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Farm Aid Celebrates 20 Years of Saving Family Farms

From E Magazine Online,1,16919,00.html

Farm Aid Turns 20
by Josh Grossberg
Jul 12, 2005

After 20 years, Farm Aid is getting back to its roots.

The annual daylong musicfest launched by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young in 1985 to aid ailing family farms will celebrate its 20th harvest this year with a Sept. 18 concert at the Tweeter Center in Chicago's Tinley Park, organizers announced Monday.

Performing with the three cofounders on the 2005 bill will be Dave Matthews Band and Wilco. Other artists will be announced at a later date.

"From small towns to folks in the city, everybody knows family farm food is the best," says the 73-year-old Nelson who, when he's not on the road again, serves as Farm Aid's president. "It's good to be back in Illinois where it all started."

Nelson and company staged the first Farm Aid festival in Champagne, Illinois, after being inspired by comments from Bob Dylan. Attended by some 80,000 fans, the one-day affair raised more than $9 million to help cash-strapped farmers.

This year's incarnation will be preceded by a series of farm-related events highlighting the benefits of organic food and more efficient energy sources as a way for individual growers to survive in an industry dominated by large
corporations. The early events include a film festival, club shows, public school events, conferences and, of course, farmers markets.

"Farmers have a tremendous impact on the quality of food that we eat." said Mellencamp. "Farm Aid is always a great show, but even more important is that Farm Aid helps the consumer and the family farmer work together for the benefit of all of us."

Silk Soy Milk, which has sponsored Farm Aid three years running, is on board to help underwrite the 2005 gig. Its parent company, White Wave, buys soybeans from family farmers who only use sustainable practices, thus helping promote Farm Aid's goal of using alternative, eco-friendly fuel sources to produce quality organic products and help smaller growers make a

In its two decades at the plow, the Farm Aid foundation has raised a total of $27 million and disbursed much of that money in the form of grants to family farms. It has also funded public education initiatives, launched campaigns and lobbied lawmakers to enact farm-friendly legislation to help stem the tide of bankruptcies suffered by individual farmers.

Tickets for Farm Aid 20 go on sale July 30 through Ticketmaster.