Jamey Johnson Takes Farm Aid Personally, Shares Story of Losing Family Farm
Jamey Johnson doesn't have to go far to recall the importance of family farms. The Enterprise, Ala. born singer says he just needs to drive down the road a bit to the land his family grew up on.
“When I was a kid, we had a little bit of land, and just about every bit of it was farmed," Johnson tells Taste of Country during a teleconference to discuss the 26th annual Farm Aid concert. "We would grow peas over here, a little bit of corn over there, zucchini, squash … But the fact that we couldn’t make enough money to sustain it meant that we had to eventually move off of it and let it go to someone else. When I drive by that property today, there’s not a farm there anymore. It’s just grass. And that’s a shame.”
To know the man just through his music means missing this socially aware side of his personality. He's eager to get back to the concert, held this year on August 13 in Kansas City, Kan. Of course, the troubadour never minds a chance to play a few covers or share songs from his double album 'The Guitar Song.' This day, however, is about more important things.
“I think it’s just good leadership,” he says when asked how musicians like himself, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp can make a difference. “One of the best lessons I learned growing up is that a leader leads by example. You can’t lead from the back telling everybody which way to. You lead from the front, showing ‘em which way to go. And that’s what Farm Aid is.”
What begins with one or two people having a great time leads to a message spread to dozens of their closest friends. Multiply that by 20,000, and you get a feel for how powerful the day-long concert can be.
“Farm Aid is not just important to me, it’s important to anybody who eats," he says.
The struggles facing American farmers are as serious today as they were when Nelson, Mellencamp and Neil Young arranged the first concert in 1985. Corporate farms are driving down prices to a point that forces local farmers to make difficult sacrifices. Johnson said he suspects loan rates will be driven up now that the country's debt crisis has been averted. This one-day concert will raise over $1.5 million to promote a resilient family farm culture. To date, Farm Aid has raised over $39 million.
“The thing you’ll see at Farm Aid is people who practice what they preach,” he says. “People who care. People who want you to see the fruits and the vegetables of their labor.”
“I think it’s going on as long as it takes to get the right results, and the right results is farmers who can actually make enough money off of their crops to continue doing it," says Johnson.
Tickets for the Farm Aid concert are available through Ticketmaster.