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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Farm Aid turns 25. Who knew.

Yep, it’s tonight, live on YouTube and DIRECTV's The 101 Network. Did you even know? Do you even care? I didn’t find out until now and I guess I sorta care. 25 years is a long time though to wave a banner and ask for help. Has anything changed? Only everything and nothing, if the range of comments are to be believed:

“In 25 yrs Farm Aid has raised only 37 million. That's not even 2 million a year. If these VERY wealthy musicians actually put THEIR money where their cause is, they would be doing much better. All it would take is half a million from each musician, and they could have matched that 37 million in 5 yrs. Shit, Mellencamp spends that alone on hair gel and cigs a week!” – Rightsideup

“Hemp Can Save The Planet...So Plant It Already...!!!” – WaywardBill

“Without farmers there would be nobody!!! God bless the farmers!!!” – crossroads999

Understand that Farm Aid was just one of many feel-good concerts exploding out of the musicians must use their talent for real change movement of 1984.
In less than one year, four major events would define how we approach cause marketing in a post-Jerry Lewis telethon world.

The Brits kicked things off in with the music video Do They Know It’s Christmas. Not to be outdone, the Yanks, led by Michael Jackson, returned fire with We Are The World. A few months later, the UK said we’ll see your obnoxious music video and raise you a mega cross-continent simultaneous event called Live Aid.

Here was the evolution of No Nukes and peace that John Lennon and others sang about during the ’70s, itself a response to the love the one you’re with self-indulgence of Woodstock. Now you could enjoy the moment and support a cause! Multitasking for the win as Phil Collins and Sting were on a mission to save the starving kids your mom scolded you about.

The ones who appreciated the meal you didn’t finish.

Then came a uniquely American response in the form of Farm Aid. Van Hagar’s appearance aside, the likes of Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp had had enough of us helping other countries. They were going all in with the guilt card because American farmers needed help, not some starving kids. Forget the *family farmer* vibe of the current messaging, back then it was “HELL YEAH, AMERICA!” ruling the day.

These were American farmers putting food on your American table – how dare you turn your American back on them.*

And it worked, because two years later, Congress approved what would be considered this generation’s first bailout when it passed the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987. I’m *sure* those hating on Obama for bailing out Detroit also feel the same way about President Reagan who bailed out the farmers. In both cases, pressure from foreign markets was cited as one of the main reasons we needed to act or risk losing an industry critical to our nation’s survival.

We didn’t have Y2K — we had farmers out of work.

So here it is 25 years later, the standard website with event streamed on YouTube for the apathetic media-fragmented masses. Masses who have taken more interest in locally grown or organic food alternatives. A good thing, no doubt. But the focus for American farmers themselves has changed too.

The pro-American stance is dialed down in favor of a hyper-local farming movement. There’s now a lucrative market for both food and biofuels as non-feed grains chill out an ever-expanding energy market; this is in addition to the regular crops they’ve always grown.

I probably won’t watch though because I’ll be busy growing that other uniquely American renewable resource called apathy.

*We even had Australian actors playing American farmers experiencing American troubles. THINGS WERE DIRE, PEOPLE.

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