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Farm Aid's return to Indiana draws sellout crowd to Ruoff Music Center

Benefit concert featured John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson among others
John Mellencamp Willie Nelson
Farm Aid 2023 in Noblesville Indiana
Farm Aid 2023 in Noblesville Indiana
Farm Aid 2023 in Noblesville Indiana
Posted at 9:15 PM, Sep 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-25 08:27:04-04

NOBLESVILLE — Indiana icon John Mellencamp is one of three musicians responsible for Farm Aid's existence.

The annual benefit concert for farmers returned to Mellencamp's home state for the first time in more than 20 years.

A sellout crowd attended this year's Farm Aid at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville.

Farm Aid 2023 in Noblesville Indiana

Mellencamp and fellow Farm Aid founders Willie Nelson and Neil Young headlined the lineup, which also featured musicians such as Dave Matthews and Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir.

"This will be the first time I've played in Indiana in about 15 or 20 years," Mellencamp told the crowd before the concert. "I'm happy to have Farm Aid here."

Farm Aid drew fans not just because of the star-studded bill of musicians, but because of the cause behind the concert: protecting family farms across America.

Farm Aid 2023 in Noblesville Indiana

"It's hard for a small town farmer with 500 acres to make it," said concert attendee Mark Lindemer, who grew up on a farm in Northwest Indiana. "We feed the world in this country. We have to take of our farmers and farms and keep producing this food. Without America growing all this food, a lot of people would go hungry, and we don't want to see that happen."

The event featured food direct from farmers, including a tent of ranchers from Missouri who all wore shirts with the slogan, "Stop Factory Farms."

"Every time you take time to support a family farmer, that is an opportunity for that farmer to build something," said Rhonda Perry, who helped lead the Stop Factory Farms tent. "That means the future could look really different."

Farm Aid's first concert was in 1985 and it has raised more than $70 million for farmers since that inaugural show.

Two of the prior Farm Aid concerts happened in Indiana: Farm Aid 1990 inside the now-demolished Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis and Farm Aid 2001, which also took place at Ruoff Music Center.

Mellencamp said he's hopeful for the day where Farm Aid does not have to happen for small farmers to survive.

"I don't believe that any of us in our wildest dreams would believe that 38 years later, we would still have to need to do Farm Aid," Mellencamp said.