Recognizing that the hard work of family farmers and their allies is revitalizing local economies and bringing rural and urban people together, Farm Aid 2017 highlighted the great promise of farmers and the food they produce to grow strong communities. The annual festival took place Saturday at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa.
The sold-out event celebrating family farmers brought more than 23,000 supporters together to celebrate the success and ingenuity of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia farmers. Across the country, low prices for commodity crops, including livestock and dairy, are putting farmers at risk. Dairy is a leading agricultural product in Pennsylvania, and dairy farmers are going off the land here as a result of the downturn.
Farm Aid highlighted area dairy farmers who are developing relationships with customers through direct markets. Attributes of the region’s agriculture create resilience, including Pennsylvania’s farm diversity, a focus on organic and sustainable agriculture, and, as noted, direct markets. Pennsylvania is the birthplace of organic agriculture in the U.S. and ranks fourth in the country for direct farm sales.
“We’ve been inspired by the hard work of rural and urban people here who are digging in and creating real change,” said Willie Nelson, president and founder of Farm Aid. “They’re examples of many thousands of farmers across the country who are innovative and resilient, finding ways to stay on the land and make us strong.”
Farm Aid’s day-long festival kicked off with a conversation between local farmers and Farm Aid board members Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews. From the Farm Aid stage, they talked about the urgency of investing in family farm agriculture and the efforts to invigorate local food economies.
“At a time in our country when we look for real value, farmers in this region are delivering it, offering us inspiration and reason for hope,” said Farm Aid’s executive director, Carolyn Mugar. “Farmers and growers are demonstrating that caring for the land and harvesting good food creates shared wealth from farm to table.”
Following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Farm Aid board members also reminded attendees that farm policies and programs must support and protect farm families. Farm Aid has activated its Family Farm Disaster Fund and distributed grants to Texas and Louisiana farmers and ranchers who have lost their crops, livestock, pasture, barns, equipment and other essentials to maintaining their livelihoods. In Florida and the Southeast, Farm Aid is already working with long-term partners to assess the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers.
Farm Aid 2017 featured performances by Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Matthews, who performed with Tim Reynolds, as well as Sheryl Crow, Jack Johnson, The Avett Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Jamey Johnson, Margo Price, Blackberry Smoke, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Valerie June, Insects vs Robots and Blackwood Quartet.
Farm Aid 2017 offered menu items that adhered to Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Concessions® criteria: all ingredients are sustainably produced by family farmers; the food is produced with ecological practices; and farmers receive a fair price for their products. Offerings included an organic beef corn dog made with artisanal cornmeal, pastured pork, pierogies made with local potatoes and cheese, fresh local fruit, and baked goods made with local organic flour.
Concertgoers found inspiration in Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Village, which featured hands-on activities that gave festivalgoers a chance to meet farmers, dig in and learn about the ways family farmers are enriching our soil, protecting our water and growing our economy, in addition to bringing us good food for good health. In the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent, attendees had the opportunity to engage with food, farming and crafting.
“Farm Aid 2017” airs live on AXS TV from 7 to 11 p.m. EDT, as well as at www.farmaid.org from 3 to 11 p.m. EDT. Willie Nelson’s SiriusXM channel (59), Willie’s Roadhouse, also airs the show live from noon to 11 p.m. All broadcasts will include backstage interviews and behind-the-scenes coverage of the event.
Participating food company sponsors of HOMEGROWN Concessions® include Lundberg Family Farms and Frontier Co-op. Additional sponsors of Farm Aid 2017 include Bonterra Organic Vineyards, UPMC Health Plan, Horizon Organic, Applegate Farms, Lagunitas, PA Preferred and ASPCA.
If you are a farmer and have been affected by Hurricanes Harvey or Irma, please contact Farm Aid at 1-800-FARM-AID (800-327-6243) or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional tools for farmers and ranchers are available at farmaid.org/disaster. To donate to those affected in Texas and Louisiana, please visit farmaid.org/harvey.
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual festival to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. For more than 30 years, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised more than $50 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms.