The benefits of Farm Aid hit close to home

Willie Nelson had a great idea in 1985.

He, Neil Young and John Mellencamp were the musicians behind the first Farm Aid, an American concert modeled after Live Aid that would serve to benefit the American farmer. The event continues to assist farmers around the nation who struggle with the financial uncertainty that goes hand in hand with the second oldest profession. During its run, Farm Aid has included hundreds of roots and rock musicians every year on stages around the country.

While Farm Aid has helped the plight of the American farmer on a national level, many still struggle, and many are right here in La Plata County.

On Sunday, The Lost Dog will put on a local version of Farm Aid, a benefit to help a local family whose farm is facing some financial woes. While this event has absolutely no tie to the national event or organization that puts on Farm Aid, there are similarities in that a family farm needs help, and some good people along with a few musicians are providing that help. Nelson won’t be present, but Vince Herman will, along with local old-time band The Six Dollar String Band.

It’s an event put together by Linda Illsley from Linda’s Local Food Cafe, nee Cocina Linda, who is just trying to help her friends. Food from the family’s farm was served at Cocina Linda, but she’s more than a customer, she’s a friend of the family who doesn’t want to see another farm go belly-up. (The family has asked that their name not be printed for legal reasons.)

This benefit is certainly more than your average concert, but it’s also a chance to see a Durango New-Grass favorite in an intimate setting.

Herman remains the jovial front-man of both Great American Taxi and Leftover Salmon. Fans of both bands know the Nederland resident as the life of the musical party; the animated, parade-leading guitar player is always ready for nonsense and hilarity in whatever form it comes, always eager for late-night picking around the campfire wherever his tour schedule takes him. But as a solo artist, as he will be Sunday, Herman is a conscious folk singer, armed with a quiver of songs and between-tune banter that’s both funny and insightful. His solo outings are rare, with his last local solo show coming in January 2003 at the Durango Arts Center.

As a Woody Guthrie fan, advocate and bearer of the late activist and musicians torch, he’s all about doing the right thing for the working man or woman.

The Six Dollar String band is coming off a busy summer. The old-time quartet has been a regular on the Durango street and park circuit, with a few random shows at the Durango Farmers Market and some appearances at fundraisers around town.

They’ll perform in October at the Henry Strater Theatre as part of the Durango Heritage Celebration and also will be the house band at Studio & for a run of winter concerts at the Main Avenue arts collective.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at