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St. Louis Post Dispatch: Farm Aid Concert Lands At Verizon
07.15.2009 - By Kevin C. Johnson - POST-DISPATCH POP MUSIC CRITIC

Farm Aid featuring Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and John Mellencamp will take place Oct. 4 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Farm Aid organizers will announce today in Soulard.

This is the first time St. Louis or Missouri has hosted Farm Aid, the longest-running benefit concert series, which has raised nearly $35 million since its first show in Champaign, Ill., in 1985.

Matthews said he's excited about Farm Aid finally coming to St. Louis. "I really love the city, and we have fun there," he said. "I'm glad I can bring this celebration of a lot of things to St. Louis, as well as bring an awareness to these unsung heroes."

Those heroes are family farmers, who struggle to remain afloat in the face of regulation and industrial farming that they say favor profit over quality.

"St. Louis is a good location because of the history of farming there," Matthews told the Post-Dispatch. "In recent years, more so on the East Coast, there's a perception farming has died, but that's not true. Missouri is in many ways in the same battle as everyone else in the country."

Matthews, Nelson, Young and Mellencamp make up Farm Aid's board of directors and are the annual show's core performers. But the concert often attracts more than a dozen acts.

The concert can last most of the day. The start time will be released closer to the event.

Farm Aid's mission is to promote a "vibrant family-farm system in America." It does so by fostering a demand for food from family farms, connecting consumers with farmers and telling people about the benefits of family farms and "dangers" of industrial farming.

Farm Aid executive director Carolyn Mugar noted the organization's deep roots in Missouri.

Mellencamp led a protest in Chillicothe in 1986 against unfair lending practices by the Farmers Home Administration, and Nelson marched with family farmers in 1995 in North Princeton to protest factory farms. MORE
Buy tickets for upcoming shows

"We really wanted to get to that area," Mugar said. "It's the perfect place for Farm Aid. It embodies people coming together on this issue."

Nelson told Mugar he hopes Farm Aid raises "as much money as possible" in St. Louis this fall. Last year's concert in Mansfield, Mass., raised about $1.1 million.

Farm Aid has worked with Rhonda Perry of Columbia's Patchwork Family Farms and Roger Allison of Missouri Rural Crisis Center to organize against corporate farming.

Perry has been selling her products at Farm Aid for years out of the popular Patchwork Porkshop Tent. Perry, whose family farm is in Howard County, said she advocates hogs raised with no confinement, no antibiotics and no growth hormones.

"This creates a major opportunity for farmers around the state to highlight food raised locally and organically," she said about St. Louis hosting this year's Farm Aid show.

Speculation about which city would host Farm Aid began swirling last week on Twitter, where the organization dropped several clues, including references to beer and to a city with a sports team named after an animal.

Bringing Farm Aid to St. Louis has been in the works for about eight years, said Mark Campana, president of Midwest music for Live Nation, which is putting on the show.

"We always felt Farm Aid would fit perfectly in St. Louis from a physical and operations viewpoint," he said.

Everything was in place on the St. Louis end. That included having a newer venue such as Verizon Wireless Amphitheater with an adaptable stage, a large enough capacity, a setup where multiple sound can take place without interference, and where there was enough space to erect the Homegrown Village with interactive activities and more.

It also helped that Verizon has experience with all-day festivals such as Pointfest, the Vans Warped Tour and Super Jam. Atlanta also was on the short list of host cities, but Campana said St. Louis was "automatic" after Farm Aid organizers did a walk-through here.

"They had a concern that coming to St. Louis would mean they'd be doing a smaller show with smaller attendance. But we're a Top 10 amphitheater," he said.

About a dozen additional national and local acts will be announced throughout the summer, beginning as early as next week.

"Willie invites every one of his friends," joked Matthews, who will perform with guitarist Tim Reynolds.
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