Top 10 Reasons Why We Keep Going to Farm Aid

This post comes from NAMA’s Coordinating Director, Niaz Dorry.

My first day back from Farm Aid 2016, I see top 10 lists from Billboard and Rolling Stone magazines. Not to be outdone, I thought it’s time for my own list. So here it is: Top 10 Reasons Why We Keep Going to Farm Aid.

10. The #Road2FarmAid is paved with deep collaboration and camaraderie between old and new friends. This year, we once again teamed up with an old friend, the National Family Farm Coalition, and a new friend Fair Farms, whose staff went to town creating the “Wheel of Farming and Fishing” game for the HOMEGrown Village showing how what happens on land affects the water. The game made the Washington Post’s coverage. Watch their live Facebook video.

From L to R: Mitchelle Stephenson of Fair Farms, NAMA’ Niaz Dorry, Betsy Garrold of Food for Maine’s Future, Anna Hankins of National Family Farm Coalition, Siena Chrisman, Lisa Griffith of NFFC, and Savi Horne of Land Loss Prevention Project ready to rock the Homegrown Village!
9. This year’s Farm Advocate gathering was focused on the corporate control of food system with stories about contract chicken farmers’ fight against Tyson and other corporations who have the farmers and chickens under their thumbs. The stories are stunningly similar to the story of the privatization, consolidation, and corporate takeover of the ocean and fishing rights. It’s good to be there to bring home these parallels because we can’t fight them alone.

8. Every year we have an adventure getting seafood to Farm Aid so we can share the story of community based fishermen far and wide. This year was no exception. Thanks to Sharon Peele Kennedy of Buxton, NC, we were able to get 100 lbs of Pamlico Sound shrimp from F/V Miss Wanda and 100 pounds of Spanish Mackerel to feed the crew and artists. With limited transportation for the small-scale fishermen’s catch, we relied on the Island Hopper that typically transports medical supplies to get the seafood there!

F/V Miss Wanda Photo by Amy Huggins Gaw 
7. We had seafood for the concertgoers again this year. Basnight Lone Cedar Cafe once again brought shrimp and grits to the arena, and this year added yellowfin tuna bites all caught by small scale fishermen of the Outer Banks. Hidden Jules’ Rambler Food Truck brought wild salmon to the menu!

Hanging with the Basnight Lone Cedar Cafe – the calm before the storm!

6. This year we got to introduce Farm Aid fans to one of our new friends: Big Island Aquaculture. The father and son team of Bruce and Daniel Vogt came with 600 of their Big Island Pearls to the delight of the VIP tent guests. Farm Aid wrote a “Farmer Hero” blog about Daniel’s love toward his oysters, and even gave us a shout out stating “NAMA is a partner to us because we recognize that farmers and fishers are at the root of a healthy food system and they face many of the same hurdles and opportunities.”

5. We once again were able to supply the VIP tent with wild shrimp caught by F/V Miss Wanda. Yours truly got to play host and serve the shrimp all afternoon to delighted eaters. And I got to say “this shrimp was caught on Tuesday by a boat named Wanda!”
Doing my best to represent and do the shrimp justice in the VIP tent!
4. All this seafood was made possible because of our friendship and collaboration with Farm Aid since 2008, the same year we became a member of the National Family Farm Coalition who was instrumental in introducing our work to Farm Aid. For the past five years, Farm Aid’s Homegrown Concessions has opened up to seafood that matches their values. Thanks to Sonya Dagovitz and Glenda Yoder of Farm Aid for welcoming us with open arms.

3. Farm Aid gives us a platform to connect those who care about who grows and raises their landfood with those who catch and grow their seafood. It’s this kind of cross collaboration that will ultimately allows us to be able to win the battle for food that matches our collective values and stop the policies that are undermining our land and sea food.

Farm Aid food service volunteers included culinary students from Virginia, and here are three of them as they start to clean 100 pounds of shrimp from F/V Miss Wanda.
2. The music is amazing, even if I have yet to watch the show! Luckily, we are usually there before the actual concert and get to hear the sound check and rehearsals as we set up for various things. Getting to meet a few of these inspirational artists that are selflessly giving of their time and talent is priceless. This year I got to spend some time with Dave Amram, who someone appropriately called the “Magic Man!” He went on to tell me wistfully of his admiration for family farmers and fishermen, and his connections to Gloucester.

Listening in on the sound check with Wisconsin farmer Joel Greeno and Betsy Gerrold of Food for Maine’s Future. 
1. I always come home exhausted! It’s the kind of exhaustion that makes you realize fighting the corporate agenda is tiring, but it’s possible. And you know that because you just came back from hanging out with a few thousand people who are committed to standing up for values across our food system, starting with those who catch, raise, and grow both our land and sea food.