The Farm Aid contest is now CLOSED, and we have our lucky winners. Congratulations to Darrell and Jennifer Hathaway of Kansas (below) who will attend the Farm Aid Concert!

In 1985, thousands of small family farms in America were on the brink of collapse, pushed into foreclosure by the crushing debts they had incurred trying to compete with the growing force of industrialized agriculture.

That year, during the Live Aid concert, Willie Nelson listened as Bob Dylan wondered aloud whether some of the money they raised could help support American farmers. It planted a seed in Nelson’s mind, and just six weeks later — after some calls to fellow musicians — the first Farm Aid concert took place in Illinois, raising $7 million.

This fall, Farm Aid will get back to its Midwest roots when it hits St. Louis, Mo., to raise a fresh round of funds for the farmers who protect our soil, air, water and biodiversity while also producing high-quality, healthy food for us all.

The concert will feature Nelson and fellow Farm Aid cofounders Neil Young and John Mellencamp along with Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, Wilco, Jamey Johnson and Phosphorescent. Additional performers will be announced in the coming weeks.

Since its inception, Farm Aid has raised nearly $35 million to promote a strong family farm system of agriculture by providing direct support to farmers, fostering demand among the public for fresh local food from family farms and providing grants to organizations that promote fair farm policies.

Farm Aid staff help family farmers make the transition to more sustainable farming practices, which can also be more profitable. They’re also helping to fuel the demand for organic, responsibly produced food through the Good Food Movement, which helps connect consumers with farmers markets and local farm stands.

MNN’s own cofounder, tree farmer Chuck Leavell, was at the very first Farm Aid concert playing with Brian Setzer. He had recorded on Setzer’s first solo record, The Knife Feels Like Justice, and was excited to take part in the event — especially when he got to meet one of his favorite performers, Joni Mitchell.

“It was a wonderful atmosphere ... everyone involved was quite proud to be there to help the farmers of our country. Don’t forget that this was in the mid-80s when a lot of farmers couldn’t pay their debts and were being foreclosed on. It was incredible lineup ... and I recall Joni Mitchell was there. I’ve always been a huge fan, and while I hardly ever get nervous meeting people, I was extremely nervous to meet her.”

“My wife, Rose Lane, was with me at the time and insisted that I meet her. She literally dragged me over to where Joni was sitting at a table outdoors with her husband at the time, Larry Kline. I nearly melted meeting her ... but she was very kind and put me at ease. I met several other of the performers ... Neil Young, Willie, Don Henley and more. It was a very casual concert, lots of fun.”

Farm Aid 2009 will take place on Oct. 4 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis. Visit for tickets, updates, concert gear and more.

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Click here to read the rules and learn more about how to win the pair of Lower Center tickets.