Farm Aid board member Neil Young announced on Wednesday (August 18) that he will sit this year’s event out due to his concern over safety amid the current COVID spike. The annual event in support of American farmers slated to take place in Hartford, Connecticut on Sept. 25 will go on this year without Young, who sits on the board alongside Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews.
In a statement announcing his decision, Young explained, “I find myself wondering whether Farm Aid will be safe for everyone with the Covid pandemic surging. I worry about that. I don’t want to let anybody down, but still can’t shake the feeling that it might not be safe for everyone.” The announcement came as a number of artists have canceled, postponed or rescheduled dates as the nation is gripped by a fourth COVID wave fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“All you people who can’t go to a concert because you still don’t feel safe, I stand with you,” the 75 year-old rock icon added. “I don’t want you to see me playing and think it’s safe now. I don’t want to play until you feel safe, and it is indeed, safe. My soul tells me it would be wrong to risk having anyone die because they wanted to hear music and be with friends…no matter where you are, I am with you. Do what you must, but think it through. We will be back. There is much work to do together.”
The event would have been Young’s first public show since the Sept. 21, 2019 Farm Aid at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin and in his statement he explained that he was bowing out because he’s worried about the spread of the virus, especially to children. “Since we know vaccinated people can catch and spread Covid, I worry about the children who could become infected after Farm Aid, just by being with someone, maybe a parent, who caught the virus at Farm Aid and didn’t know it,” said Young. “There are already too many children in hospitals. While I respect Willie, John and Dave’s decisions to stick with it and play, I am not of the same mind. It is a tough call.”
Around 1,800 kids were hospitalized with COVID in the U.S. last week, which represents a 500% increase in the rate of hospitalization of children since July according to the CDC; children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive any of the vaccines.
Back in July, Farm Aid — which was livestreamed last year during the first wave of the pandemic — announced that it would be back this year at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford with a lineup that includes: Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Bettye LaVette, Jamey Johnson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Allison Russell, Particle Kid and Ian Mellencamp, along with Nelson, Mellencamp, Dave Matthews (for an acoustic set with Tim Reynolds) and Margo Price, who was named to the Farm Aid board in April.
Since 1985, with the support of artists who contribute their performances, Farm Aid has raised more than $60 million to support programs that help family farmers thrive and expand the markets for their food.
“No matter where you are. I am with you,” Young told his fans. “Do what you must, but think it through. We will be back. There is much work to do together.”