One major way to put it into practice is to support Farm Aid’s work for family farmers. And we’re proud to say that on September 22 in Hershey, PA, more than 30,000 concertgoers did just that. But there were so many others! At Hersheypark Stadium, amazing, dedicated, passionate artists and bands donated their time and talent to spread the word about how important family farmers are for all of us. The folks who handle the technical side of things like sound and lights made donations to help put on a tremendous show. Hundreds of farmers, activists and volunteers worked their tails off in the hot sun to bring an incredible HOMEGROWN Village to life, bring delicious family farm food to backstage and front-of-the-house, and direct more than 4,000 pounds of food waste and compostable service ware to the compost bin instead of the trash to help us make soil. And from the comfort of their homes, thousands more watched the Farm Aid 2012: A Backstage Pass webcast from home, purchased Farm Aid t-shirts, and made donations to help move us closer to our vision: a transformed America in which family farmers and eaters are partners in a thriving farm and food system that benefits all.
The work of Farm Aid happens every day of the year, and the concert itself has never truly been a one-day event. This year, the concert gathering began on Thursday, with the second National Gathering of Farm Advocates. The gathering drew close to 70 people from across the country who wanted to tune up their skills and share knowledge about programs that exist to assist family farmers. They were joined by new advocates who came to learn more about championing family farmers, especially the new farmers we so desperately need. These folks are truly putting it into practice each and every day to stand up for family farmers, whether they’re rural residents who know a thing or two about what it takes to be a farmer or they’re attorneys who want to put their legal knowledge to work for family farmers.
“There’s no question that farming has changed dramatically in the last five years. A big reason for that is Farm Aid. As farming has evolved, so has Farm Aid. It’s now focused on the new breed of farmers, who are showing that sustainable agriculture is no fad. The future of the planet depends on it.”
— Brian Snyder, Executive Director of PASA
On Friday, farmers from across the country met to talk about genetically engineered seeds, including threats to organic farmers of contamination, the difficulty of finding conventional seeds that aren’t genetically altered, and how farmers and eaters can organize to protect their right to grow and eat non-GE food. Following the meeting, farmers, foodies, farm activists and members of the media broke into two groups to tour two local farms: Rodale Institute’s Experimental Farm in Kutztown and Spiral Path Farm in Loysville.
By Saturday morning, all the preparations at Hersheypark Stadium were complete and ready for the crowd! At noon, Farm Aid board artists Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews joined Jack Johnson, Farm Aid’s director Carolyn Mugar, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA)’s director Brian Snyder, and Pennsylvania farmers Jenn Halpin and Tom and Donna Perry. They discussed the challenges that family farmers face, the reason those challenges affect us all, and why it’s crucial that we meet these challenges together, support family farmers and put new farmers on the land. Neil spoke for everyone in the room when he said, “We are not going anywhere—we are going to stay right here and fight as long as we can stand.”
And with that declaration, Farm Aid 2012 kicked off, with more than 40 exhibits in the HOMEGROWN Village, where concertgoers shook the calloused hands of local farmers, dug into some healthy soil and learned about compost, and took part in demonstrations about keeping chickens and seed saving.HOMEGROWN Concessions featured food from local PA farmers, like pears, apples, cheese, roasted corn and non-GE popcorn, and from national companies that source their ingredients from family farmers.
Every time you purchase a Farm Aid ticket or t-shirt, and every time you make a donation to Farm aid, you’re supporting the work that keeps family farmers on the land. Your dollars keep our farmer hotline up and running; they ensure our Farmer Resource Network is up to date; they power HOMEGROWN.org to engage folks in the culture of agriculture and growing new farmers; they help us bring more people into the movement for good food from family farms; and they support a network of national farm advocates and organizations across the country doing work in their own communities to strengthen farmers, deliver good food to the people who need it most, put new farmers on the land, and help farmers organize so their collective strength can help us overcome our challenges. We can’t do this work without you. Thank you for putting it into practice. As Willie said, “Together, we are growing change!”