The organization Farm Aid has held just one benefit concert a year since it was founded by singers Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985. They’ve toured the country, focusing on the needs of local farmers, and this year are coming to Saratoga Springs for a show today at the Performing Arts Center.
That first concert, in Champaign, Ill., was all about salvation (raising money to help family farmers save their land from foreclosure). And today’s will focus attention on upstate farmers’ struggles with such things as natural disasters and inadequate federal milk prices.
But it will also be a celebration — of the tremendous interest in fresh and local food in this area. All those farmers’ markets, co-ops, community supported agriculture farms and grocery stores that stock local products are an omnivore’s delight and a farmer’s deliverance.
Farm Aid, which is now a year-round organization offering a variety of services, has been a big supporter of the local food movement. In addition to the concert, it is showing its support in Saratoga by hosting a tour of local farms yesterday and offering local growers a chance to sell their products at SPAC concession stands today.
Fresh, local food isn’t just about tasting better and being healthier, although it does and is. It’s also about saving the earth by using less fuel to transport the food and fewer pesticides to grow it. It’s about saving precious, scenic agricultural land from development and preventing more sprawl. And about supporting our rural neighbors, allowing them to earn a livelihood doing what they love to do.
These benefits are more important than saving a few dollars here and there. Most of the people at the Farm Aid concert today already understand that, but it’s important that everyone does. It’s the difference between a nice fad and a sustainable way of living.