John Mellencamp Continues Farm Aid Crusade - CBS Early Show Interview
Farm Aid concert is Saturday in Kansas City, Kansas.
The annual benefits have raised more than $39 million over the last 26 years to
promote family farms in the U.S.
John Mellencamp, one of the founders of Farm Aid, recently spoke to "Early Show"
Contributor Ayla Brown, saying there's still a lot of work to be done.
For more than 30 years, rock icon John Mellencamp has provided the soundtrack
for life in America's heartland.
When he began to witness that landscape change as large factory farms were
driving small farmers out of business, the musician turned social activist.
"Small family farmers are what made this country what it was," Mellencamp told
Brown. "When I was a kid all of these small towns across America were supported
by farming. There was a saying, the way the farmer goes, goes America. And that
has changed dramatically."
When asked about the current state of the family farm in the U.S., Mellencamp
said, "We have been in crisis mode for decades and before long we're gonna wake
up one day and we're not gonna recognize this place."
He added, "You know everybody in this country deserves to make an honest wage,
be able to live the American dream and that just does not exist anymore."
To preserve that dream, Mellencamp joined forces with Willie Nelson and Neil
Young in 1985 to create Farm Aid. The day-long music festival raised awareness
and more than $9 million for small family farmers.
Farm Aid - around for 26 years - is the longest-running benefit concert - a
distinction Mellencamp never expected.
"At the time, we anticipated doing one concert," Mellencamp recalled. "We
thought, 'We'll do this concert, bring some attention to it, we'll get some
politicians there, and we'll talk to them and they'll do what's right.' Well,
not much of that happened."
He continued, "The laws are set up to facilitate big business like everything
else in this country."
This year, Farm Aid is more important than ever. A bleak economy combined with
historic natural disasters has crippled family farmers.
Cricket Adams and his wife, Kim Adams operate a small organic farm in Altoona,
Ala. They lost nearly everything during the devastating tornadoes that tore
through the south in April, the nation's deadliest in 37 years.
"We got hit pretty hard, a lot of property damage," Cricket Adams said.
The couple had damage to their land, house, garage and barn.
Kim Adams said, "We are making due. But it hurt us financially and emotionally."
With a $500 Farm Aid grant, they purchased an industrial chainsaw to cut fallen
trees from their fields - and finally get back to work.
"When we found out that we were getting a grant, there was a lot of tears. A lot
of gratitude," Kim Adams said. "Without Farm Aid, we would not have been able to
recover like we have, and like we still have to."
Despite Mother Nature and a tough economic climate, the Adams' press on.
Cricket Adams added, "It's tough, but I mean, we don't want to leave. We want to
hand this down to our grandchildren."
Kim Adams said, "That has always been the dream, is to have the family continue
with what we started here. Don't let the family farm die. It's too important."
Such resilience is what drives Mellencamp and friends to keep Farm Aid growing.
"It's problem solving, that's what Farm Aid is trying to do is to help people
solve their problems and trying to be a part of the solution to individuals,"
Mellencamp said. "That's the spirit. I think that's what America was founded
On "The Early Show," Chris Wragge added Mellencamp, Nelson, and Young will all
perform at Saturday's concert. Other headliners at this year's Farm Aid benefit
include Dave Matthews and Jakob Dylan.