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Farm Aid 2012: big musicians benefit small farmers
The twenty-seventh installment of Farm Aid, the annual music and food festival aimed at raising awareness about family farms and good food, is returning to Pennsylvania on September 22, 2012.
"We've built a strong family farm movement to grow our economy, ensure our health and protect our environment. Farm Aid brings these Main Street values to transform the Wall Street-controlled farm and food system," said Willie Nelson, the prominent American singer-songwriter and Farm Aid President, in the festival's July 9, 2012 press release. "The Farm Aid concert is our chance to shine a spotlight on the independent family farmers who are essential to the well-being of our country."
Farm Aid's original organizers — Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young, all of whom took the stage at the very first benefit concert in 1985 — will perform this year at Hersheypark Stadium. Joining the trio is their fellow board member Dave Matthews, a contributor to the movement since 2001, playing with his renowned musical collaborator Tim Reynolds. Other performers include Jack Johnson, ALO, Pegi Young & The Survivors, and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Additional artists will be announced closer to the event.
"The charity that drives Farm Aid, I think, is so impossible to argue against," Dave Matthews told the Miami Herald. "[Farm Aid is trying] to give voice to the plight of the family farmers in this country, to give voice to people who are voiceless but are so essential to how we identify ourselves, and speak the truth in a public way."
Farm Aid's official website, farmaid.org, expands on its outreach by explaining four major goals of the festival: promoting food from family farms, growing the Good Food Movement, helping local farmers thrive, and taking action to change the system. Since its first concert, the cause has raised over $40 million in a grassroots effort to benefit the American economy and environment, and the health and education of its people.
According to Farm Aid, the extreme concentration of corporations that control American agriculture has failed the people — small growing operations have been systematically forced out of business, ethical practices have diminished, the quality of food has dropped severely while production's toll on the environment has increased, and consumers have been led to overlook the repercussions of their food choices.
"We all see what's happening with agriculture, what's happening to our small towns. They are going out of business. That's a direct result of the farm problem," John Mellencamp said in a statement on the festival's website. The quartet maintains optimism about the future, however. "There's a new food movement sweeping the country and Farm Aid is doing all we can to promote that movement," Nelson added.
This fall will be the second time Pennsylvania has hosted a Farm Aid, and it's a fitting locale — agriculture is the state's leading industry, and Hershey is located in the midst of vast expanses of farmland. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reports that "63,000 farm families continue to be the stewards of more than 7.7 million acres of farmland" in a $5.7 billion industry in the state.
Beyond widespread education as a tool for change, Farm Aid directly helps farmers by funding support networks and making resources available for those with limited access. Services include financial and credit counseling, legal advice, sustainable and organic transition support, new farmer support, and disaster and emergency services. A comprehensive list of what resources are available and how to access them, along with updates about the concert, can be found on Farm Aid's website.