This year’s edition of the benefit concert hits the stage Saturday at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. The six-hour show, to be broadcast live by DirecTV’s 101 Network, will be headlined by the org’s four board members: Farm Aid co-founders Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Dave Matthews, who signed on in 2001. Other notables on the bill include Kenny Chesney, Norah Jones, Jason Mraz and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.
The Farm Aid concept was inspired by a remark Dylan made about the struggles of America’s farmers during his appearance on the Live Aid telecast in 1985.
“We owe all of the Farm Aids we’ve had to (Dylan),” Nelson says. “He was the first guy to say, ‘Hey, we need one.'”
Dylan appeared with Nelson, Young, Mellencamp and a host of others at the inaugural Farm Aid show, held Sept. 22, 1985 in Champaign, Ill.
Farm Aid exec director Carolyn Mugar sees the dairy farming state of Wisconsin as an ideal locale for Farm Aid’s silver-anniversary event.
“Wisconsin is an example of all the really inspiring aspects of family farm agriculture,” Mugar says. “It’s also a microcosm of all the huge challenges, with family dairy farmers getting forced off their land there.”
The concert raises about $1.5 million in aid for farmers each year, says Mugar. The Cambridge, Mass.-based Farm Aid org lends further support through its Farm Resource Network, which helps coordinate sales of family-farmed products.
DirecTV has pledged to match donations made by viewers (up to $50K) through the end of October. (Highlights from the concert will air on 101 Network throughout the month.)
To date, Farm Aid has raised more than $37 million. Nelson credits the event’s longevity to the contributions of hundreds of performers and the inspirational power of music.
“I believe that music is the strongest thing that we have,” Nelson says. “You can reach millions of people instantly with a good melody and a good lyric.”