Farm Aid 2022 Recap

Farm Aid 2022 Recap

Check it out – the host of WSFL’s Homegrown Show, Cory, had a chance to join in the Farm Aid festivities on September 24, and has a rundown of his experience.

Farm Aid 2022-Coastal Credit Union Music Park, Raleigh, NC

I grew up in Altoona, WI in the 70’s and 80’s. In case you weren’t aware, Wisconsin is “America’s Dairyland” and you can’t swing a dead squirrel outside without hitting a tiller, slurry spreader, cultivator, seed drill, combine harvester or subsoiler. Many of our friends were dairy farmers and I even went to school with kids who were up before school to do chores on their family farms. My family had a 3 bed, 1 bath in a McRanchHouse development and my only chore was conjuring myself out of bed to walk or bike the ¾ mile to school each day.
I spent a great deal of time as a kid on the Johnson Farm in Elk Mound, my dad was best friends with their son. Ah, the memories of running around a corner in the milking room, hitting a fresh patch of fertilizer and skidding 15 feet until someone finally called me “safe at 3rd”.
Before I moved to ENC, I lived in Columbus, WI, where I was literally surrounded by farming. Moos in the morning, moos at night. And when it was slurry time? I’d spend the day in Madison.

Bob Dylan, onstage, at Live Aid in 1985 said something to the effect of “wouldn’t it be great if we could do this for the farmers in our own country?”. Neil Young, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp agreed and thus Farm Aid was born. And at the early morning press conference, Mellencamp said what I was thinking. Not that he wasn’t happy to be there with friends saluting the American farmer, but after all of these (expletive) years, the fact we still HAVE to be here is inexplicable.

Mellencamp turned to Willie Nelson at one point in the presser and asked him if he remembered going to talk to Congress in ’85 about the plight of the American farmer and one stuffed shirt asked them why they didn’t bring their guitars with them today? John said he turned to Willie and said, “Let’s get the (expletive) out of here”.

This year’s theme, for lack of a better term, at Farm Aid was climate change and the completely devastating effects higher temperatures, wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, floods, colder temperatures, on and on and on. Regardless of political leanings, these are real issues facing farmers all across the globe, not just here in the States, and this year’s event was focused there.

The Homegrown area, set up near the main entrance of the pavilion, was a city block filled with hands on exhibits, water, energy, food and farming resources, and activities focused on the culture of agriculture. This also included the FarmYard Stage where I had the opportunity to see some of the main Farm Aid stage performers share their stories, thoughts, concerns and hopes alongside Marvin Frink of Briarwood Cattle Farms in Red Springs, NC and state representatives like Natalie Murchek of Raleigh. Charlie Crockett and Allison Russell spent some time in the tent with folks like Wayne Swanson of Swanson Family Farms in Decatur, GA and Bryn Bird of Birds Haven Farm in Ohio. All of the talks and seminars were personal, passionate and if you’ve spent time around farm folks, no nonsense and straight on. These folks don’t have time for bureaucratic red tape, performative outrages and time wasted in Washington. John Mellencamp, a little more colorful in his language, simply said, “They don’t give a (expletive) about you.” And this is why we have Farm Aid.

Of all of the speakers, Lori Mercer, a Farm Aid Hotline Operator, stuck with me in a big way. The talk was titled “Agri-Therapy” for Mental Wellness”. Growing up around exclusively blue collar and farming folks I can’t imagine anything harder for them to say than “I need help”. Especially if it’s for their own mental wellbeing. That sort of thing can wait, there’s real work to take care of. With soaring prices everywhere, the climate becoming more unpredictable and destructive, it feels so incredibly important for this to be spoken about. If these folks won’t ask themselves, lets make sure we always have it ready to offer. Lori spoke about the offers of peer support, keeping it hyper local. And she stressed the amazing things has and can offer. That’s what this entire day was about.

Now, I did make my way out to watch some of the main stage acts but being a busy body member of the MEDIA (slow heavy metal music plays), I spent more time talking to activists and mushroom growers and hemp farmers than I did listening to tunes. Couple that with the fact that this place was PACKED and I didn’t have an exclusive place to sit, leave or come back to. I caught a little Sheryl Crow who I have seen a dozen times because my wife has always been a huge fan, and a few minutes of Charlie Crockett, Margo Price, Chris Stapleton, Dave Matthews, Mellencamp and some Willie. It had been a long day and I felt like I had been imbibing off Willie’s stash all day. I was toast. I beat the crowd out. I’m sure Willie will forgive me, as I absolutely got a lot out of the day’s activities and was happy to drop a bunch of pocket money to support the folks I grew up with and the folks who shaped my view of how it all works.

It had been 8 years since Farm Aid had been held in Raleigh and if you’ve missed the last two you’ve got enough advance notice that it’ll be coming back at some point. In the meantime, support your local farmer, support your local produce stand, farmer’s market, local hemp/cbd growers. The boiled peanuts at the big box stores are trash anyway and you know it. BUY LOCAL!