Farm Aid brings music, agriculture relief efforts to Raleigh

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) — From inflation to supply chain issues, the problems that farmers face while trying to make a good living are often at the forefront of their minds.

“Not only are we fighting the climate … we don’t know what the weather’s going to do, but now we have to fight those input costs as well,” Ray Jeffers said.

Jeffers, a farm and outreach specialist at RAFI-USA, said things are a lot higher this year, including the cost of fertilizer.

“The day-to-day impacts are hard decisions,” Jeffers said. “What to plant this year, what not to plant. If you plant the same, do you fertilize it the same? This could result in not the best yield, not the best harvest.”

For Noah Ranells at Fickle Creek Farm, the past year was full of challenges.

“Feed prices are causing the most concern right now,” Ranells said. “Every time there’s an issue about drought in the West, or fuel prices, that comes through us with fuel surge charges on deliveries and general instability.”

Without a strong foundation, Ranells said they wouldn’t have fared as well as others.

“Our connections to consumers have been really important through all of this,” Ranells said. “Luckily, there were some governmental programs that helped through COVID, but we found our customers to be really, really strong during COVID times.”

As millions of US farmers try to stay afloat, for one day in Raleigh, their issues will be back in the spotlight.

The Farm Aid Festival will begin Saturday at Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheater. This is the second time Farm Aid’s hosting a concert in North Carolina. The last one was in 2014.

The fundraising concert featuring Willie Nelson and friends not only supports family farmers but is meant to provide resources, especially to small-scale farmers.

“What Farm Aid does, is it provides disaster relief to farmers,” Tandelyn Daniel of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives said. “Just recently, in Mississippi, there was the water shortage. That is the point of Farm Aid, it gives aid. So we’re here representing black farmers because when a natural disaster hits, we could use the support to help keep people in their occupations.”

Farm Aid also has a hotline where farmers can call or email for a wide variety of issues, from experiencing a major crisis, to how to get started in farming.

“Lately, when we hear from farmers in the West, it’s often about this big drought that’s been happening for a couple of years,” hotline operator Rachel Vanboven said. “Inflation has had a huge impact on farmers, so we’re hearing from farmers all over the country about that impact.”

Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $64 million in support of the family farm system.

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