Even though the organization got its start with an off-the-cuff comment from Bob Dylan in Philadelphia during the Live Aid benefit, the annual Farm Aid concert is coming to Pennsylvania for only the second time.
"Wouldn't it be great if we did something for our farmers right here in America?" he asked in front of a worldwide audience in July 1985, including fellow musician Willie Nelson, who was watching the concert at home.
Nelson, along with John Mellencamp and Neil Young, organized the first concert in six weeks and ended up raising more than $9 million for America's family farmers.
This year's show – headlined as always by Farm Aid board members Nelson, Mellencamp, Young and Dave Matthews (who joined in 2001) – will take place at Hersheypark Stadium on Saturday. The annual event took place in Burgettstown in 2002 (and in Camden, N.J., just outside of Philadelphia, in 2006).
Other performers scheduled for Saturday's 11-hour concert include: Kenny Chesney, Jack Johnson, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Jamey Johnson, ALO, Pegi Young & The Survivors, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and special guests The Blackwood Quartet and The Bee Creek UMC Choir. Brent James & The Contraband also will appear on the Homegrown stage.
All 29,278 tickets for the Hershey concert have sold out, Farm Aid Communications Director Jennifer Fahy said, but three hours will be shown via webcast on www.farmaid.org.
"Pennsylvania is a great example of family-farm agriculture and innovations in family farming," Fahy said. "We are spread across the nation and have resources in each and every state, but Central PA will benefit from the awareness the concert brings. And we are working with local farmers for our catering and concessions.
"(The concert) will show 30,000 people why family farmers are so important and what's going on in their own community."
But Farm Aid's work does not end with the annual concert.
"The concert is just one day a year; for 365 days we are working for family farmers," Fahy said. "We have been answering a hotline since 1985 and speak to farmers daily, some in crisis and some who just need more information. We also have an online tool, the Famers Resource Network, which is the only thing of its kind.
"And we have homegrown.org, which is an online community for folks delving into agriculture and a great place for do-it-yourself folks to gather and share information."
Fahy said the artists on the bill share the commitment to family farmers, and many come from farming backgrounds themselves.
"Most have connections in that way," she said. "For instance, Jack Johnson is new to Farm Aid, but we have been talking to him for years because he is so involved in environmental causes. We are lucky that his schedule finally worked out so he could be a part of the concert this year."
Asked how active the organization's board members are, Fahy said Willie Nelson signs all the grant checks and meets with farmers on the road whenever possible, and the others do as much as they can as well.
"For them to donate their time, travel and talents for 27 years is just unprecedented," she said.
What: Farm Aid 2012
When: Doors open at noon Saturday; music is scheduled to run until 11 p.m.
Where: Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey
Tickets: All 29,278 tickets for Saturday's show are sold out, but you can watch the last three hours of the concert via the Farm Aid Webcast on www.farmaid.org
More info: Visit www.farmaid.org