It was 34 years ago that Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp came together in Champagne, Illinois for the first Farm Aid. Responding to the rise in bankruptcies and foreclosures of family farms in the 1980s, they wanted to raise awareness and funds to help farmers in crisis. Over the decades, Farm Aid has grown into an organization providing financial and informational resources to help keep generational farming families on the land.
This mission is shared by Shenandoah Valley Organic (SVO), a second-year sponsor and supplier of organic chicken for Homegrown Concessions at the Farm Aid festival. SVO’s Farmer Focus brand is a manifestation of Farm Aid’s ongoing mission to raise up the family farmer in an environment of continued consolidation at the top. SVO is disrupting the industry by championing the changes that Farm Aid advocates for, including increased market transparency, an end to the tournament system, and establishing fair contracts.
This was the spark that caught fire with Corwin Heatwole, founder and CEO of SVO. With deep roots in the agricultural community, Heatwole was familiar with Farm Aid and its influential work long before Farmer Focus was even a seed of an idea. Once SVO was up and running, it seemed natural to partner with an organization that has proven to value the farmer and the food chain.
“The conversation about the American farming crisis is getting louder, but it’s still not loud enough. The average age of a farmer is about 58 years old—10 years older than it was just fifty years ago. Protecting and supporting generational family farming has never been as important as it is today,” stated Heatwole. “We are demonstrating how a company can be successful while still promoting farmer prosperity and helping to ensure the land is fertile and profitable for generations to come,” he added.
Farm Aid 2019 will take place on September 21 this year at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin. In addition to finding Farmer Focus organic chicken throughout the venue, attendees will be able to meet some of the farmers that are part of the SVO family.