Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 31st annual Farm Aid benefit concert in Bristow, Virginia, an event drawing over 20,000 attendees for the enjoyment of live music and farm education, all for the benefit of American family farms. The organization – founded by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, has raised over $50 million to keep family farms on their land, promoting a strong family farm system across the nation. Aside from eating food from farms like the ones Farm Aid helps, some may wonder what a bunch of musicians have to do with farming. After spending a day at Farm Aid however, I found there are far more similarities between farming and music than one might think. Here are five ways farming is like the music industry:
- Both bring communities together – The lineup of artists playing at Farm Aid this year was incredible. From the Alabama Shakes, to Nathaniel Rateliff, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Sturgill Simpson, Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp (and their sons) and Neil Young, there was a lot of great music to enjoy. Everywhere you looked, people were dancing and singing along to songs they love. Music is a powerful and uniting tool. Just like music, food can unite a community of people as well. All the Farm Aid volunteers got to hear from the founders of Dreaming Out Loud, a DC area urban farm that was started out of a need for accessible fresh produce in a lower income neighborhood. Not only is this community farm able to provide food, it provides an extracurricular and educational activity for kids growing up in the neighborhood as well!
- Both are preventative “medicine” – although using the term medicine to describe food and music might not be PC, we’ve all had an experience when listening to a song made us feel better. Food is no different. Local Food Hub, a Charlottesville-based organization founded in 2009, makes locally-sourced food available to everyone, for the betterment of the lives of local small farms, and the families they feed. One of the programs they offer is providing free produce in partnership with a local hospital, where nurses saw a need for healthier diets in their patients. In fact, one patient who had previously been on nine different medications for her health, saw a dramatic change in her body and no longer needs any of the medications she was previously taking, thanks to the food she started eating from Local Food Hub. How’s that for preventative medicine!?
3. Both inspire creativity – Aside from enjoying the creative works of all the musicians at Farm Aid, Homegrown Village was a big aspect of the event this year. It was all about being creative with growing, cooking, and even composting your food! From drawing messages on paper plates encouraging the support of congress for farm-to-school programs, to swapping seeds for a more bountiful garden, concertgoers were buzzing between each tent, learning new skills, and getting their hands dirty! That’s what being creative is all about.
4. Both create jobs – although this may seem like a no-brainer, there are a lot of people involved in the music and agricultural industry besides just the farmers and musicians themselves. From planting the seed, (whether it’s writing a song or planting an actual seed for a crop) to harvesting, (or performing) to consumption, (whether through the ears or the stomach!) there are many individuals along the way that help food and music be the most flavorful and beautiful it can be.
5. Both are work to be enjoyed by all – Getting to eat a home-cooked meal or listen to a beautiful song are some of the greatest things in life, but after volunteering in the catering tent last weekend – serving food and beverages to the stage crew, artists, sponsors and their families, Farm Aid came full circle for me. Every artist that performed paid their way to be there, and donated their time on stage for the benefit of family farmers. It made the music all the more enjoyable to listen to. But on the back side of the stage, another kind of performance was playing. There was meat, vegetables, fruit, cheese and bread brought in from family farms to feed everyone. Both works were being enjoyed equally, and were equally necessary to make Farm Aid a success. #standingovation
Jennifer Fahy, Farm Aid’s Communication Director said it best during the press conference, “Music and farming go hand-in-hand, from the crow of the rooster in the morning to the dinner bell at night and the radio playing in the combine as the farmer is working during the day,” and while both are separate industries, the two have a lot more in common than we think. I am so grateful to Farm Aid for filling my plate and my heart with both to enjoy and remember. #Road2FarmAid