Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for The Rolling Stones and the cofounder of MNN, interviews the legendary Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 2009 about local farmers and his biodiesel plant in Texas. (Michael Lindsay and Nick Scott/MNN)

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Chuck: Willie, thanks again for joining us at the Mother Nature Network Farm Aid 24 here, and, wow, man. What do you think in terms of how we’re doing for the American farmer?
Willie: Well, you know, there’s a positive and a negative and actually the negative is we are still here 24 years and still need a good farm bill. And the positive is we’re still here after 24 years and we still want a farm bill. Right?

Chuck: Right. Well, it was so great today talking to some of the farmers involved and see the deep passion that they have for what they’re doing and there was a lot of discussion today about local markets, about growing food for local markets and selling them locally. I think that’s a really good, positive step. Don’t you?

Willie: That’s the key. It’s the simple key to, well, when we start taking care of ourselves and the people around us, well, then, you know, that’s number one and you can do that by finding you some farmers out here in your area who grow your breakfast and your lunch and your dinner for you. You’ll have great healthy food and you’ll be helping him. The money stays in the community. You haven’t had to bring the stuff in from a thousand miles away, pay all the expenses for transportation, plus the pollution of the air with transporting it in. There’s just so many positives about growing it over here and bringing it over here and eating it.

Chuck: It makes perfect sense. Doesn’t it?

Willie: Yeah.

Chuck: Tell me how the efforts in the biodiesel are going. That’s another thing that I think that you’ve brought a lot of attention to that’s such a positive step for America to help get away from the dependence of foreign oil and include some other alternative energies.

Willie: Well, it’s true. More and more people are being conscious of the fact that there is another way. That we can grow our own fuel, as well as our own food. We can keep from going around the world looking for energy when we have enough here at home.

Chuck: Absolutely. I’m sure you agree that includes the discussion of wind energy, solar energy, and while we’re talking about farmers and growing commodities like soybeans and corn to make ethanol but also biofuels.

Willie: Biodiesel, yeah.

Chuck: Using cellulosic materials to do the same thing.

Willie: Yeah. We’ve built a sort of a prototype, an example of what we think should be and can be done. It’s a place called Carl’s Corner, Texas, and there is, it’s right on Interstate 35 between Dallas and Waco, and it’s a truck stop 24 hours and next to it we built a biodiesel plant. So, we get the feedstock from the area from cotton seed or the local restaurants and we make the fuel. We pump it under the ground just a few feet to the truck stop and we sell it to the truckers coming in. We blend it right there.

Chuck: That’s fabulous.

Willie: And I would like to see one of those every two or 300 miles.

Chuck: Absolutely. Yeah. All over the country would be great. Wouldn’t it?

Chuck: Yeah. With that, I want to thank you on behalf of the farmers across America because I am one and you’ve done so much for music and so much for farmers.

Willie: Where’s your farm? Chuck: Our place is in central Georgia. It’s right in the middle of the state below Macon. Willie: What do you grow down there? Chuck: We grow trees. We are tree farmers. We’re growing wood for America. Willie: Good for you. Chuck: And focusing on that. That’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in biofuels. Willie: Sure. Chuck: To use the cellulosic material to make some of this fuel that we’re talking about. And also for electrical generation and so forth. Willie: Yeah. There’s really no need for us to have to go anywhere for energy in this country. We have, I was telling today we have enough hot air in Texas to energize the world. Chuck: Oh, man. Well, listen, thanks again for being with us and for all that you’re doing.

Willie: Great. Hi, Willie Nelson and you’re watching the Mother Nature Network.

MNN homepage photo: ZUMA Press
In the Green Room: Willie Nelson at Farm Aid
Video: Chuck interviews the legendary Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 2009.