CHICAGO—Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson and co-founder John Mellencamp today announced that the nation's leading family farm advocacy organization will mark its 20th anniversary by returning to Illinois—the state where it all began.

Farm Aid 2005 Presented by Silk Soymilk will urge Americans to choose food from family farms. The 20th anniversary celebration will kick off with a week of food and music events in Chicago. Pre-concert events will showcase the city's efforts to promote family farm food by linking rural and urban communities. The events will culminate with Farm Aid's 20th anniversary all-star fundraising concert to take place on September 18 at the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park, IL.

The 20th anniversary concert will feature Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews, plus other top artists to be announced later. Farm Aid week in Chicago will include the County Fair at the Garfield Conservatory on September 17, a film festival, possible small-venue performances, educational and restaurant events, as well as the release of Farm Aid's book, FARM AID: A Song for America. During the week, Farm Aid will spotlight activities at Chicago-area farmers markets.

Farm Aid began in 1985 when Willie Nelson, inspired by comments from Bob Dylan at Live Aid, along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, hosted a day-long music benefit for family farmers in Champaign, IL. From that moment forward, Farm Aid's activist board has shown relentless commitment and dedication, motivating support from millions of Americans and providing hope for struggling family farmers.

"From small towns to folks in the city, everybody knows family farm food is the best," said Farm Aid President Willie Nelson. "It's good to be back in Illinois where it all started. This state is showing how good food can connect places like Champaign and Chicago. It inspires us to think about family farmers every day. I'm looking forward to playing on the Farm Aid stage, playing music with my friends."

"Farmers have a tremendous impact on the quality of food that we eat," said Farm Aid Board Member John Mellencamp. "Farm Aid is always a great show, but even more important is that Farm Aid helps the consumer and the family farmer work together for the benefit of all of us."

Since its beginning, Farm Aid has traveled the country, supporting local organizations working to strengthen and promote family farms. From Washington state to Washington, DC, Farm Aid has established a platform for family farmers to help create a movement that increases the supply and demand for family farm-identified food. Farm Aid's vision is to offer as many opportunities as possible for farmers to provide us with good products—food and alternative fuels that protect our land, our health and our environment.

"Right now, America is on the cusp of a 'good food' movement, promoted and supported by Farm Aid," said Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. "The American public recognizes family farmers as their resource for food that is local, humanely-raised, organic, and sustainable, and consumers are reaching for these foods in grocery stores, at farmers markets, in schools and even in hospitals. This demand offers growing economic opportunity for family farmers to thrive. Farm Aid will continue to work to increase the options for all family farmers in order to secure a safe, healthy food supply for our future."

"I am pleased to welcome Farm Aid to Chicago to celebrate its 20th anniversary," said Mayor Daley. "Chicago is committed to supporting small businesses and improving the quality of life for its residents, and Farm Aid helps family farmers do their job of producing the highest quality food for our City and for people all over the country."

For the third year, Silk Soymilk is the presenting sponsor of the Farm Aid concert. "Silk Soymilk is proud to present Farm Aid's 20th anniversary concert," states Mike Keown, Senior Vice President of Marketing for WhiteWave Foods. "We salute the important role that family farmers serve in promoting sustainable agriculture and providing healthy food to American families. We look forward to this celebratory event in the Chicago area—centrally located in the heart of our nation's Farm Belt."

Tickets for Farm Aid 2005 Presented by Silk Soymilk are on sale July 30 at 10 a.m. CDT and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets, the Tweeter Center box office, charge by phone in Chicago at (312) 559-1212, or online at For more information about Farm Aid's 20th anniversary, visit

Farm Aid will offer special advance sale tickets to its FarmYard members. To become a member of Farm Aid's FarmYard, visit

For directions, venue rules and regulations, parking and general information, please visit or call (708) 614-1616.

Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. Dave Matthews joined the Farm Aid Board of Directors in 2001. Farm Aid has raised more than $27 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture. Through public education and direct grants, Farm Aid supports national, regional and local efforts to build and strengthen family farm food systems.

[Published on: 7/11/05]

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