Local farmers will finally have a reason to smile during this year's poor growing season when the Farm Aid benefit concert comes to Hersheypark Stadium later this year. This is the first time the annual event will be held in Pennsylvania.
The lineup on September 22nd will feature headlining artists such as Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, and many others. Farm Aid spokesperson Jennifer Fahy said the first Farm Aid concert was held in 1985. It was the brain child of Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young. The goal was to help American farmers in danger of losing their farms through mortgage debt.
"They really saw it as a one-time only concert and they say now how naïve they were to think that they would have a concert and the problem would be solved because in reality, it's now been 27 years and we all still see a need for Farm Aid," Fahy said.
She added while the concert does not directly benefit farmers, all proceeds go to nonprofit organizations that address the challenges family farmers face.
"Some of them are providing legal support or financial business planning, some of them assist farmers in helping to find new markets, so for instance, maybe going into a 'Farm to School' program to bring their food into school cafeterias," Fahy said.
Since 1985 the effort has raised more than $40 million.
The event aims to attract the young and the old through a combination of the performers and the activities offered throughout the day. Fahy said it is important to get young people involved in agriculture. The majority of Pennsylvania farmers are 55 years of age or older.
"It's a huge challenge for young people. Even if they're inheriting a farm from their parents, they still have huge costs and often times very little pay for a lot of hard work and no vacation," Fahy said.
Each year the event also urges people to buy their produce from local farmers. "It's crucial for our community, not just so we get good food, but so that we preserve the community and the local tax base and the local businesses that are actually spending money in their own community instead of sending it to some big box store into shareholders' pockets," Fahy said.
Last year's show in Kansas City drew about 16,000. The first concert was held in Champaign, Illinois.