Published on Friday, September 17, 2004 by the Seattle Times
Family-Farm Food Nourishes Our Bodies and Our Society
by Willie Nelson
In 1985, with our first concert in Champaign, Ill., Farm Aid formed an immediate, effective response to the financial farm crisis that forced thousands of family farmers off their land. And now, 19 years later, Farm Aid has evolved into a nationwide force determined to secure a viable future for family farmers and good food for America.
We've taken our music and our message across the country and have seen a social movement born. People from all walks of life are reaching for local, family-farm or organic food. People have come to realize that who is growing food and how it's grown make a difference — a difference to the quality of the food and a difference for family farmers.
Nowhere is this food movement more apparent than in the Pacific Northwest. This region is proving that a family-farm food system can be successful and strong.
Family farmers, local food processors, vendors, chefs, marketers, retailers, food activists and buyers have all worked together to create one of the country's most exemplary family-farm food systems. They have harnessed Seattle's entrepreneurial spirit and its determination to be a positive force for change.
Even more important, Seattle is working to ensure that good food is not a luxury available only to those with high incomes, but an accessible part of everyday life.
The increasing demand for family-farm-identified food has emerged from a context of food scares and public-health concerns, from the devastation of factory farming and from the sad human toll of the loss of family farmers in their communities. Industrial, corporate agriculture has taken a toll on family farmers, on the environment and on the quality of our food.
Thankfully, the demand for family-farm food is expanding. But guaranteeing access to this high-quality food is up to all of us.
In order to grow the next generation of family farmers, we must promote policies that make it easier for young people to gain access to land and create opportunities for them to make a good living providing food for America's tables.
Farm Aid supports farm and rural service organizations around the country that keep family farmers on their land and strengthen family-farm food systems. We are determined to increase demand for family-farm food.
So many people are already voting in support of farm families by choosing to spend their food dollars locally. But that passion for family farms and good food needs to be reflected in the policies that govern our food system.
Our elected officials who put these policies in place must be held accountable. Whether you live in Washington or Wyoming, North Dakota or New York, we have the opportunity to vote on Nov. 2. Let's make a stand for family farmers, good food and a better America.
It is an honor for Farm Aid to bring our 17th concert to an area that has such strong traditions with food and music. You have made Farm Aid welcome with your support for our mission and for the concert event. Thank you for adding your voice and your determination to all of us on stage tomorrow as we support the innovative, hard-working family farmers of America.
Willie Nelson is founder and president of Farm Aid. Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. Dave Matthews joined the Farm Aid board of directors in 2001. The Farm Aid concert is tomorrow at the White River Amphitheatre near Auburn.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company