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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Aiding Farmers; Aiding Ourselves

"I've always believed that the most important people
on the planet are the ones who plant the seeds and 
care for the soil where they are grown" - Willie Nelson

On September 22, 1985, a concert was staged in Champaign, Illinois, to benefit U.S. family farmers.  Early that year another concert, Live Aid, was held simultaneously at two locations - Wembley Stadium in London and the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia.  The Farm Aid event was sparked by a comment made at Live Aid by Bob Dylan, who hoped that some of the money earned at Live Aid would benefit American farmers who were struggling with mortgage debt. The Live Aid event was held to raise funds for the famine in Ethiopia.

The Farm Aid concert was organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young.  The event raised over $9 million, and was attended by 800,000 people. Among the performers were Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Hoyt Axton, the Beach Boys, Arlo Guthery, Merle Haggard, Rickie Lee Jones, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Willie Nelson, organizer and board member of Farm Aid, performing in
Santa Ynez, California.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1987, Nelson and Mellencamp accompanied family farmers who testified before Congress on the state of family farming.  Subsequently, Congress passed the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 to help protect family farms from foreclosure.

John Mellencamp, board member.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Farm Aid continues to work as an organization to increase awareness of the plights of family farms.  They still put on annual concerts to raise funds.  The organization also established a disaster fund for farmers who were victims of natural disasters, such as Katrina and this year's tornadoes.  The board of directors include Nelson, Mellencamp, Young, and Dave Matthews.  Altogether they have raised over $39 million in funds so far.

Dave Matthews, board member.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

This year's concert will be held this Saturday, August 13th, at the Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.  Nelson, Mellencamp, Young, and Matthews will be joined by performers such as Jason Mraz, Jakob Dylan, Ray Price, and the Blackwood Quartet.

Image courtesy of the Farm Aid website.

Saving family farms benefits us all.  When they succumb to foreclosure, it limits our food choices to low-quality food produced on factory farms.  One of the organization's agendas is to educate the public on the issues with genetically-modified food and growth hormones, while stressing the advantages of eating locally.  By supporting Farm Aid we not only help family farms, but ourselves.

"If you want a better world, it starts with you."
John Mellencamp

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