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Farm Aid Returns To Burgettstown, Spotlights The Hard Work Of Pa. Growers

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BURGETTSTOWN, Pa. (KDKA) -- John Mellencamp grew up amidst the corn fields of Seymour, Indiana, and Willie Nelson in rural Abbot, Texas. So their roots are in the soil of the American farmer; and clearly, so are their hearts.

Once again, they are donating their time and talents for the 33rd year to Farm Aid. This year, they return to Burgettstown at the KeyBank Pavilion for the first time since 2002.

Along with fellow founder Neil Young, it is their annual effort to grab the nation's attention to say that those suffering in this country are not just in the cities.

"Sometimes we have to bring people out of those city limits, and say there are people suffering in these areas, too," says Jennifer Fahy, Farm Aid's director of communications.

Since 1985, the goal of saving the family farm has never wavered. More than $50 million has been raised, and today goes into support for regional organizations that work directly to help local farmers.

Fahy says Farm Aid has become a year-round resource.

"We run our farmer hotline and farm's resource center, so we're connecting with farmers constantly," she said.

When Farm Aid 2017 settled on Burgettstown, Associate Director Glenda Yoder says the staff immediately turned its attention to the rural landscape of the region, "and began exploring ways we could include farmers into this concert event."

The region is rich with possibilities, which is evident in the produce isles of Giant Eagle this time of year. The grocery chain brings in fresh products from 20 local farms and give them an outlet for their goods.

At Farm Aid, many of those local farmers' stories will be told, and the results of their toiling in the soil will become part of the menu items for the crowd at the concert.

Chef Sara Jordan is overseeing the menu.

"It is really fun as chefs to work at this level, where we can interact with the farmer," she said. "We ask them, 'What do you have that is showing best, and what can we do to help you promote your product?' And its fun for us to find ways to use those things in our menu."

All over KeyBank Pavilion, the "homegrown" theme is on display from those who grow it, to those who get it to the table.

Mike Sturges' "A Few Bad Apples" from Stanton Heights will be pressing the apples from local farms into cider. He loves what the day is all about for the local farmers.

"It helps give them a little more exposure and growth so they can be more successful," Sturges says.

Chef Jordan and her staff say the local produce they've been working with looks great. They should know because they are seeing a lot of it.

Jordan says, "We will be serving about 25,000, and since it's an all-day event, they will be eating more than one meal."

The weather looks ideal, the music will fill the air from just after noon until Willie strums his last chord, but the impact on the farmers will echo for some time to come.

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