Farm Aid 2005: One Sweet World
September 18th, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times - by Dave Hoekstra
Willie Nelson has been on the road again and again on behalf of Farm Aid. Someday that road will end, which is why Dave Matthews has become a key member of the Farm Aid Board of Directors. Advertisement
Matthews and his wife Ashley were more than welcoming to myself and photographer Paul Natkin last spring when we visited their home in Seattle for the book Farm Aid: A Song for America (Rodale, $35, hardcover). In the course of a three-hour conversation in their backyard, Ashley (granting her first print interview ever) and Dave were deeply articulate and highly educated about eco-farm issues. Matthews is clearly in for one long haul, which makes for "One Sweet World" for the American family farmer.
Dave Matthews and his wife, Ashley Harper, live in a modest frame home on the outskirts of downtown Seattle. It is an old house full of young ideas. Their front yard is surrounded by a brown fence made from recycled Douglas fir. The timber came from the floor of a nearby 1910 school building. There are still lessons to be learned here.
A Farm Aid board member since 2001, Matthews is a deeply thoughtful voice for his agricultural beliefs. In February 2002, he purchased five farms of the University of Virginia's treasured Kluge property. He has preserved agriculture and forest land on the 1,261 acres, with an emphasis on organic farming and supporting local farmer/food consumer relationships. Harper is studying for her doctorate in naturopathic medicine (natural and nontoxic therapies) at Bastyr University, north of Seattle. Bastyr is one of the world's leading academic centers in natural health sciences.
Harper and Matthews have twin daughters, Grace and Stella. They were born a month before 9/11. The future is forever precious. The family eats organic. Matthews and Harper drive fuel-efficient cars, and as much as possible they walk to destinations. They buy recycled products. Harper designed a laminated chart on recycling methods that she posted on the refrigerator door. The family walks the walk.