In September 2023, SiX brought a cohort of Midwestern legislators to the Farm Aid 2023, the annual music festival held since 1985 to support family farmers. This year’s festival took place in Noblesboro, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. Our cohort featured seven legislators from five states, and included several agriculture committee chairs.
SiX Legislator Cohort at Farm Aid 2023 in Indianapolis, IN. From left to right: IA Representative Elizabeth Olsen, IL Representative Sonya Harper, IN Senator Shelli Yoder, MI Representative Emily Dievendorf, MI Senator Sue Shink, IA Representative J.D. Scholten, OH Representative Juanita Brent.
Ahead of the festival, the group joined more than 200 farmers, fishermen, and farm advocates for two days of farm tours and discussions about the state of farm policy in the Midwest and across the nation. Legislators came away with concrete solutions, especially on how state agriculture policies can effectively address water quality, the climate crisis, and racial inequity in the farm and food system.
Legislators participated in a variety of activities including:
- Tours of urban and rural farms that practice regenerative farming methods to build soil, sequester carbon, feed their communities, and more.
- Hearing from family farmers, ranchers, and fishermen at a “People’s Hearing on the Farm Bill,” about the impact of federal and state policy on their businesses, communities, and livelihoods.
Cohort members were also highlighted in Farm Aid media:
- Rep. Sonya Harper (IL) spoke on the FarmYard stage with singer/songwriter and long-time Farm Aid headliner Nathaniel Ratliff – and he featured her on his social media!
- Sen. Shelli Yoder (IN) and Rep. Juanita Brent (OH) were invited backstage to be interviewed on Sirius XM about working on agriculture, food, and rural policy in their states.
The legislators came away from the weekend inspired, energized, and with a new understanding of the impact of farm policy.
“I feel like my whole life has changed!” said one cohort member, talking about the impact of connecting personally with farmers and advocates, three days of conversation and idea generation with other aligned legislators, and the chance to learn and vision in a relaxed and enjoyable space. Farmers, fishermen, and farmer advocates in attendance told us again and again how glad they were that the legislators were there, saying how rare it was to be able to connect on a human level with policymakers and sharing their excitement to build deeper relationships.
SiX believes that when state legislators and advocacy communities have the opportunity to meet and build trust together, it leads to building powerful learning and strategy together – this is the basis of transformative co-governance. We look forward to continuing to create those opportunities in 2024 and beyond.
Farm Aid 2024 will be in late September, though we do not yet know further details. Keep your eyes peeled for more information!