The “Farm Aid” concert tour comes to Raleigh on Saturday, Sept. 24 to raise money for struggling family farms.
In North Carolina, agriculture and agribusiness is a $92.7 billion industry that employs 17% of the state’s workforce.
The “Farm Aid/Farm Tour” bus arrived in Rougemont in northern Durham County at the Bull City Farm owned by Joseph Stirrup and Samantha Gasson.
Gasson invited the busload of advocates and others to visit a few animals the family treats like pets. “You can go in with the pigs, they’re super friendly,” said Gasson.
Gasson and her husband, Stirrup, understand that making their operation profitable requires creativity. “And we do tours – and then I teach a lot of classes. I do cheese-making,” said Gasson.
The bus tour visitors came to learn how to expand opportunity for others from all backgrounds who struggle to get started.
Ray Jeffers’ family farm started 103 years ago, and passed it down to him. “You don’t see that a lot now because there’s a huge issue with heir’s property, passing down, having that clean title,” said Jeffers.
Jeffers, who is also running for state senate, said there are huge issues around heirs’ property, “I’m at work trying to work at the federal level as well as access to credit, especially for BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) farmers.”
Gasson and her husband were able to buy their land, but she knows how hard it is to find available farm land. Some settle for short-term leases even though they need to put years into making their work pay off.
“All of that takes time, and it takes effort, and you don’t want to do it if you’ve just got a three-year lease. You need long-term leases for farmers who can lease,” said Gasson.
Now, she says, higher seed and feed prices make it harder for family farms to earn a profit. “I mean, I’m going to have to go up another dollar this year for my eggs,” said Gasson.
Farm Aid provides ways to keep family farms growing, says Joel Greeno, a Wisconsin farmer and president of “Family Farm Defenders.” He said, “It’s always a good idea to apply for that grant money and gift grants, and we can put together programs that keep farmers farming.”
Gasson understands the challenge. She said, “Everything’s a challenge, but I think farmers for the most part are, we’re resilient people and we’re small business owners, and small business owners are resilient people.”
The “Farm Aid” concert plays at the Coastal Credit Union Music Park in Walnut Creek on Saturday. It starts at 11 am and runs until midnight with a long list of rock, folk, country and bluegrass artists.