NOBLESVILLE, IN (AP)--Willie Nelson, who brought a flag-waving crowd to its feet with "This Land is Your Land" at the Sept. 29 Farm Aid concert, says keeping family farms strong will keep America strong.
"I think it's important to take care of the people who grow our food," said Nelson, who co-founded Farm Aid in 1985 with John Mellencamp and Neil Young.
The nonprofit group's 14th benefit concert in 16 years on behalf of family farms highlighted American farmers' role in helping the nation wage war against terrorism.
Farm Aid's three founders--and new board member Dave Matthews--said the concert has always been about keeping America strong by providing nourishment through food.
"We're at a moment when a lot of people are asking what is America, what represents America," Matthews said. "Certainly, I think that the family farm is a main ingredient of what made America."
In light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Nelson called for the federal government to renew support farmers, oil and steel producers received during World War II--special subsidies to enable the raw producers to cover production and labor costs.
"Well, it's wartime again, let's bring it back," said Nelson, who served in the U.S. Air Force.
Farm Aid organizers dedicated this year's event as a "Concert for America," and pledged money to rebuild farmers' markets that were destroyed near the World Trade Center in New York City.
Along with Matthews and the founders, Saturday's performers at the Verizon Wireless Music Center included Martina McBride, Arlo Guthrie, the Doobie Brothers, Acoustic Syndicate, Susan Tedeschi, Jimmy Ryser, and Chris Knight.
Many of the musicians have personal ties to farms. McBride grew up on a small farm in Kansas. Acoustic Syndicate's three members are all farmers in North Carolina. And Matthews said he once wanted to be a farmer.
"Every boy wants to be a farmer and then you want to be a fireman," he said.
Roger Allison, a Missouri farmer with Patchwork Family Farms, said he was feeding his livestock Sept. 11 when his mother, barefoot and still dressed in a nightgown, ran outside to tell him about the attacks.
"We wanted to be in New York," Allison said. "The reality is we knew we needed to be on our farms."
Patchwork announced its donation of 5,000 pounds of farm-raised meat to the families of victims in New York City during Saturday's benefit.
The money raised by this year's show had not been tallied as of Saturday evening. Farm Aid has awarded nearly $16 million for farm-related causes and education since it began in 1985.
The annual traveling concerts no longer play giant stadiums, preferring instead the smaller venues where concerts cost less to produce and sell out more quickly.
The roughly 24,000 tickets for the outdoor show in Noblesville, about 20 miles north of Indianapolis, were sold out within a couple days.
Farm Aid last came to Indianapolis in 1990, when 45,000 packed the sold-out Hoosier Dome, now known as the RCA Dome. That show featured Guns 'N Roses, Elton John and Garth Brooks.