Update: FlipSide learned Thursday that 600 tickets were made available for Farm Aid.
Most people think of Farm Aid as an epic, all-day concert once a year.
But it's a 365-day effort, said communications director Jennifer Fahy. Saturday, thousands will flock to Hersheypark Stadium to hear the music. As of Sept. 6, Fahy said the concert sold out. About 29,278 people purchased tickets.
But the event extends beyond the stage to spread Farm Aid's mission: Help eaters be more conscious about what they consume and where it comes from.
Picking a site
Farm Aid organizers begin to research possible sites for the concert in the winter. By July, they start to gear up for the show, which usually happens in late summer or early fall.
The first logistical challenge, Fahy said, is to coordinate touring schedules of some of the biggest acts on the road like Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney.
"Willie wanted to make sure we move it, so different farmers get a chance to go," Fahy said. And as the event travels to different regions, it can focus on agriculture in that area of the country.
Another big concern is the venue. Small farms offer to host Farm Aid every year, but Fahy said such a big event comes with some specific demands. The venue has to be able to accommodate thousands. It has to encourage people to continue the mission after Farm Aid leaves.
Every year, production costs vary, Fahy said, but longtime vendors and partners work for reduced fees or on a volunteer basis.
Homegrown Concessions can be a sticking point at venues, Fahy said. The locally sourced snacks were a big hit at the Camden/Philadelphia concert in 2006. So the next year, Farm Aid switched to souring concessions ingredients from family farms.
Pork sandwiches come from a farm cooperative in Missouri. Geenmarket in New York City partners with youth to cultivate gardens. This year, some of those kids as well as Milton Hershey School students helped grow fresh produce, Fahy said.
Corn dogs and hamburgers are organic. Serving vessels are compostable. And Green Team volunteers help the Farm Aid crowd properly dispose of trash. Farm Aid tries to compost most of its waste, Fahy said.
Organizers revisit concert sites to ensure that scraps are made into soil.
Farm Aid in Pennsylvania
The Keystone State and its organizations, including the Pennsylvania Food Safety Alliance and the Rodale Institute, have been major Farm Aid partners, Fahy said. The Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement started here.
A decade ago, Farm Aid was held in Burgettstown, which is west of Pittsburgh. The 2006 event was in Camden, N.J. But since Pennsylvania's right across the river, Fahy said many farmers and fans from the Philadelphia area attended.
"It's such an amazing area where agriculture is at the root of everything that happens," Fahy said of Pennsylvania. "There are many family farms that are on the cutting edge when it comes to green practices."
Dairy farming - a focus of Farm Aid since its inception - is a huge industry in the state.
"It's a market that's really hard on farmers," Fahy said. Production costs have skyrocketed, while the value of milk has plummeted. Many dairy farms across the nation have been forced to close.
Farm Aid's Homegrown Village includes displays and interactive exhibits.
"We have skill sharing so folks can do hands-on training on seed saving, sauerkraut making, composting and pickling," Fahy said. "We're going to have a band in the area to provide music in between (concerts)."
Neil Young has a history of talking about farming from the main stage, Fahy said, and Dave Matthews might talk about growing his own tomatoes. Farm Aid musicians and area farmers also give press briefings in the village.
"They come not because they're getting paid; they come because they have a deep connection with these issues," Fahy said of this year's performers, who include Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, which hails from Vermont.
Last year, when tropical storms caused major flooding in the region, the band got involved with the cleanup and fundraising, Fahy said.
This year, droughts have ravaged middle America.
"We activated our family farm disaster fund this year," Fahy said. It's standard protocol when there is a major weather disaster.
Farm Aid hopes to spotlight farmers who use techniques that mitigate the effects of drought, such as pasture-based operations and rotational grazing. Since severe weather will likely increase, Fahy said farmers will have to adjust to produce food in the future.
On Saturday, Farm Aid's action center will teach concertgoers about legislation affecting farmers including corporate concentration and genetically engineer seeds. Since it's an election year and the Farm Bill has yet to pass, Fahy said people might be more interested in the issues.
"Between climate change and obesity and diet-related diseases and the economy, folks are looking around and thinking more about what is happening in their own communities," Fahy said. "(We make) it really fun getting to know farmers and teaching kids about where their food comes from."
-- ERIN McCRACKEN,
About Farm Aid
Farm Aid started as an idea when Bob Dylan mentioned supporting American farmers on stage at Live Aid. Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp gathered to plan the event to benefit farmers in 1985. During the next two decades, the concert grew into the longest running benefit concert series in America and has raised more than $39 million to help family farmers thrive. The Burgettstown, Pa. show in 2002 marked the first time a Farm Aid concert was held in the Northeast.
Farm Aid board members now include Nelson, Young, Mellencamp and Dave Matthews. They continue to headline Farm Aid concerts to unite musicians, farmers and fans for one cause. Each year, the event educates people about the Good Food movement. It stresses the importance of getting food directly from farmers, farmer's markets or community-support agriculture, which in turn can help the farms provide food for urban neighborhoods, grocery stores, restaurants and schools.
This year's lineup
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds
Jack Johnson: Read the interview with Johnson here
Pegi Young & The Survivors
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Past Farm Aid performers
The list of artists who have graced the Farm Aid stage includes Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, Roy Orbison, Paul Simon, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Tom Petty, Beach Boys, Arlo Guthrie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Steve Earle, Phish, The Del McCoury Band, Lyle Lovett, John Denver, Wilco and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real.
Read interviews with Lovett, McCoury and Lukas Nelson at www.yorkblog.com/flipside/celebrity-interviews.
Farm Aid 2012 is Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium, 100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey.
Tickets are sold out, but those interested can learn about the event and watch performances online at
Follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FarmAid and Twitter @FarmAid.
Venues over the years
Sept. 22, 1985 - Champaign, Ill.
July 4, 1986 - Austin, Texas
Sept. 19, 1987 - Lincoln, Neb.
1989's Farm Aid On the Road - Willie Nelson took Farm Aid on the road for 16 of his tour dates
April 7, 1990 - Indianapolis
March 14, 1992 - Irving, Texas
April 24, 1993 - Ames, Iowa
Sept. 18, 1994 - New Orleans
Oct. 1, 1995 - Louisville, Ky.
Oct. 12, 1996 - Columbia, S.C.
Oct. 4, 1997 - Tinley Park, Ill.
Oct. 3, 1998 - Tinley Park, Ill.
Sept. 12, 1999 - Bristow, Va.
Sept. 17, 2000 - Bristow, Va.
Sept. 29, 2001 - Noblesville, Ind.
Sept. 21, 2002 - Burgettstown, Pa.
Sept. 7, 2003 - Columbus, Ohio
Sept. 18, 2004 - Seattle
Sept. 18, 2005 - Tinley Park, Ill.
Sept. 30, 2006 - Camden, N.J.
Sept. 9, 2007 - New York City
Sept. 20, 2008 - Mansfield, Mass.
Oct. 4, 2009 - St. Louis
Oct. 2, 2010 - Milwaukee
Aug. 13, 2011 - Kansas City, Kan.