On September 22nd Farm Aid returns to Pennsylvania for the first time in 10 years. A slew of big name artists and musicians will journey to Hersheypark Stadium, coming together to raise money and awareness for independent and family farmers of America. Joining Farm Aid president Willie Nelson on the bill are fellow board members John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews. Neil Young will be backed by famed Crazy Horse and Dave Matthews with be joined with frequent collaborator Tim Reynolds. Country legend Kenny Chesney, all-world pro surfer turner singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO), Pegi Young & the Survivors and Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real round out the bill. Tickets range from $33.75-$99.75 and are on sale now.
Originally inspired by Bob Dylan and Live Aid, Farm Aid began in 1985 as a voice for small farmers against huge corporations and government. Nelson, Mellencamp and Young were among the original organizers and have maintained a strong presence throughout the years. The inaugural concert was held at Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois located in Champaign. The festival featured over 14 hours of music from 50 different artists. The list of musicians who played reads like a “Best Of” list of Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductees. The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, B.B. King and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are just a handful of acts from the bill.
While the lineup of this year’s festival does not equate the inaugural one, the message still stays the same. Year in and year out, the Farm Aid organization provides tools, resources, education and charity funds for small, independent farms across the country. One of the biggest funds is a disaster relief for farmers of afflicted areas. More recently they have provided a helping hand for farmers in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the seven states ravaged by a series of deadly hurricanes in 2011.
On top of that, the Farm Aid organization is famous for ensuring that the voice of the family farmer is heard in government. They have helped bring farmers to Congress to express their concerns. Board members Nelson and Young appealed to Congress themselves back in 1985 against a controversial farm bill. In 2008, Mellencamp and the newest member of the board Dave Matthews wrote an open letter to Congress asking them to factor in small, independent and family farms in various economic recovery packages. The list goes on and on. It is their passion and dedication to stand up for the farmers that is the strongest resource Farm Aid provides.
“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,” writes Willie Nelson in the press release for this year’s concert. “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.”
Nelson and company bring their traveling annual concert to a state who is no stranger to the agriculture industry. Farming and agriculture is one of the leading industries in Pennsylvania and thus the state is known when it comes to assistance given by Farm Aid. The festival was previously held in Burgettstown in 2002 and Camden, NJ in 2006. The return to the keystone state is a no brainer. Nelson, Mellencamp and Young are not looking for any major changes this year. They are coming to Hershey, PA to do the same thing they have been doing every year since 1985, give a voice and a hand for one of America’s oldest and most famous industries.
Written by: Matt Kelchner