Back in 1985, Bob Dylan made an off-the-cuff comment while performing at the Live Aid Concert "Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?" — the statement hit a chord with Willie Nelson , Neil Young and John Mellencamp , and six weeks later Farm Aid was born. Over the last two decades, Farm Aid has brought together an A-List of musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Don Henley, Crosby Stills & Nash, Garth Brooks, Neville Brothers, Spin Doctors, Gin Blossoms, John Conlee and Kris Kristofferson, to support the nonprofit's mission of "keeping family farmers on their land" — the result: more than $30 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture. Family farmers are at the core of the local food movement in the United States — with a quick google search of " local vs organic ", you'll find a bushel of queries on the topic.
The trade-offs between local and organic are complex, but the overarching reality is without family-owned agriculture, we wouldn't have a choice. Every Saturday in Union Square in the Big Apple, thousands of people stroll through the farmer's market examining, purchasing and eating produce from the surrounding areas of NYC. There's a real sense of reconnection to how grocery shopping is suppose to be.
Farm Aid has made it a tradition to hold their concert in areas rich with crops and farms - Virginia, Illinois, Texas, Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Washington. This year, Farm Aid is setting up shop in the New York City with a lineup that includes Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Gregg Allman, The Allman Brothers Band, Counting Crows, Matisyahu, Guster, The Derek Trucks Band, Warren Haynes, Supersuckers, The Ditty Bops, Montgomery Gentry, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Danielle Evin, Jesse Lenat, Jimmy Sturr, Pauline Reese, Billy Joe Shaver and Paula Nelson.
Farm Aid isn't just a concert — the organization works with and provides grants to local, regional and national organizations to promote fair farm policies and grassroots organizing campaigns to defend and bolster family farm centered agriculture. As the globalization of communications and economics matures and we witness the onset of more outsourcing, manufacturing jobs and family farms are at the frontlines of the societal planetary change. Dave Matthews , who joined the Farm Aid Board of Directors in 2001, makes a compelling point, "We're at a moment when a lot of people are asking, 'What is America? What represents America?' Certainly, I think that the family farm is a main ingredient of what made America."
Local agriculture has many environmental benefits — less distance to travel to market thereby emitting less carbon into the atmosphere, solidifies local economies and promotes richer communal connection to the seasons. Though all local foods aren't organic, many farmers have switched to better-growing practices and whether or not they go organic, the environmental benefits still remain. Plus, there's no denying that local tomatoes taste delicious along with peaches, okra, pumpkins, green beans, blueberries, figs, watermelons, cranberries, mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, apples, plums, lettuce, kale, collards, strawberries, peas, peppers, eggplants, onions, corn, cabbage, broccoli and squash long live the local farmer!