The Roots Report: Eating Shit — Farm Aid challenges corporate farms

Farm Aid Board Member Dave MatthewsOkee dokee folks… Back in 1985, I came across an article in Time magazine about the crisis of family farmers that inspired me to write a song called “The Final Harvest.” Later that year, John Cougar Mellencamp released his Scarecrow album with its title cut about the farm crisis, and he, along with Neil Young and Willie Nelson, put together the first Farm Aid benefit concert. When I learned about that concert, I took a trip to Boston and left my tape in a mailbox to get my song to the folks at Farm Aid. Sometime later, I received a nice rejection letter from them, but nevertheless, I watched all of that first Farm Aid concert and I hoped to someday get to one of those epic shows.

On September 22, I finally fulfilled my desire of attending a Farm Aid benefit concert. I was fortunate to acquire media/photo credentials and spent most of my day in the photo pit just a few feet from the performers. The concert was almost 12 hours long and featured sets by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Kasey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff, Margo Price and many others. The state fair-like atmosphere outside of the arena featured all kinds of farming info, organic food, petitions to sign and more. While the music was AMAZING there is the message of Farm Aid which, although spoken about many times during the day, can be easily overlooked by those just wanting to hear the music and drink beer.

Farm Aid Board Member John MellencampFarm Aid was the closest thing I have had to a religious experience and the best part of it, other than the AMAZING music, was the pre-show press conference. The Farm Aid president, farmers, and Neil, Willie, John and Dave all spoke, and what they said really made an impression, especially John Mellencamp’s rant. Mellencamp, who hails from the farm belt state of Indiana, took the microphone and laid into the current state of farmers in this country. He talked of “some madman’s idea that we should change our trade habits and give millions in subsidies to help the farmers. Fuck that, he is just going to give money to the big farms, and the people in South Carolina who are trying to have a small farm aren’t going to get shit! Welcome to Suckerville. We sit here and we take it and I am sick of fucking taking it. Excuse my language, but I’m pissed off.”

His speech was interrupted often by loud applause. He continued, “When I wrote ‘Rain on the Scarecrow’ they used to play protest songs on the radio. They don’t play them anymore. Neil wrote ‘Ohio’ and they played it on the radio, but our voices have been silenced now Big corporations run the radio stations and it’s not left up to the individual. We’re going to hear corporate bullshit, we’re going to eat corporate bullshit. I hate to be the voice of doom, but unless we stand up and do something, we’re going to get shit, which is what we’ve got right now.

“I wrote a song a while back. It was a shit song, but it had a line in it that said: You have to stand for something or you will fall for anything. You have to get out and vote. You have to have your voice heard and not have corporate America’s voice heard!”

Farm Aid Board Member Neil YoungThen Young stood up and took the microphone. He talked about how farmers have to work every day, no matter what, or things die. He said that one thing everyone can do to help is to never pass a farmers market. You should always stop in and buy something. “Take part in humanity,” he said. “If you drive by without stopping, you are killing a farm.” He went on, “John did a good job of explaining the economy to us, but it’s no-brainer that if you sell all the jewels you’re going to have a great economy in the short term. That’s what this government is doing. They are giving away our future — farming, the environment, the future of life in America — for a short-term gain that a corporate board can review and then congratulate each other. The corporate farms SUCK. They have responsibility to no one but the board. They’re poisoning you and their food and using all these chemicals from all these corporations. But you can stop this if you stand up and don’t buy their food. Don’t abandon the farmers of America. Most of the food in America comes out of corporations and bad farming practices that damage the land and damage the food and damage your bodies.”

Farm Aid Board Member Willie NelsonThe day was filled with great music and an important message, but only a couple of hundred folks witnessed the press conference. If you have a chance, watch it on YouTube ( And if you look up the official Farm Aid video of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger,” at 3:46 you can see my head at Neil’s feet for just a split second (! Just remember, sometimes music is more about the message. For more, plow over to

Thanks for reading.

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