Farm Aid 2011 Highlights Vital Role of Family Farmers in Addressing Nation's Economic Challenges

Aug 13, 2011, 12:00 ET from Farm Aid

KCK benefit festival headlined by Ag Hall of Fame Inductee Willie Nelson and Board Members Mellencamp, Young and Matthews

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Aug. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As America struggles with mounting economic challenges, Farm Aid used its annual benefit festival to underscore family farmers' essential role in a stronger financial future for our country. Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, joined by more than a dozen artists at Kansas City's LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, emphasized the role of family farmers in vibrant, healthy communities and an economically stable nation.

"Family farmers persevere," said Nelson, president and founder of Farm Aid. "We have a lot to learn from their innovation and tenacity, and if we support an agricultural system that treats them fairly, they will lead the way to economic recovery."

This is the first Farm Aid concert to take place in Kansas, a state where agriculture is the foundation of the economy and culture. At a press event early in the day, Nelson was honored for his 26-year commitment to farm families with an induction into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame. Missouri farmer and advocate Roger Allison introduced him, and Oscar-winning farm broadcaster Ken Root presented the award.

"We want to recognize Mr. Nelson for his long commitment to America's family farmers and for the millions of dollars and enormous attention he has contributed to the devastating economic problems faced by this country's family farmers and their communities," said Cathi Hahner, Executive Director of the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame.

Following the induction, Jim Hightower, national radio commentator, author, public speaker, humorist, and two-term Texas Agriculture Commissioner and populist agitator, moderated a discussion about the promise that family farmers offer our nation and the challenges that impede their progress. Participants included Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Matthews, along with Farm Aid executive director Carolyn Mugar; Kansas cattle rancher and owner of Ranch Direct Foods, Mike Callicrate; farmer and founder of Good Natured Family Farms, Diana Endicott; and farmer and founder of Cultivate Kansas City, Katherine Kelly.

"In this climate of deficits, our nation's family farmers are our strongest asset. It's their know-how and ingenuity that can fix our economy," said executive director Carolyn Mugar.

Long-time, grassroots family farm supporters hosted a two-day meeting to impart their wisdom to a new generation of advocates who are working for a stable, vibrant family farm-based system of agriculture. Farmers heroes that included veteran advocate Shirley Sherrod, crisis counselor Betty Puckett, and law expert Neil Hamilton provided information on a variety of areas essential to successful family farming, from credit to discrimination.

Farm Aid 2011 featured performances by Nelson, Mellencamp, Young, and Matthews, who was joined by special guest Tim Reynolds. Also performing were Jason Mraz, Jamey Johnson, Jakob Dylan, Billy Joe Shaver, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Ray Price, Robert Francis, Will Dailey & the Rivals, Rebecca Pidgeon, The Blackwood Quartet, John Trudell, and the Hearts of Darkness.

The concert event offered family farm-identified, local, and organic foods with Farm Aid's signature HOMEGROWN Concessions®. Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village featured hands-on activities that offered concertgoers a chance to meet farmers, get their hands dirty, and learn about the ways family farmers are enriching our soil, protecting our water, growing alternative fuels, and bringing us good food for good health.

Event sponsors of Farm Aid 2011 are Horizon Organic, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Anvil Knitwear, Organic Valley, Silk Soymilk, United Natural Foods, Applegate Farms, Whole Foods Market, Brightcove, Goodness Greeness and Hippie Chow Natural Foods. Additional food donors are The Rogue Creamery, Paradise Locker Meats, Patchwork Family Farms, farmer Eric Norton, Farm to Market Bread Company, Rudi's Organic Bakery, Late July Organic Snacks, Popghum LLC, Yummylicious Cookie Company, Gehring Buffalo, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and GetReal Food Company.

Farm Aid's mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews host the annual concert to raise funds to support Farm Aid's work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. Since 1985, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised more than $39 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture, and promote food from family farms. For more information, visit .