Break It Down: Farm Aid
The annual fundraising concert to benefit family farmers returns to the Pittsburgh area on Sept. 16.
photo by PAUL NATKIN/IMAGE DIRECT
The Farm Aid concert, first held on Sept. 22, 1985, in Champaign, Ill., has served as a (mostly) annual reminder of the changing circumstances facing family farmers. The all-star concert series, established by John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Neil Young (Dave Matthews joined the board in 2001), is not merely a fundraiser; while the organization does raise money for farmers in need, Farm Aid also connects farmers with resources, education and emergency assistance. This year’s concert will be held in the Pittsburgh area for the second time, returning on Sept. 16 to Burgettstown after a 15-year absence.
It took less than 24 hours for the 2017 edition of Farm Aid to sell out. (The previous Burgettstown concert took two days.)
Since 2007, Farm Aid concerts have featured “HOMEGROWN Concessions” stands, offering local and organic fare produced by family farms to concertgoers; HOMEGROWN chili was later served at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
In addition to Matthews, Mellencamp, Nelson and Young, this year’s lineup includes Jack Johnson, The Avett Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, Blackberry Smoke, Valerie June, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and Insects vs. Robots.
The four board members — Matthews, Mellencamp, Nelson and Young — are the only performers returning to Burgettstown from the 2002 edition. That year’s lineup also included Keith Urban, Lee Ann Womack, Kid Rock, Gillian Welch, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Drive-By Truckers, Los Lonely Boys and more.
The amount raised to date by Farm Aid concerts
This year’s show will be the 30th large-scale Farm Aid concert.
No shows took place in 1988 or ’91; in 1989, the festival went on tour with Nelson.
Know a farmer in need of help? Have them call Farm Aid’s farmer hotline to be connected with resources and organizations that work to keep America’s family farms in business.