RAFI on the Road to Farm Aid


RAFI is on the road to Farm Aid this week, though thankfully that road is much shorter this time around! This year, we’re excited to welcome Farm Aid to our home state of North Carolina for the first time in the concert’s 29-year history.

This week is packed with events leading up to, and winding down from, Saturday’s day-long concert at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh. (For a full schedule, take a look at Farm Aid’s website here.)

We kicked off the weekend early on Thursday, with a gathering of farmers, advocates, and agricultural organizations from across the nation. We gathered to discuss the state of American agriculture and the future of our efforts to create a more just and sustainable food system for all of us — farmers, farm workers, and consumers. Reverend Dr. William Barber, a recognized leader and community organizer, delivered the keynote speech at yesterday’s event. He shared his experiences from growing up in a rural, agricultural community and spoke at length about the work of organizing and movement building:

We need to build stages to lift the voices of everyday people… We always have at least four people on the stage to deal with any issue: a cleric to bring a moral critique, a scholar, a person who is affected by the issue, and an activist who is engaged… My daddy always said, ‘The worst thing you can be is loud and wrong.’

He continued:

If we’re going to build this movement, it’s going to be from the bottom up,” he emphasized, “It’s got to be a grassroots, indigenous movement. I’m not here to lead anything because the prophets are in the land.

Rev. Dr. Barber’s remarks had a visible impact on the audience, inspiring multiple standing ovations and bursts of applause. His address set a resounding tone for the day’s discussion, grounding efforts to work for justice in the need to work together effectively and respectfully, both to create a shared ethic and to model the world we all want to live in. It is our hope that yesterday’s event was ‘the beginning of the beginning’ of a greater effort to collaborate with organizations working on agricultural justice issues across the country.

After a day filled with panel discussions and presentations, we joined our colleagues and friends at Raleigh City Farm for a lovely evening under the stars. We enjoyed a high-energy show from local country music band, Tonk, dined on farm-fresh foods, and were bowled over by some of the most expertly-prepared gumbo available outside of the bayou. Locals Seafood and Firsthand Foods worked with three of the best local chefs from Gravy, 18 Seaboard, and The Fiction Kitchen to make the meal a delicious success.


Farm Tour Friday
Today, RAFI’s staff members are busy leading farm tours alongside farmers we’ve worked with over the years. These tours highlight some of the hardest working, innovative farmers we’ve had the privilege to get to know and we’re thrilled to pitch in.


Farm Transitions Tour
From tobacco to organic produce, and the frontlines of war to North Carolina pastures, this tour features farmers who know a thing or two about transitions. The first stop, Cypress Hall Farms, boasts heritage pasture-raised poultry and livestock, an on-farm processing project and is part of a growing community of farmer veterans in NC. The next stop is Vollmer Farm, a 5th-generation family farm that shifted from tobacco to organic fruits and vegetables in the late 80s. A popular agritourism destination, Vollmer Farm has conquered market challenges through their CSA, roadside market, pick-your-own, and wholesale operation.


Operation Spring Plant & Olusanya Farm
Operation Spring Plant is led by resilient Dorathy and Phillip Barker, African American farmers who provide an antidote to an agricultural system void of fresh starts and fair chances. OSP facilitates workshops and resource-rich relationships throughout Eastern NC. Tour-goers will learn about Black land loss and the Barkers’ work to combat concentration in the dairy and vegetable industries, as well as their innovative on-farm biodiesel efforts. On the forefront of the food hub scene, this tour will also explore their long-standing aggregation facility and one of the few African-American-run dairies in the state.


Food and Farms in the Heart of Raleigh
This tour will visit Raleigh City Farm and Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Urban Farm for a close up view of what it takes to build soil and grow food in the heart of the city. Representatives from additional local food and farm efforts will be on-hand to round out a discussion about growing, marketing and distributing farm fresh, local food in the city limits.

Farm Aid Eve
Tonight, the annual Farm Aid Eve event takes place at Raleigh’s Nehi Bottling Company. Tickets for the event have now sold out, but a few of us RAFIans will be in attendance. The rest of us will be getting ready for the big event on Saturday and trying to catch some zzz’s.

Farm Aid 2014 Concert
Tomorrow, we hope to see a huge turnout of RAFI supporters and farmers at the Farm Aid concert at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre. Be sure to stop by our booth in the Homegrown Village to say hello and play our new game, the “Life” of a Farmer, based on the board game Life.

If you can’t make it out to the event in person, watch and listen to the show live. Starting at 7pm EDT/4pm PDT, tune into AXS TV to watch the show live in HD. Farm Aid will also be streaming the concert live in HD here on farmaid.org starting at 5pm EDT. And you can start listening live on Willie Nelson’s SiriusXM channel, Willie’s Roadhouse (59), beginning at noon EDT.

As always, get all the info you need about the concert and events on Farm Aid’s website here. See y’all there!

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