By Stan Maddux
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Country music legend Willie Nelson and a full slate of his Farm Aid performers are coming back to Indiana for an all-day fall concert and festival.
The event, held annually at a different location for nearly 40 years, is scheduled at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville on Sept. 23.
This will be the third time Indiana has hosted a Farm Aid concert and the first since 2001, when the show came to Noblesville with a patriotic theme following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The other Farm Aid concert in the state was in 1990 at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis.
The purpose of the show has transformed since 1986 when Farm Aid was created as an emergency response to keep family farms afloat during a period of very difficult economic times in agriculture, when many small and mid-sized producers folded.
Now, the broader mission is more about avoiding such pitfalls by creating a vibrant family farm-centered system of agriculture better able to compete against industrial food growers.
This year’s show will highlight family farmers in the state who are national leaders on mitigating the impacts of climate change through regenerative, organic and sustainable practices.
Specifically, the more planet friendly practices include cover cropping, rotating crops, reduced soil tillage, integrating livestock and crop production, raising pastured livestock and improved soil and water management.
“Family farmers have the solutions to some of our toughest challenges, said Nelson, who is president and founder of Farm Aid.
“As we face a changing climate, farmers in Indiana, across the Midwest and all over the country are farming in ways that create more resilient farms to build healthy soils and protect our water,” he said.
Nelson, 90, is scheduled to perform on stage along with artists like John Mellencamp, an Indiana native and co-founder of Farm Aid.
Mellencamp, who grew up in Seymour, was at the top of the rock and roll charts primarily throughout the 1980s with hits like “Hurts So Good” and “Small Town.”
“My home state holds deep meaning to me and for the generations of family farmers who have dedicated their lives to caring for the Earth and bringing us good food,” he said.
Other Farm Aid board members Neil Young, Dave Matthews and Margo Price are among the other musical entertainers on the card.
In addition to a full day of music, people can enjoy Farm Aid’s Homegrown Concessions offering a diverse menu of fresh items produced by family farmers using ecological practices in the foods.
Tickets ranging from $75 to $315 can be purchased at LiveNation.com. A limited number of presale tickets while supplies last can be obtained at www.farmaid.org/tickets.
In general, farmers are in much better shape than yesteryear and even the recent past following good-sized gains in net income the last two years despite inflation, said Michael Langemeier, an agriculture economist at Purdue University.
Langemeier said crop prices have risen enough to cover higher input costs and leave farmers with enough profits to save for a rainy day.
“It’s not like there’s no financial stress but there’s not very much financial stress in the production agriculture sector right now,” he said.
However, Langemeier said crop prices in 2023 might not be as strong, which could force some farmers to rely on some of their surplus revenues from 2021 and 2022 to balance this year’s books.
“There was certainly much more financial stress in the 1980s and 1990s than what there is right now,” he said.
Langemeier also said farmers are competing in the race against climate change because of things like advancements in seed genetics and development of precision agriculture.
He said high-tech machines applying exactly the right amount of fertilizer and other chemicals needed for a healthy crop not only lowers operating costs but reduces the amount of inputs winding up in lakes, rivers and streams.
Langemeier said seed genetics over the past 30 years has also produced crops much more resistant to drought and other weather extremes.
He expects crops in the future, through genetics, to be even more tolerant to changes from Mother Nature.
“Climate change is just one of those things that every business has to adapt to. Farmers are no different. They’ll figure out strategies to adapt,” Langemeier said.