Q: What are Farm Aid’s primary goals?
A: First, we need to address the issue of corporate agribusiness, which does not create a competitive marketplace for farmers. In the policy arena, Farm Aid help farmers to find credit, negotiate bankruptcies, etc. When crop prices and operating costs skyrocket and then plummet, those are impossible market conditions. Credit structure is set up to reinforce an agriculture that doesn’t allow farmers many choices.
Q: How does the organization help farmers?
A: We’ve had a hotline open every day for 26 years. We address all types of problems, from what to do when there’s not enough grocery money for the week to how to transition a farm to organic. From this, we’ve built a network of farm and rural-services organizations, the very best of everything that can help farmers survive. We’ve also created an online tool, the Farmer Resource Network.
Q: How do the annual benefit concerts forward Farm Aid’s mission?
A: The concerts provide a platform to promote the importance of family farms to the widest possible audience. If we create a connection between farmers and eaters, we create market demand.
Q: Is food from family farms sold at the concert concessions?
A: We have Homegrown Concessions, which means all food is family farmer identified. When we introduce a food supplier into a venue, we show that venue how natural products can be incorporated.
Q: How has the natural products industry’s colossal growth over the last decade impacted family farms?
A: I might say it’s the other way around: Natural products businesses can survive when there’s a healthy family-farm sector, which is what we work to ensure. Keeping families on their land contributes enormously to a healthy natural products sector.
Q: How can Farm Aid help natural products manufacturers and retailers?
A: Farm Aid has much to offer these companies. Our entire brand is about moving things in a forward direction. The heroes are our family farmers, so we want people to think about who grew their food and what type of soil it sprung from—we want to promote an appreciation for the whole chain of life. Put that together with music, and you’ve really got something.
Q: Tell us about Celebrating Family Farmers with Farm Aid, being held in conjunction with Expo East.
A: At Baltimore’s Pratt Street Ale House on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m., we’ll have live music and fresh, family farm–identified food. It’ll be really fun, but it’s most gratifying to see various companies’ CEOs and marketing folks, who are all competing for shelf space, enter the Farm Aid environment, become friends and have a great time. That’s the impressive thing about the natural products industry: People are willing to work together to further a cause.