Farm Aid highlights heroic work of farm advocates

Farmers Advance

DURHAM, NC -- Honoring the work of early farm advocates, Farm Aid debuted its first documentary film, Homeplace Under Fire, at Duke University’s Griffith Film Theater tonight. The film premiere was hosted by Farm Aid co-founder and board member John Mellencamp. 

“When the Farm Crisis first happened in the 1980s, these are the people who came to the front lines and fought for their lives and their land,” said Mellencamp. “We have stood beside them for the past 32 years, and we will continue to stand with them to make sure that farm families have a chance to earn a decent living while growing good food for all of us.”

Homeplace Under Fire celebrates the farmers, farm wives and rural leaders who refused to stand by and watch their communities be destroyed during the 1980s Farm Crisis. Thousands of farmers are alive and on their land today because of these advocates.

Following the screening, Farm Aid convened a panel discussion with farmers and farm advocates about the issues raised in the film, as well as challenges that family farmers still face today. Panelists included: 

• John Mellencamp, Farm Aid, co-founder and board member

• Carolyn Mugar, Farm Aid, executive director

• Jennifer Fahy, Farm Aid, communications director

• Benny Bunting, North Carolina farm advocate

• Curtis and Valerie Byrum, North Carolina farmers

• Savi Horne, Land Loss Prevention Project, executive director

• Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International USA (RAFI), executive director

• Shirley Sherrod, Southwest Georgia Project, executive director

• Charles D. Thompson, Jr., film director and professor of the practice of cultural anthropology and documentary studies, Duke University

“These brave men and women stood up for farmers to stem the tide of the farm crisis. They’ve remained dedicated to this difficult work for more than 30 years,” said Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid. “This film honors their commitment and puts out an urgent call for a new generation of farm advocates. Unfortunately, today’s farm economy looks a lot like the one that gave rise to Farm Aid in 1985. Now, more than ever, family farmers need a strong support system and policies that encourage family farm agriculture.”

In the 1980s, ordinary Americans taught themselves extraordinary skills. They studied laws and regulations, started hotlines, answered farmers’ calls from their kitchen tables, counseled their neighbors, and went toe-to-toe with lenders—giving their all to keep their neighbors on the land. Today, farm advocates throughout the country act as referrals for farmers and ranchers who seek assistance via Farm Aid’s hotline (1-800-FARM-AID) and Farmer Resource Network ( Farm Aid’s national network of farm advocates is known as the Farm Advocate Link ( Its mission is to train, support and recruit a new generation of farm advocates in service to America’s family farmers.

Homeplace Under Fire was directed by Charles D. Thompson, Jr., and produced by Farm Aid in cooperation with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. For more information about Homeplace Under Fire and the farm advocates featured in the film, visit