ST. LOUIS — About 21,000 concertgoers are expected to attend Farm Aid in suburban St. Louis on Oct. 4, but organizers note there are plenty of other events planned where the public can learn more about agricultural issues.
The concert is the centerpiece: it was announced Friday that country star Gretchen Wilson will join a lineup that already includes Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and others. The artists all perform for free at the charity concert, even paying their own travel expenses.
But elsewhere in the region, agriculture will be a weekend focus. On Oct. 3, an "urban country fair" will be held during the Tower Grove Farmers' Market in St. Louis. There, workshops and exhibits will be presented on everything from beekeeping to home brewing to butter making.
"It's about crafts and arts that bring people back to their food," said Farm Aid spokeswoman Jennifer Fahy by telephone from the organization's Somerville, Mass., headquarters.
Two area farmers will hold a cook-off at 11 a.m. at the Taste of St. Louis that same morning. The Missouri Rural Crisis Center, other organizations and farmers will discuss ways to better support the family-farm food system at 5 p.m. on Oct. 3 at First Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.
A "Farm Aid Eve" dinner and performances will then be held at 7:30 p.m. nearby at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant and concert space. Tickets are at farmaid.org/eve.
Gates to the concert itself open at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 4, and the show will run until about 10 p.m. While the more established names on the bill perform at the end of the night, they often collaborate with other artists throughout the day. "They just wing it, and they sound amazing," Fahy said.
Concertgoers are asked to bring nonperishable food with them, to be donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry and the St. Louis Area Foodbank. They can learn about farming, environmental protections and alternative fuels at a Homegrown Village on site. Food from farms also is available at the venue, as varied as family-farm-grown pork chops and organic funnel cakes.
Organizers also note that DirecTV satellite television will broadcast the show live at 4 p.m. and is matching the first $50,000 its customers donate through Oct. 31.