Canton farmers take the road to Farm Aid

Bob Washo, center, with farm interns Claire Arrowsmith and Dan Harvester. Photo: David Sommerstein

Bob Washo, center, with farm interns Claire Arrowsmith and Dan Harvester. Photo: David Sommerstein

It's no small deal that Upstate New York is hosting Farm Aid, this Saturday at SPAC in Saratoga Springs. Sure, it was in New York City in 2007. But having Willie, Neil, and John bring their annual tribute to the toil and pride of the people who work the land to our neck of the woods is special.

Fellow NCPR reporter Natasha Haverty and I will be trekking down to the big event Saturday to find out what people see in a big benefit concert like Farm Aid these days, and what the founders have to say about the evolution of their effort to help farmers at the bottom of a crisis in 1985. It's fascinating to read the narratives of all the past concerts and how they reflect the state of agriculture in America. We'll be blogging, tweeting, video recording, Vine-ing and who knows what else on Saturday. So please check in.

A pair of North Country farmers, Bob Washo and Flip Fillippi from littleGrasse Foodworks in Canton, are going down to Farm Aid to serve as a resource. They'll be doing interviews in the media tent to share their perspectives on farming with reporters and the like. They're already contributing to the #RoadtoFarmAid hashtag on Twitter.

But as some of our hometown farmers, we get first dibs. Here's an e-interview I did with Bob last week:

What do you know about Farm Aid? What are your memories of the whole thing?

Farm Aid was started in response to the Family Farm Crisis transpiring mainly in the dairy sector during the early 1980's. It is the longest running benefit concert series in the country. It is in the spirit of Live Aid.

My most fond memory of Farm Aid is from its second year in 1986. The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played a show in Buffalo on the Fourth of July [David notes: coincidentally I was also there!] that was linked via technology and inspiration with the Mother Show in Texas. The combination of this most important cause, the holiday and the music made for an incredible event.

Willie Nelson in 2001. Photo courtesy Farm Aid.

Willie Nelson in 2001. Photo courtesy Farm Aid.

What do you think it means in our culture? How do you think that meaning’s changed in 28 years? 

Bringing attention to the assault on our agrarian way seems even more important and relevant today. Consolidation, commodification and scientific technology within the industrial food system continues to wreak havoc on the land, small producer and consumer alike. Today the reach of our corporatized food system is felt around the world.

Also  keeping the issues on the table is a wonderful opportunity to highlight all of the positive news surrounding the burgeoning local food movement.

You’ll be talking with the media, sort of representing a slice of North Country farming. What are you planning to say to the press?

We intend to represent all of our hope tempered with the reality of the day. We have lots of great land available in the St. Lawrence Valley and plenty of opportunity for other producers.

Who are you most psyched to see play??

Neil Young and Crazy Horse and of course Willie!



Tags: , , ,

One Comment

  1. Bob,
    I don't feel the least bit "assaulted". In fact, I am pleased as punch to pick up some of the scraps the industrial system leaves behind for us small timers (Guest worker programs, excellent used machinery, research, development and education for all manner of methods and products that are relevant to small scale farming, marketing innovations, support for infrasrtucture useful to small farms, kind treatment by various state and federal departments and taxation agencies, etc.). What specifically does the industrial food system do to "assault" Grasse River Foodworks?