense of outrage and a near-desperate sense that forces beyond their control, along with governmental indifference and wrongheaded policies, are pushing farms and food systems to the brink.
When farmers came to Washington during the farm crisis of the 1970s and ’80s, they felt like the government had set them up to fail…
“We need a different kind of farming. One that protects workers and their families, as well as the environment and our climate. We need a Farm Bill that promotes organic regenerative farming for our future health – for our children and for the planet.” – Yanely Martinez
Read about the Rally
Numerous other publications wrote stories about Farmers for Climate Action: A Rally for Resilience, including:
- Lancaster Farming (along with a separate article on the first night’s gathering)
- Idaho Capital Sun
- Brownfield Ag News
- Civil Eats
“A call to my fellow farmers everywhere…We are at a crossroads and this is our moment to come together. An opportunity to make the transformation we need and want a reality. It is within our grasp.” – Norysell Massanet
Watch the Rally
For those who couldn’t join us in Washington, we recorded the speakers and artists performing at the rally.
In this video filmed for the rally, Willie Nelson addresses the crowd and performs “Heartland” with Micah Nelson and Mickey Raphael, before introducing fellow Farm Aid co-founder and board artist John Mellencamp:
John Mellencamp spoke to attendees and performed his classic songs “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Pink Houses.”
Opening Night Speeches
The rally week started with an opening night gathering at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, DC, on March 6. Watch a few of the speeches below:
On Wednesday, March 8, farmers and activists met with representatives and their staff members to explain what they need to see in farm and food policy. Also on Wednesday morning, a press event was held, featuring:
- Johanna Chao Kreilick, Union of Concerned Scientists, President
- Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA)
- Marielena Vega, Visión 2C Resource Council (V2C) Chair and Board Representative, Idaho Organization of Resource Councils (IORC)
- Dorathy Barker, Operation Spring Plant, Inc., Executive Director
- Yadi Wang, Oatman Flats Ranch General Manager, Arizona SOL L3C Founder
- Lindsay Klaunig, Trouvaille Farm, LLC, Owner
“Funding programs that encourage and support young and beginning farmers using climate friendly solutions such as rotational grazing and cropping, as well as diversified and numerous small food processing facilities, is the only way we can continue in the right direction.” – Claudia Lenz
Check out photos from Farmers for Climate Action: Rally for Resilience in our gallery below. Photographers are labeled with each photo.