RALEIGH, N.C. — When Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Fair Aid concert in 1985, it was to bring awareness to the loss of family farms and bring in funds to help keep families farms in business. Thirty-seven years later, that message remains the same.
And the cause was furthered with a large donation from Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay on Saturday night at the annual Farm Aid concert at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh.
Just before Mellencamp’s set, Irsay presented him with a check for $1 million for Farm Aid.
The festival’s farm focus was strong from the food vendors to the artists on stage. The regular concession staples swapped for “Homegrown Concessions” featuring local and organic foods including fresh seafood and pork.
Farming and agriculture remained at the forefront of the packed event with the Homegrown Village, a section of the venue devoted to education and advocacy. There were also opportunities to visit with animals. Guests interacted with pigs, goats and sheep. A veterinary section of the village hosted “fainting goats,” even allowing children to listen to their heartbeats.
Rising country star Brittney Spencer and Americana performer Charley Crockett were among the first artists to take the Farm Aid stage. Crockett dedicated his set to the farmers who helped him out when he was just a “hobo musician.”
Sheryl Crow played a selection of her greatest hits including “If It Makes You Happy” and “My Favorite Mistake.” Crow’s touring bassist Robert Kearns, who is from Conover, N.C., wore an N.C. State wolfpack shirt during the set.
Singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton donned his famous Charlie 1 Horse Hat for nearly hour-long set. Dave Matthews and frequent collaborator Tim Reynolds took the stage just before 8 p.m. Their set was dotted with some of Matthews’ hits “Crush” and “Don’t Drink the Water.”
Matthews began the set by expressing support for farmers, a community he said shouldn’t have to struggle as much as they do.
Nelson, 89, closed out the benefit around 10 p.m.