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Indiana to host Farm Aid benefit concert for third

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Farm Aid 2023

Farm Aid founders, from left, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young will perform as part of the annual fundraising concert Sept. 23 at Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville. (Photo provided by Farm Aid)

Ruoff Music Center will be the site of this year’s Farm Aid benefit concert, which is returning to the Noblesville amphitheater for the first time since 2001.

Farm Aid founders Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp are scheduled to perform Sept. 23, joined by fellow Farm Aid board members Dave Matthews and Margo Price. The roster of performers includes Grateful Dead founding member Bob Weir and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.

The fundraising event that debuted in Champaign, Illinois, in 1985 is designed to support family farmers with an emphasis on regenerative, organic and sustainable farming practices to address climate change, organizers said as part of Tuesday’s announcement of the multi-act concert.

“Family farmers have the solutions to some of our toughest challenges,” Nelson said in a provided statement. “As we face a changing climate, farmers in Indiana, across the Midwest and all over the country are farming in ways that create more resilient farms to build healthy soils and protect our water.”

Tickets, priced from $75 to $315, go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at livenation.com.

The 2001 edition of Farm Aid was staged at Ruoff Music Center (then called the Verizon Wireless Music Center) on Sept. 29, just 18 days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Matthews performed for the first time as a member of Farm Aid’s board. In addition to performances by Nelson, Young and Mellencamp, the lineup included the Doobie Brothers, Martina McBride, Arlo Guthrie and Susan Tedeschi.

In 1990, a massive edition of Farm Aid was staged at the RCA Dome in downtown Indianapolis. In addition to performances by Nelson, Young and Mellencamp, the lineup included Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Crosby Stills & Nash, Lou Reed, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, Dwight Yoakam, Alan Jackson, Iggy Pop and Jackson Browne.

This year’s Farm Aid will mark Young’s first in-person participation since 2019. The 2020 edition was presented in an online format because of the pandemic, and Young skipped the 2021 show in Hartford, Connecticut, and the 2022 show in Raleigh, North Carolina, because of pandemic precautions.

Two of Nelson’s sons, Lukas and Micah, will perform as part of the Ruoff show. Lukas is leader of Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, while Micah performs as Particle Kid. Willie Nelson celebrated his 90th birthday in April.

Mellencamp, the Seymour native who issued a studio album titled “Orpheus Descending” in June, last appeared on an Indianapolis stage when he performed during Jim Irsay’s free all-star concert in September 2022 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Matthews, who will perform with guitarist Tim Reynolds, led the Dave Matthews Band across two shows at Ruoff earlier this summer.

Price, an Illinois native who issued an album titled “Strays” in January, became a Farm Aid board member in 2021.

Weir visited Ruoff on June 27 for a Dead & Company show that was part of the band’s farewell tour. At Farm Aid, he will lead a band billed as Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros featuring the Wolfpack.

Farm Aid organizers have long criticized the rise of “factory farms,” or concentrated animal feeding operations. Since 1987, the number of farms in Indiana has decreased from 70,000 to 54,800, according to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. The average size of an Indiana farm increased from 229 acres in 1987 to 270 acres in 2022.

“We are honored and excited to bring the Farm Aid experience back to Indiana,” Mellencamp said in a provided statement. “My home state holds deep meaning for me and for the generations of family farmers who have dedicated their lives to caring for the Earth and bringing us good food.”

The full artist lineup for Farm Aid 2023:

  • Willie Nelson
  • Neil Young
  • John Mellencamp
  • Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds
  • Margo Price
  • Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros featuring the Wolfpack
  • Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
  • Lukas Nelson
  • Allison Russell
  • The String Cheese Incident
  • Particle Kid
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