Some American traditions lose popularity over time. The drive-in movie comes to mind, as do labor-intensive folk handicrafts. In some cases, the end of a custom signals the beginning of another, such as using email instead of writing letters. In other cases, people struggle to maintain an element of the past as it faces modern-day challenges.
One such example of this latter phenomenon is the family farm. According to an article published by NPR, family farmers in America have experienced a staggering crisis for over two decades. Among the challenges they encounter are “…farm foreclosures, small farmers forced to sell out to developers and factory farms, [and] a farm bill that favored corporate agriculture and offered little help to struggling family farmers. There were a lot of suicides in the farming community that were going largely unreported, a lot of farmers that had nowhere to turn.”
Enter Bob Dylan. During his 1985 Live Aid performance, the singer said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?”
The momentum gathered from there. In a mere six weeks, headline singers Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp joined countless volunteers to plan a benefit concert for America’s family farmers. Over 80,000 people attended the show, which raised over $9 million. Other artists on the bill included Loretta Lynn, Billy Joel, B.B. King, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and, of course, Bob Dylan.
That show was called Farm Aid and it became an annual tradition. The Farm Aid website describes the evolution of the concert and its various causes, which include a 1989 multi-city tour with Willie Nelson, a convergence between farmers and environmentalists to protect food and water supplies, emergency support of dairy farmers in crisis, advocacy work, disaster relief, large-scale farmers’ markets, and campaigns to raise public awareness.
Reflecting on the American tradition he helped create, Neil Young says, “Just as rock & roll is loud and proud, so is Farm Aid. Farm Aid’s greatest accomplishment, I believe, is in the spirit. It’s the fact that we represent the spirit of the good fight, to keep something good happening. It just keeps getting stronger and stronger….”
One way Farm Aid has gotten stronger is by diversifying. It turns out that eBay is the ideal place to supplement the funds raised through ticket sales. This year, eBay shoppers have several items they can bid on, with the proceeds of the sales going to Farm Aid. The item generating the most interest, with 29 bids, is this Farm Aid Martin Guitar 00-DB Jeff Tweedy Signature Model Acoustic – Signed!
The listing goes into some detail to explain the unique nature of this guitar, which clearly has helped it climb to a high bid of $2,550.
“This special limited edition instrument will be built for 2 years only. The 00-DB Jeff Tweedy Edition was inspired by one of Jeff’s many love worn Martins. It is a traditional 14 fret 00 size guitar with a deeper body for fuller sound and a modified V shape neck with long scale (25.4″). The top, back, and side of the guitar are all constructed from 100% FSC certified mahogany and it features a unique mahogany sunburst top inspired by a Martin Museum piece Tweedy has long admired. The interior label of each instrument is personally signed by Tweedy and numbered in sequence. The guitar is Martin’s first Custom Artist model that is 100% FSC Certified, an important distinction for both Tweedy and Martin.”
Then there is the icing on the cake: “Jeff Tweedy will autograph and add a personal message to the guitar. The guitar must first be shipped to Jeff and then to the winner of the auction.”
A gorgeous instrument, and an auction supporting a beautiful cause. You could make sweet music thinking of the farmers and farms you helped with your purchase. For the non-musical music-lovers out there, you have plenty of auction items to consider, from 2 Front Row Seats to Farm Aid 2012 +VIP Package, 9/22 Hersheypark, PA to a Backstage Tour for 2 at Farm Aid 2012, 9/22 Hersheypark, PA + Tickets & VIP!!
See the full list of items on auction here.
“The heart of America is in the family farmer….”—Dave Matthews, Farm Aid performer