From August 11th to August 13th, RAFI-USA co-hosted with Farm Aid a historic farm-advocates gathering. The “National Meeting of Farm Advocates” took place at the National Agricultural Hall of Fame Museum in Bonner Springs, Kansas. This event, led by RAFI-USA’s interim Executive Director Scott Marlow and Farm Aid’s Joel Morton, brought together many of the most well known and hardest working farm advocates across the country. Panel discussions and break-out sessions took place over the three days and RAFI-USA’s own Benny Bunting was an esteemed panelist.
It was the first time in recent history that veteran farm advocates from all over the country came together to tell old stories, brand new ones, and continue the work of advocating for farmers. The experience in the room was palatable. Not since the height of our national farm crisis in the mid-eighties has such a group of advocates met to discuss the broad range of issues farmers face, and share their experiences navigating solutions. In many cases the same folks were continuing the work 30 years later, still making the problems of individual farmers their own. We here at RAFI get to hear Benny talk about the amazing work he does on a regular basis, but to meet and learn from “Bennys” from all over the country was, well…It was inspirational to say the least. Even old Willy Nelson was excited at his chance to meet Benny. (pictured below)
The event was indeed historic, but there was real work to get done and the crowd quickly recognized the urgency of putting these amazing minds to use. Some workshop topics discussed at this meeting were: lessons learned for the next generation of farm advocates, what discrimination looks like today, and new initiatives in farm finance. In addition to the workshops were a round of breakout sessions where advocates could split up into groups to talk about topics including Farm Bill 2012, young farm initiatives, leveraging federal resources, and land loss prevention.
For those of you who do not know, Farm Aid is a non-profit organization that formed around a benefit concert headlined by famed musicians John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Neil Young, and founder Willie Nelson. This particular Farm Aid concert was a special one for Willie Nelson because he was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame the same weekend. RAFI-USA staff were present at the press conference with the musician headliners where our own Scott Marlow and Benny Bunting were both mentioned for all of their hard work in agricultural communities. From now on we will think of Farm Aid first, as a forum for great minds in farm advocacy work. The concert wasn’t half bad either.