Farm Aid 30: Strength from Our Roots

September 17th & 18th, 2015
Chicago, IL

To mark Farm Aid’s 30th anniversary, Farm Aid 30: Strength From Our Roots gathered farmers, activists, farm advocates and civic leaders from across the country to engage in inspired storytelling, inter-generational exchange, meaningful reflection and strategic analysis.

Drawing from the moment that created Farm Aid – the 1980s Farm Crisis – the two-day gathering illuminated deeper lessons from a pivotal moment in America’s agricultural history. Strength from Our Roots reviewed the responses to the farm crisis and reflected upon what we’ve accomplished over 30 years in order to better understand where we are today and how positive change is made.

To view the REPORT from Farm Aid 30: Strength from Our Roots click here.

 

Highlights, recordings, and resources from the gathering can be found below.

Farm Aid would like thank our generous sponsors who helped to make this unique gathering possible: 11th Hour ProjectOrganic Valley, TomKat Charitable Trust, New Visions Foundation, Walter S. Mander Foundation, and Fresh Taste.

roots_gathering_sponsors

Session Highlights


Our Shared History: Beginning Days of Farm Aid


The gathering’s first panel revisited the conditions that sparked the first Farm Aid concert in 1985, what family farmers were experiencing and what it meant for Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young to join farmers in their struggle.

“We were lucky. We had Farm Aid to come together and celebrate…We had ways to build the love together.”

~ Mark Ritchie, Former Minnesota Secretary of State

Moderator: Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown

Panel

  • Carolyn Mugar, Farm Aid
  • Mark Ritchie, Former Minnesota Secretary of State
  • David Senter, American Agriculture Movement
  • Roger Allison, Missouri Rural Crisis Center
  • Paul Sobocinski, Land Stewardship Project
  • Helen Waller, National Save the Family Farm Coalition
  • Ralph Paige, Federation of Southern Cooperatives

The Frontlines of the Farm Crisis: Farm Advocates


During the 80s farm crisis, a handful of farmers struggling to save their own farms started using their experience to help their neighbors fight back against foreclosure and abuse. The term “Farm Advocate” emerged to describe this frontline, farmer-to-farmer assistance.

Homeplace Under Fire, a documentary film produced by Farm Aid to tell the story of the farm advocates we have worked with since 1985, was screened. Following the screening, the small group of farm advocates who are still at it—having saved thousands of farms during their careers—gathered for discussion.

Watch the trailer for Homeplace Under Fire:

Moderator: Charlie Thompson, Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and director of Homeplace Under Fire

Panel

  • Mona Lee Brock, National Farm Crisis Center
  • Benny Bunting, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA
  • Linda Hessman, Farm Advocate
  • Lou Anne Kling, Farmers’ Legal Action Group
  • Betty Puckett, Louisiana Interchurch Conference
  • Shirley Sherrod, Southwest Georgia Project
  • John Zippert, Federation of Southern Cooperatives

Building Our Power: The United Farmer & Rancher Congress


In September 1986, nearly 2,000 farmers and ranchers traveled to St. Louis, Missouri for the three-day United Farmer & Rancher Congress (UFRC). They represented rural America in crisis and came together to craft solutions. The Congress was a truly grassroots feat, gathering input from rural caucuses across the country to put forward policy solutions that would end the crisis and advance a brighter future. The progress made at the UFRC and via ensuing organizing work yielded major policy gains still critical for advancing family farm agriculture today.

Moderator: Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown

Panel

  • George Naylor, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
  • David Senter, American Agriculture Movement
  • Shirley Sherrod, Southwest Georgia Project
  • Pat Sweeney, Western Organization of Resource Councils
  • Mary Ellen Lloyd, National Council of Churches
  • Mark Ritchie, Former Minnesota Secretary of State

Emerging Leaders Panel


Emerging leaders from rural organizing, farmer support and good food organizations shared their thoughts on how their work connects to the work of the past and how we can strengthen our collective capacity moving forward.

“They worked as a family. They organized as a family. That’s something that we have to do and continue to do, but we can’t do it without the generation before us.”

~ Amber Bell, Southwest Georgia Project

Moderator: Tim Gibbons, Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Panel

  • Sophie Ackoff, National Young Farmers Coalition
  • Amber Bell, Southwest Georgia Project
  • Katie Blanchard, Real Food Challenge
  • Jenny Rushlow, Conservation Law Foundation
  • Joe Schroeder, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA

Day One Closing Remarks


Remarks by Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA

Resources


Farm Aid 30: Strength from Our Roots full agenda:

Report from the United Farmer & Rancher Congress

Program from the United Farmer & Rancher Congress


Photo Gallery

Connect with us