EAST TROY, Wis. — Organizers of an annual festival to help struggling farmers say it was fitting to hold Farm Aid 2019 in Wisconsin farm country.
"It's the right time to bring Farm Aid back to 'America's Dairyland,'" Willie Nelson, Farm Aid's president and founder of the nonprofit, said at news conference before the show. "We're proud of the farm families who are coming together in the face of adversity to stay on their land. Now is the time to rally behind them and show our appreciation for all they do for our country and for each of us."
It's the second time the event has been held in Wisconsin in its 34-year history, the Journal Sentinel reported. The last time was Farm Aid's 25th anniversary show, which was held at Miller Park in Milwaukee. That concert drew about 35,000, only slightly more than were expected to brave the rain on Saturday at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, located among fields of corn, soybeans, hay and other crops in southeastern Wisconsin.
The media event included a handful of Wisconsin producers, including dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd, from Wisconsin Dells, who made an urgent plea for the general public to get behind farmers' efforts to change government policies and get farmers a bigger share of the food dollar.
"My husband and I are dairy farmers, and we're going broke," Lloyd said. "We need the federal government to take action on pricing."
Young emphasized the need for legislation to make sure that all farmers follow sustainable agriculture practices "and not destroy the earth."
Saturday's lineup included Nelson, Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt, Luke Combs and 11 other acts. Every artist is performing without pay and covering their travel expenses.
Nelson, Young and Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on the land. This year's show quickly became a family event when Ian Mellencamp, John's nephew, and Micah Nelson (stage name Patrice Kid), Willie's son, played first.
Ian Mellencamp offered words of hope, singing about disappearing walls and wanting peace.