Farm Aid 2017: What to Know Before You Go

By | September 16, 2017
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Did you snag a ticket to Farm Aid 2017? The highly anticipated event, held on Saturday, September 16, at KeyBank Pavilion, sold out in one day! “That doesn’t always happen,” says Glenda Yoder, associate director of Farm Aid. “It really was a strong note of endorsement for Farm Aid and the decision to be in the Pittsburgh area.” Sponsored by Horizon Organic, Bonterra, Applegate, Lagunitas Brewing Company, UPMC Health Plan, Lundberg Family Farms, Whole Foods, Organic Valley, Frontier Co-op, una Biologicals, ASPCA, and PA Preferred, the all-day event is packed with a great lineup of musical performances — including Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Neil Young, and Sheryl Crow! — and emphasizes the important relationship between the people who enjoy food and the people who grow it. 

“One of the wonderful things about Pittsburgh is you have, in this region, a really strong connection and network between rural and urban through food and farming,” Yoder says. “This is one of Farm Aid’s missions. We’re really interested in putting the spotlight on your local food-farm connections. It’s been really delightful and exciting to meet the farmers, learn more about the urban agriculture and rural agriculture, and see the business networks that are connecting rural and urban food and farm economies. Particularly in a time when people feel sometimes alienated from each other, we really believe that through food and farming, people can come together. And certainly through music, too.” We chatted with Yoder about annual event and what it will be offering to the Pittsburgh area.

Edible Allegheny: What are some of the educational opportunities at Farm Aid?
Glenda Yoder: 
This is our 11th year of showcasing what we call HOMEGROWN at Farm Aid concerts. HOMEGROWN is our way to reach eaters through experiences, tastes, hands-on learning, games, and activities that connect us to farmers and to the source of our food. HOMEGROWN Village is a welcoming place for concertgoers to engage in the elements of farming, including soil, water, and energy. There will be about 30 exhibitors. There will also be the Farm Yard, where artists and farmers will be giving short presentations through the day talking about different issues related to food and farming.  

EA: Let’s talk about food. What options will be available for concertgoers?

GY: Legends Hospitality is the concessioner at KeyBank Pavilion. Together, we are going to bring our 23,000 concertgoers food from family farms. It’s all branded as HOMEGROWN Concessions, and the criteria is that all of the ingredients come from family farmers with ecological standards and fair prices for the farmer. We work with food companies that are part of that supply chain, and we’re adding in local vendors and local fresh supply chains to round out the menu. It will include items that you would expect at a concert, like burgers and hotdogs. We wanted to feature local flavors as well, and in this case, we certainly wanted pierogies. Republic Food Enterprise is doing the pierogies. Conover Organic Farm is doing pickles on a stick and baked goods with Weatherbury Farm’s organic flour. A Taste for Something Moore will be baking cookies and blondies as well with this local, organic flour. 

Every year, we install the HOMEGROWN Youth Market. It’s fashioned after Grow NYC’s Youth Market, and in fact, the volunteer that runs our Youth Market program started the New York program. At the concert, we will have young people from the grange out in Pennsylvania and Ohio together with people from Grow Pittsburgh, and they’ll be selling fresh fruit to our concertgoers — apples, plums, pears, peaches. We’re getting cheeses from Northern Ohio. Most of the produce is coming from the Lake to River Co-op in Eastern Ohio. That’s a really exciting place. It’s a beautiful visual, and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to crunch into an apple at a concert. There’s an area called the Fresh Stand, which Legends Hospitality is doing, and that will have picnic foods. There will be Goat Rodeo cheeses, charcuterie, and organic chocolate bars that people can pick up and share. 

EA: With a focus on local ingredients, does that mean Farm Aid features different foods every year?

GY: We have a couple of perennial Farm Aid vendors who have traveled with us for many years. One is called Patchwork Family Farms. They’re out of Columbia, Mo. They’re part of a co-op that makes the most amazing pork chops and brats. Concertgoers who come to multiple Farm Aid shows seek them out. We have Corndog Inc., who is a vendor who has been with us. She brings corndogs made with artisanal cornmeal and organic beef dogs and non-GMO veggie dogs. We’re really excited that all of the meats are certified-humane or pasture-based. Oils are non-GMO.

EA: Can you talk about the ways Farm Aid 2017 is giving back after the event is over?

GY: In our backstage catering, we’re going to be feeding the artists and the crew. All service ware is compostable, which will be picked up after the show. We have a wonderful list of companies that have supported Farm Aid with donations for the backstage catering. Everyone is doing what they can. Backstage catering will be done by Parkhurst Dining, and any leftovers will be donated to 412 Food Rescue. In addition to that, there’s going to be a food drive asking concertgoers to bring non-perishable food that can be shared with the Greater Washington County Food Bank [through 724 Food Rescue]. It’s really important to Farm Aid that all of the high-quality food that comes to the concert be utilized and that all of the work that went into the quality supply chain from family farmers through businesses that support family farmers be fully utilized and shared after the concert. 

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