'Homegrown' Festival Boosts Family Farms, Organic Food

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Farm Aid is bringing its annual, day-long concert to New York City next month. The show will raise funds to "strengthen family-farm agriculture," organizers said.

Aside from music, the event will feature "an abundance of family farm food vendors, and hands-on, interactive exhibits with farmers and activists that inspire living a homegrown life."

Organizers said concert-goers can expect to be served only locally grown, organic, humanely-raised and family-farmed food.

Artists representing a variety of genres are scheduled to join Farm Aid board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews on Sunday, September 9 at Randall's Island in New York City.

"With inspiring music from generous artists and a menu of family farm food, Randall's Island will be transformed into a music festival to be remembered," said Carolyn Mugar, Farm Aid's executive director.

The artists scheduled to perform include Tim Reynolds, The Allman Brothers Band, Counting Crows, Matisyahu, Guster, The Derek Trucks Band, Warren Haynes, Supersuckers, The Ditty Bops and Montgomery Gentry.

Tickets cost $52 for general admission, $102 for reserved seats and $302 for VIP reserved seats.

Farm Aid 2007: A Homegrown Festival is sponsored by Silk Soymilk, Horizon Organic, Fields Family Foundation, Chipotle, Whole Foods Market, Citizens Energy, Chevy, Organic Trade Association, New Hope Natural Media, Clif Bar, Organic Valley Family of Farms, Niman Ranch and Annie's Homegrown.

Farm Aid says its mission is "to build a vibrant family-farm centered system of agriculture in America."

Since 1985, Farm Aid says it has raised over $30 million to support programs that help farmers thrive.

Its goals include expanding the reach of the Good Food Movement (food grown on family farms); and changing the current system of industrial agriculture.

While conceding that industrial-scale agriculture has produced cheap and plentiful food in this country, critics say the benefits of higher productivity and booming exports are offset by costs to the environment, such as pesticides, irrigation, and fuel consumption.

According to the liberal-leaning Union of Concerned Scientists, "The full costs of industrial agriculture call into question the notion of cheap food."

The "sustainable food" movement seems to be gaining momentum.

At its "YearlyKos" convention last week, the DailyKos blog held its first-ever food panel -- "to enlighten and empower our fellow progressives with the information they need to start making a difference now."

According to a posting on the Daily Kos, the session would be a "sobering but ultimately uplifting session on sustainability. The panel will provide an overview of how industrial agriculture has turned food into a 'cheap' commodity with a very high hidden price tag."

And in another sign of the times, a Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund was launched on July 4.

The non-profit organization said it was founded to protect the rights of farmers to provide meat, eggs, raw dairy products, vegetables and other foods directly to consumers.

"We hope to restore family farms to the prominent place they once held in American society," said Taaron Meikle, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, in a press release announced the group's debut.

"Our Founding Fathers saw family farms as the very backbone of American society. Yet today small farmers are an endangered species because of government laws and regulations that serve big agri-business and make it difficult for small farms to be profitable," Meikle said.

The legal defense group held its "opening celebration" on July 4 at an Amish farm in Lancaster County, Pa. It was attended by over 500 farmers and consumers -- "who believe in the constitutional right to obtain raw milk and other foods directly from family farms without interference by federal, state and local governments."

A publication on the U.S. economy, posted on the State Department's website, notes that the American family farm faces significant economic challenges:

"Urban and suburban Americans continue to rhapsodize about the neat barns and cultivated fields of the traditional rural landscape, but it remains uncertain whether they will be willing to pay the price -- either in higher food prices or government subsidies to farmers -- of preserving the family farm," said the report prepared by two former Wall Street Journal reporters.

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