Farm Aid was created in 1985 by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young in order to raise money for family farmers. Nelson, Young, and Mellencamp were inspired to action after Bob Dylan called for family farm relief at that year's Live Aid. Within weeks a concert was set up for September 22, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois. The concert was played again in 1986 and 1987, before taking a year off, and picked back up again in 1989 as a tour featuring only Nelson. The concert has played annually in various cities since 1992. In 2001 Dave Matthews joined the founders on the organization's Board of Directors.
The Farm Aid organization advocates for family farms as an integral part of the communities in which they reside. According to the Farm Aid website, it provides monetary aid to family farm organizations across the United States and refers farmers to these organizations for further assistance. Farm Aid also works to advocate for government policy in favor of family farmers. During the early years, it was integral in passing the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987.