Willie Nelson to host virtual 'Farm Aid' benefit concert with Neil Young, John Mellencamp amid coronavirus

For the first time in its 35-year history, Farm Aid — the annual benefit concert which helps raise funds for local U.S. farmers — will not take place at an outdoor venue, but online as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has put heavy restrictions on mass gatherings worldwide.

Through the power of the internet, longtime director and performer Willie Nelson will host Farm Aid’s debut digital event, called “At Home with Farm Aid,” this Saturday, with the help of his two sons, Lukas and Micah Nelson.

As well as Nelson, 86, board directors Neil YoungJohn Mellencamp and Dave Matthews will take part in the livestream to perform for viewers from the comfort of their own homes while in self-quarantine, as confirmed by Farm Aid on Wednesday.

“COVID-19 pandemic is creating extreme challenges and uncertainty for all of us,” wrote the organization in another statement seeking donations, “but our essential food producers and workers are doing their part by growing the good food we need for every meal,” they added.

On the public health crisis, the On the Road Again singer said “On the Farm Aid stage last September, my friend and fellow board member John Mellencamp said, ‘Be hopeful about, have faith in and be grateful for right now; the miracle of life is in the dirt under our farmers’ fingernails,'” in a statement provided to Rolling Stone.

He continued: “He was right and I’m so grateful for the farmers, ranchers and farmworkers who are on the frontlines sustaining all our communities. Now, more than ever, stay strong and positive.”


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“Farm Aid at Home” will be the second event Nelson will have presented during the fight against the novel coronavirus.

On March 19, the country legend hosted “Luck Presents: ‘Til Further Notice,” which treated viewers to a variety of performances by Young, Paul Simon, Randy House, Lucinda Williams and Margo Price among many others.

The virtual event seemingly inspired the likes of many COVID-19-era fundraisers including Elton John‘s “Living Room Concert” and the upcoming “One World: Together at Home” concert — which was announced by Lady Gaga, Global Citizen and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.

Whether Farm Aid will return in the fall for its annual outdoor concert is currently unclear — however traditionally, the show occurs only once per year.

With the exception of 1988 and 1991, the benefit show has taken place every year since 1985, making 2020 the 35th anniversary.


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“At Home with Farm Aid” will stream live this Saturday (April 11) at 8 p.m. ET through farmaid.org.

For additional details and information, you can visit the official Farm Aid website.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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