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Monday, January 6, 2014

Is Farm Aid coming to Durham in 2014? Maybe

Posted by on Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 1:04 PM

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Here’s a little ditty that Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp let slip at the Duke football game last Tuesday: Farm Aid could be coming to Durham in 2014. The details, first reported in The Herald-Sun, are so far unconfirmed. Mellencamp, whose son is a member of the Duke football team, made his comment during the Chick-fil-A Bowl game’s opening ceremonies. The party line at Farm Aid HQ is that plans are “still in development.”

Farm Aid is a nonprofit concert presenter focused on increasing awareness around the importance of family farms and raising funds to support them. The first Farm Aid concert, organized by Mellencamp, Willie Nelson and Neil Young, took place in Champaign, Ill. in 1985. Since then, the concerts have featured everyone from The Beach Boys and Lou Reed to Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris.

The tipoff from Mellencamp was enough to excite Scott Marlow, Executive Director at RAFI-USA (Rural Advancement Foundation International). “RAFI has worked with Farm Aid for decades,” Marlow says. “We have partnered with them for trainings on disaster assistance programs, access to credit and crisis help for farmers. Every year, when we go to the Farm Aid concert and the events that surround [it] around the country, we always wind up telling the folks from Farm Aid that we have a lot to show right here in North Carolina.”

RAFI-USA’s effort to bring Farm Aid to N.C. has been years in the making, but Marlow says that in the last year, they’ve been more aggressive, partly because 2014 marks the end of the Tobacco Transition Payment Program, which helped N.C. tobacco farmers shift from a quota system to a free-market one. “We’ve been able to show, over the last 10 years of the tobacco buyout, what an important economic driver local sustainable food is to our Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund,” Marlow says. “We have really good stuff going on in North Carolina, and it’s a great time for them to come here and see what we have to offer.”

Somebody tell Mellencamp—he’s got a hand to hold onto if he wants one.


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