30 Years Later, Farm Aid Still Advocating for Farmers

Sep 2, 2015

Thirty years ago this month, a handful of musicians including Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized a benefit concert for Midwestern farmers struggling to make ends meet during the farm crisis of the 1980’s.

George Naylor, who farms near Churdan and went to the first concert in Champaign, Illinois in 1985, says the morale boost the show afforded family farmers in Iowa was invaluable.

The scale was huge and the notoriety of the musicians was huge. It felt like the revolution had started.

“It was awesome that somebody would care and that somebody would want to organize something to help farmers,” Naylor says. “When I walked into Memorial Stadium, I realized that this could help. The scale was huge and the notoriety of the musicians was huge. It felt like the revolution had started.”

That first concert raised nearly $7 million and created the organization now known as FarmAid. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Naylor and Farm Aid’s Executive Director Carolyn Mugar about music and farm advocacy. Iowa State University’s Paul Lasley also joins the conversation.