The #Road2FarmAid: A Year In The Life of Willie Nelson's Fight for Family Farmers

Willie Nelson photographed at Farm Aid in 2016.
Brian Bruner/Farm Aid

Willie Nelson photographed at Farm Aid in 2016.

Farm Aid, the annual benefit concert for America’s family farmers, will be staged for its 32nd year on Sept. 16 at the KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa., outside Pittsburgh, with performances by the organization’s guiding foursome—Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews—along with Sheryl Crow, Jack Johnson, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Margo Price and more.  

The concert, quite simply, is quite unlike any other musical festival in the nation today.  Created by Willie Nelson in 1985 as a one-off event to respond to that era’s farm foreclosure crisis, Farm Aid has become music’s longest-running concert for a cause and has since raised $50 million for family farmers—including those whose livelihoods are threatened by this year’s hurricanes.  

What fans may not realize is that Farm Aid, as an organization, runs year-round, not only in planning for each year’s show, but in carrying out its mission of building a vibrant, family-farm-centered system of agriculture in America. With festival attendees using the hashtags #FarmAid2017 and #Road2FarmAid on social media in advance of this year's concert, Billboard invited Farm Aid communications director Jennifer Fahy, who has been with the organization since 2002, to describe the months that followed Nelson’s final song onstage the 31st annual Farm Aid in Bristow, Va. in September 2016:

Troy Foster
Kacey Musgraves at An Evening with Farm Aid in McKinney, Texas.


Farm Aid’s small event series “An Evening with Farm Aid” headed to McKinney, Texas, 35 miles north of Dallas, to celebrate good food, family farmers and live music.  The small events seek to bring the message and experience of the annual Farm Aid festival to new audiences. The intimate festivities in McKinney included a cocktail hour in a barn that housed a museum of antique farm equipment; a farm-to-table dinner in a field; remarks by farmers who provided the food for the delicious dinner; and a performance by Texas-native and Farm Aid supporter Kacey Musgraves. With her full band in their trademark country attire, the stars were shining on stage and above, as many in the crowd moved to the dance floor for the Texas two-step.

Courtesy of Farm Aid
Children discover fresh produce through the Cambridge, Mass.-based CitySprouts program.


Farm Aid created Farm to School Rocks, a guide designed to inspire everyone to engage in the farm-to-school movement. Farm-to-school programs connect farmers with schools to bring healthy, farm fresh foods to the growing minds who need it most and to revolutionize their learning environment with innovative curricula and educational opportunities. The program is is expanding across the country in a movement celebrated by teachers, farmers, parents, students, school food service directors and more. These programs, of all shapes and sizes, are producing tangible benefits for kids, farmers and communities.

Courtesy of Farm Aid 
Willie Nelson signs 2016 Farm Aid grant checks.