Kiss the Ground and Regenerate America™ staff had the incredible opportunity to be welcomed into the family of Farm Aid advocates this year. Since 1985, thousands of people have convened at Farm Aid, the largest annual benefit concert for family farmers. Founded by world-famous American country music artist Willie Nelson to raise awareness, Farm Aid is more than just a music festival—it’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting farmers, from providing grants to offering a farmer hotline. 

Since its founding, Farm Aid has raised more than $64 million to help family farmers thrive throughout the country, while inspiring millions of people to participate in the Good Food Movement. As this year’s Farm Aid theme was climate change, the event commenced with a phenomenal panel of farmers and musicians speaking about the critical role farmers play in addressing climate change and stewarding the land.

Image courtesy of Farm Aid

Willie Nelson took center stage to welcome the attendees. “I’ve always said that family farmers strengthen us all. Farmers in North Carolina, across the Southeast, and all over the country are growing solutions to our toughest challenges, including climate change. We’re bringing Farm Aid here to highlight their hard work and celebrate the ways we can all join farmers to help,” he said. 

Kiss the Ground and Regenerate America™ staff, alongside members of our Farmer Leadership Council, had the chance to discuss the soil health movement at our booth in the Homegrown Village, and to participate in a series of panel discussions. We did approximately 30 bread and flour demonstrations throughout the day. These demonstrations resonated strongly with onlookers; several farmers and advocates shared that they’d be using it themselves after seeing how powerfully it shows the difference between healthy and degraded soil.

Kiss the Ground staff in the Homegrown Village

Invigorated by a movement in full force, the festival was a wonderful opportunity to meet other Regenerate America™ coalition members across America, who up until now, we’d only talked with virtually. Groups like Other Half Processing, Pennsylvania Farmers Union, and Izaak Walton League brought their own knowledge and missions regarding farmer advocacy to the table.

Meeting 14 year-old farmer Oliver from Half Pint Hollow Farm in Knightdale, North Carolina, who said Kiss the Ground is his second favorite movie after The Lion King, was a clear highlight for our entire team. His family farm was also in the Homegrown Village with several of their pasture animals.

Farmer Oliver at the Kiss the Ground booth

Regenerate America™ Farmer Leadership Council member Wayne Swanson, Jr., from Swanson Family Farm, held a powerful discussion at the FarmYard Stage with American blues and country singer, Charley Crockett. Wayne shared his experience as a regenerative farmer, and spoke to the power of regeneration:

“If we want to talk about climate security, we have to start talking about soil as its own ecosystem.
It’s the foundation of life, it’s the foundation of everything we do.” – Wayne Swanson, Jr.

Zach Duchenueax and Wayne Swanson, Jr.

A long-time ally in the regenerative agriculture movement, Zach Duchenueax, Head of the FSA, also took the stage with performer Micah Nelson. Duchenueax’s message was clear: “Stop degenerating, we need to regenerate.”

He added, “If we take these approaches, we are improving resiliency to climate crisis, we are improving the use of water, we’re providing a more nutritious product by getting deeper into that soil profile and bringing those nutrients into that plant or that animal. So I think it’s absolutely critical.” 

Micah Nelson talked about the importance of using our voices, even if we aren’t farmers. “It’s really up to all of us to demand this from the government, from corporations, from all the people that have the power to really just snap their finger and make this shift happen towards sustainable food systems, towards regenerative agriculture, [and] towards value based economy,” he said. 

While the entire event was a peak for the year, Dave Matthews mentioning “Kiss the Ground” surely caught our undivided attention.

Image courtesy of Farm Aid

“So there’s yet another reason to embrace these smaller, more focused farms,” said Matthews at the press event prior to the show. “There’s a wonderful documentary called Kiss The Ground, which beautifully explains how farming does not have to damage the environment but can contribute to its health — if you do it in a more natural way.”

It was incredible to hear voices from all over—family farmers to major celebrities—unified in the understanding that our nation’s farmers, farms, and soil are in dire need of support. There was an undercurrent of something greater: a palpable sense of hope for our future. 

We’re deeply grateful to the amazing Farm Aid staff who welcomed our team and coalition members to participate in an historic event, and are humbled by the power of many voices uniting on one stage. Together, we can Regenerate America™. Together, we can do this!