Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones and the cofounder of MNN, sits down with country music star Gretchen Wilson at Farm Aid 2009 to talk about fighting childhood obesity and training the next generation of farmers. (Michael Lindsay and Nick Scott/MNN)


Chuck: I’m here backstage at Farm Aid with Gretchen Wilson who will be performing here shortly. It’s so great to have you with us. Thank you so much for joining us.
Gretchen: Absolutely.
Chuck: Well, there’s been a lot of talk today at Farm Aid about the commitment to the American farmer. I know that you have a commitment for buying organic. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing.
Gretchen: Well, I mean, it probably all started for me when a couple of years ago, I got involved in a campaign to help fight obesity in this country, and that’s when I really started to learn more about the foods and just the bad habits that we’ve set up for ourselves and that we’re teaching our children in this country. And so, the more I learned about it, the more I learned how, you know, we can help ourselves. The more I got into the organics and the small farms, and then I learned about how much, you know, it’ll help with your own community, you know, just buying locally. And so, it’s really turned in from a, you know, an obesity thing to a farming thing to an America thing, you know, really.

Chuck: All right. Well, that’s so great. And I know you do a lot of philanthropic things. I was reading a little bit about you.

Gretchen: Oh, you used a big word.

Chuck: That you’ve raised, well, I read that you have raised well over a million dollars for some of these purposes and I just want to congratulate you and thank you for that because it, it really is important. And I agree with you, don’t you think our kids these days are maybe spending a little too much time in front of the television?

Gretchen: Absolutely.

Chuck: In front of the Wii stations?
Gretchen: And I have, you know, I have an 8-year-old of my own and I watch her, and I mean, she’s so smart and I know we love to look at our children and say, “Look how smart they are and look how much they can do on a computer,” and stuff like that, and, of course, sitting still and reading, of course, is always a great thing. But we’ve lost the exercise. They’re not really moving, you know, like they used to, and they’re just eating just whatever is convenient for them and, yeah, I mean, it’s a huge problem. I mean, I’ve heard statistics about, you know, that we may be the first generation to outlive our children because of obesity. You know, this whole thing envelopes a lot more of a topic than just what we’re dealing with here today.

Chuck: Well, we want the kids eating right and we want to get them connected –

Gretchen: Absolutely.

Chuck: -- with the outdoors, and on that subject, you know, the average age of the farmer here in America is something like 60 or over 60 years old. How do you feel about, do you think we need to get our younger people more involved in agriculture and farming?
Gretchen: Absolutely. Absolutely, and, you know, I mean, I hope we haven’t lost, we’ve lost a lot of things in our educational system, you know, through the years that are no longer being taught. They’re no longer being explored, and I hope that we haven’t lost too much of that as well. And I’m afraid that if we’re not teaching it, if we’re not bringing it back into their lives every day, if we’re not sharing it with them, that they’re just not gonna learn it. There’s a lot about our history that they don’t learn anymore. You know, there’s a lot about America that goes untold nowadays and, you know, if we don’t keep, you know, what we used to do worked just fine, you know, and I mean, I remember when I was young I went outside all the time and picked blackberries off the bushes and my grandma would make pies. And we ate what we hunted, you know, and we ate what we grew. And it was just a different lifetime. It was a different way of life. It was a better way of life and, you know, I started my own little farming on my property down in Tennessee. We’ve got a greenhouse going. And to be able to take my daughter back there, you know, in that middle of the afternoon and to pick tomatoes right off of the vine, and strawberries, it’s a whole new experience for her. It’s something so simple but so healthy and so really down to earth, you know, and just, that’s part of that getting outside, getting your hands dirty and doing something other than a video game for a little while.

Chuck: Amen. What about on tour? Are you doing some things on tour to try to be eco-friendly? Are you using biodiesel or anything like that?
Gretchen: We haven’t. We haven’t. I didn’t even know about any of that. No. But I’m open to anything, you know, and we definitely use a lot of fuel. So I mean, anything that we can do we’ll do, but like, you know, I think the reason that we’re here today is to try to spread that kind of information, you know. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t even know yet, you know, and I’m learning a lot just in the last hour of being here. I’ve learned a ton of new information that I can probably use. So, it’s about spreading the word and getting people interested.

Chuck: I think that’s a great point that Farm Aid is also an opportunity for artists and farmers and, you know, regular folks to come together and just hear some of these ideas. A lot of people are hearing these ideas for the first time.

Gretchen: Yeah.

Chuck: So I think the more exposure we can give that the better.

Gretchen: Hi. I’m Gretchen Wilson and you’re watching the Mother Nature Network.

MNN homepage photo: ZUMA Press

In the Green Room: Country star Gretchen Wilson on the next generation of farmers
Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones and the cofounder of MNN, sits down with country music star Gretchen Wilson at Farm Aid 2009 to talk about fig