Agricultural aid 2021: Margo Price speaks out


Presented with a bouquet of roses at the end of her set, she gently tossed groups of buds into the audience; give back even more on this early fall night.

Over the past few weeks, Price has been touring behind an unusually productive wave of recordings, including his 2020 album, This is how the rumors begin, and a live EP titled, Live on the other side, released in July and featuring a soulful version of “Help” à la Tina Turner, with her friends Adia Victoria, Allison Russell, Kam Franklin and Kyshona Armstrong. She also joined Jason Isbell to contribute to Victoria’s gripping new album, A southern gothic, produced by T Bone Burnett.

At Farm Aid, Price co-starred with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and took the stage just ahead of the longtime board members and headliners of Farm Aid. Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson.

The increased schedule for his set made sense. This show marked Price’s first Farm Aid performance since it was announced in April that the singer had joined Nelson, Mellencamp, Matthews and Neil Young as a new member of the organization’s board of directors – which , in 36 years, has raised some $ 60 million. to support a vibrant, family-centered farming system in America. Nelson’s wife Annie Nelson was also appointed to the board in April.

For those who have followed Price’s involvement with Farm Aid, his deeper engagement comes as no surprise. This first performance in 2016 followed the release of her debut album, Midwestern Farmer’s Daughter – work inspired, in part, by the loss of his family’s farm in Illinois during the foreclosure crisis of the 1980s that led Nelson to start Farm Aid.

His appearances at Farm Aid have been a highlight of every festival since. During behind-the-scenes panel discussions, Price has weighed in on issues ranging from the mental health issues farmers face to volatile milk prices.

On Saturday, Price joined two Vermont farmers in a panel discussion on the future of farming. She drew parallels between the uncertainty of a career in music and a life in agriculture – and the need for people in both fields to find paths beyond corporate control and consolidation. .

“I’m just here to listen, learn and do what I can,” she said. “You have to have hope. “

When Farm Aid announced in mid-August that festival-goers would be required to show full proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test result (with the option of a free rapid test performed on site), Price quickly tweeted, “Wonderful news, but wouldn’t expect anything less. Thanks @FarmAid.

The vaccination requirements at the venues “will give a lot of artists the opportunity to start doing what we love again,” she says.

In a conversation before the Saturday show, the singer shared her thoughts on Farm Aid’s mission, its focus on the cause of racial justice, the ‘therapy’ of working in your own backyard – and the chilling experience. pandemic of her entire family – including her husband Jeremy Ivey, pre-adolescent son Judah and baby girl Ramona – having contracted COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic in 2020.

“Jeremy and I took a trip to New York and we played [the annual Tibet House Benefit] at Carnegie Hall in February 2020, ”recalls Price. “When we got home Jeremy was the first to really start to have symptoms and he went to the emergency room twice, but we all got severely ill. It was just scary because nobody knew anything at the time, you know, in March 2020.

“It was a very isolated time, really, really lonely, because once we found out we had COVID, we didn’t see anyone, friends, family, neighbors. You were completely locked up. It was something I really wouldn’t wish on anyone. We know of deceased people. We saw it firsthand, you know? It’s something you don’t take lightly.

Price therefore pushes back those who have complained about the vaccination requirements at the sites. “Going to a concert is a privilege in itself,” she says.

Price’s awareness of Farm Aid dates back to long before his emergence as a critically acclaimed songwriter, recording artist and live performer in the 2000s. “It’s an organization that I watch from afar. for a very long time, ”she says. “In the ’80s, this was something my family always talked about at gatherings, about Willie and how he helped family farmers, something they were just grateful for. And they all really loved Willie’s music and the spirit of Farm Aid.

After Price left her home state of Illinois to pursue her career in Nashville, playing Farm Aid one day “was like my white whale,” she says, recalling conversations with her booking agent, Jonathan. Levine from Wasserman Music, in which she told him it was “the show I wanted to play more than any other show.”

Her 2016 debut at Farm Aid “was like a dream,” she recalls. “Everyone was so nice to me. And that was the first time I met Willie and got on his bus and he invited me on stage. And I’m on stage next to Neil Young and John Mellencamp and all those legends.

Levine was with Price at this 2016 show and suggested “It would be pretty amazing if I could be on the [Farm Aid] get on board one day, ”says Price. “I put it completely out of my mind. But after coming back a few times, I just thought there was potentially room [on the board] for someone who is passionate about the cause.

Price is proud to be the first female performer to join the Farm Aid Board of Directors. But she notes that, behind the scenes, Farm Aid is a largely female-led organization. Carolyn Mugar, Executive Director of Farm Aid (and Billboard Women in Music 2020 winner), has guided the organization since Nelson chose her for the role in 1985 and she runs a small, predominantly female staff. Maria Rodriguez, Founder, President and CEO of Vanguard Communications, led a female-dominated team that worked with Farm Aid for many years to deliver public relations and communications strategy.

Agricultural assistance has increasingly focused on the diversity of family farming. “It really tried to highlight the struggles of black farmers and native farmers,” Price said. Last month, she retweeted a comment, first shared by Farm Aid, by a black farmer, Brennan Washington of Georgia, who feared “the black farmer would go extinct in my lifetime.” #Blackfarmers aren’t looking for handouts, just a level playing field. “

Politico in July reported that the United States Department of Agriculture granted loans to only 37% of black applicants, seeking capital to pay for land, equipment and repairs, but accepted 71% of farmer applications white.

Farm Aid’s mission of supporting a family-centered farming system is also essential in providing good food to communities, regardless of their economic status. “Food justice is something I’ve really tried to dig into and study,” Price says. “In these communities that have less, they will not be able to eat healthy food. “

Price also cites the link between Farm Aid’s fight against large-scale industrial agriculture and the threat of climate change. Industrial agriculture is “an important source” of carbon in the atmosphere, the National Resources Defense Council said in a report in August. Climate change, in turn, has triggered storms that have devastated farms in recent years. The sustainable farming methods advocated by Farm Aid can retain carbon in the soil, improve biodiversity and help mitigate climate change.

Farm Aid’s mission is “tied to the climate crisis,” says Price. “I try to continue because, having children, I worry about their future.

“We should all be paying more attention to what is going on in the farming community, because if there is no food… I really think [these issues] are going to start knocking at home for more people. If everyone did just a little bit, it would make a huge change. “

Amid recordings and tours, Price found solace in digging into the ground. “This year I was very lucky to have been able to devote a lot of time and energy to my garden,” she says. “And it was so therapeutic and, you know?

By the end of summer, reports the daughter of this Midwestern farmer, the tomatoes on her plot were ripe, both heirlooms and cherry tomatoes. Her friend, composer Kelly Waldon, had shared eggplant and zucchini plants. “I have to dig up my sweet potatoes now,” Price says.

“And I finally had my first little piece of corn!” I am from Illinois. It was something that I thought would be easier for me.


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