Farm Aid 25: Coming Home to Wisconsin

Feature Stories Winter 2010 Issue

Farm Aid 25: Coming Home to Wisconsin

By David Bruce | Photos By Jim Klousia 0

In 1985, Willie Nelson listened to Bob Dylan, on stage at the Live Aid concert benefitting AIDS victims in Africa. Bob said, “We need to do something for the farmers right here in America.” And with that, Farm Aid was born.

Twenty-five years later, Farm Aid comes home to Wisconsin, to the Heartland, where dairy farmers are struggling as much as ever, yet showing equally strong evidence of rebirth and renewal. Wisconsin is at the heart of what Farm Aid refers to as the Good Food Movement, as Americans reach for locally produced, humanely raised, family farmidentified and organic food.

The core artists and board members gathered for a press conference in the blustery Milwaukee wind the morning of the concert: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews—the driving forces of Farm Aid. They were joined on stage by politicos, including Russ Feingold who has been a tireless supporter of family farming, and by farmer heroes who represent the face of the new agriculture: Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee, dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd, and third generation CSA farmer Tony Schultz. But nowhere was the enthusiasm of the crowd and the face of a renewed agriculture better represented than by the two and a half year old son of Schultz, the CSA farmer. Playing in the grass in the front row, his carrot top hair and striped bib overalls embodied the mood of the event, and his cheerful wave to his father on the stage shone with the hope of the day and the promise of tomorrow.

The theme for the morning’s press conference was “health, environment and the economy.” Musicians and farmers took turns bringing that message home, speaking with passion and hope after 25 years of working toward their mission to keep family farmers farming. “We have to take care of our farmers, because they take care of our land,” said Willie Nelson. “We should be interested in learning where our food comes from. We know that organic agriculture is better for the land than chemical agriculture. Thank you organic farmers!”

“Southwest Wisconsin continues to be the world center of organic agriculture,” said Senator Russ Feingold, to cheers from the crowd. Dave Matthews hit home with a personal message, saying, “The health of my family and of all of our children is the most important thing. People producing food for us can’t have money as their main goal. We need to know where our food comes from. We need to know, if we choose to eat meat, that it comes from one cow and not 1,000 cows.”

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