Farm Aid Music Festival returns to Raleigh this weekend

It was 2020, and like most things in the world, the Farm Aid Music Festival is now virtual. As the live-streamed concert wrapped up, country music icon – and festival co-author – Willie Nelson appeared on screen with his two sons Lucas and Mica to encourage support for local farmers across America. The group suggested that in these trying times, people at home could start their own garden as an epidemic hobby.

“Grow anything you can!” Willie said with a sly smile and chuckle.

Farm Aid will return to Raleigh for the second time in the festival’s history on Saturday, and the 89-year-old Nelson and his family were headlining the show. They will be joined by Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp and Alison Russell at Coastal Creek Credit Union Music Park in Walnut Creek.

A music festival is held every year to support family farmers and good food. The idea was born from the popular Live Aid concert in 1985, and since then, more than $64 million has been raised to help farmers. The organization’s top issues this year are climate change, racial justice, and agriculture in North Carolina, the latter of which has 45,100 farms and provides 17.5% of all jobs in the state.

“A thriving movement – especially of young farmers, BIPOC and women farmers – is leading the way for conversations, strategies and change to create a more democratic farm and food system that can support us,” a statement from the organization read. “Now more than ever, people are aware of the fragility and inequities inherent in our food system and farms, and the urgent need to build a diversified, resilient, farm-focused family farming system.”

Allison Russell performing at Farm Aid 2021.

All foods served will contain ingredients sustainably produced by family farmers. Some of these highlights include food from Tastiest Corner in Durham, the Ran-Lew Milk Company from Snow Camp, The Pit Authentic Barbecue in Raleigh, and Triangle-based Dusty Donuts.

Festival-goers can stop by Homegrown Village to learn more about soil, water, energy, and agriculture. The seed exchange process begins at noon. A presentation on backyard animals starts at 1 p.m., and another about gourmet mushroom growth at 2 p.m.

Farm Aid last arrived at Triangle in 2014. Neil Young, a board member and co-founder of the event but won’t perform this year, started things up at the press event with a bang.

“We like doing farm aid, but we don’t like doing farm aid,” Young said while seated alongside board members Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. “This isn’t a celebration, it’s a job.”

Margot Price singing against a background featuring bright blue skies and rolling fields.  png

Brian Bronner


Brian Berner Photography

Singer and Farm Aid board member Margo Price performs at the Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin in 2019.

music schedule

12:50 p.m. – Endorsement of Earth by Red Clay Singers
12:58pm – Welcome to Wisdom Indian Dancers
1:08 PM – Particle Kid
1:43 pm – Britney Spencer
2:18 pm – Charlie Crockett
3:08 PM – Alison Russell
3:58 pm – Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
4:48 pm – Sheryl Crowe
5:43 PM – Chris Stapleton
6:43 PM – Margo . price
7:43 PM – Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
8:43 PM – John Mellenkamp
9:43 PM – Willie Nelson and family

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats were originally scheduled to perform. This show has been canceled due to a positive COVID case in the band.

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