It began rooted and grounded, the way that any good tour should be, one with the intent of raising awareness about the American farmer. Now entering its 10th year, the annual multi-state Luke Bryan Farm Tour has become one of the most anticipated events each harvest season and has, quite literally, helped feed millions of people.
And, in some of these small communities, it’s the kind of event that causes schools to close early and football games to be moved from Friday night to Saturday night.
“I never expected anything in my life to last 10 years,” Bryan said with a laugh to AGDAILY. “The main thing with us, we’ve always tried to come up with fun ideas and let the music dictate our tours. So the fact that we’ve been able to do this and grow this for 10 years, and each year find a special way to reinvent it and to grow it” is something to be proud of.
He does enjoy keeping things interesting. In an interview Tuesday, Bryan said, “I do have some special guests coming out in Georgia and Iowa that you’ll hear about. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet.”
In recent years, Bayer has teamed up with this concert series and its Here’s To The Farmer campaign, which asks Bryan’s fans across the country to give thanks to American farmers while also helping hungry Americans by using the #HeresToTheFarmer hashtag on social media. Every time that hashtag is used, a meal is donated, and each year, the number of donated meals has grown, with last year topping 1 million. This year, the target is again 1 million meals for families, while also donating $12,000 to the local food banks in the tour stop areas. In addition, Bayer and Bryan will be honoring a local farmer on stage during each concert.
Honoring farmers in front of the audience “was one of my first visions for Farm Tour,” Bryan said. “The way that on the Fourth of July you want to bring veterans and soldiers on stage to honor them, I just wanted to go the extra mile and give a round of applause to celebrate the farmers.”
This is a campaign that keeps getting stronger and stronger each year, a testament to the impact that Bryan has had and how galvanizing this campaign is in the food and agriculture community.
“We started our vision for Farm Tour, and then when we were able to work with Bayer, it went to a completely different level. The fact we’ve been able to provide scholarships and help to feed Americans, and then have a concert in these rural areas that wouldn’t necessarily get a concert otherwise, it’s been sensory overload. … It’s one of the most exciting aspects of our year.”
The concert series is raw — Bryan and his crew are out in hay fields, breathing in dust, getting dirty and sometimes muddy. It’s difficult but it absolutely captures how Bryan maintains his connection to the farm. And he’s lucky that he’s been able to keep it going for a full decade.
“This is a big undertaking. It’s a big ask when you ask a farmer if we can bring 15,000 or 20,000 people to their land, and when they sign on for that, we want to honor them and show our respect and appreciation,” he said.
Though the Farm Tour primarily remains in the Southeast (Bryan is a Georgia native) and the Midwest, the specific sites change year to year. It’s a fresh way to connect with an audience that doesn’t necessarily get to see a big-name performer show up in their backyard too often.
“No matter whether I’m on Farm Tour or at a big football stadium,” Bryan said, “I try to go out there with the same mentality. I try to perform my shows like Elvis is watching.”
This year, the tour is visiting six farms:
- Sept. 27: Ayars Family Farm, Irwin, Ohio
- Sept. 28: Atkins Farm, Pesotum, Illinois
- Sept. 29: Ziel Farm, Boone, Iowa
- Oct. 4: Whitehurst Cattle Company, Archer, Florida
- Oct. 5: Misty Morning Farms, North Augusta, South Carolina
- Oct. 6: Doug Yates Farms, Ringgold, Georgia.
Bryan and his band love the vibe of these kinds of small towns, and through the years, they’ve used these destinations to draw inspiration from.
“We hold up on the bus and try and write songs,” he said. “We’ve had some really, really amazing success writing on Farm Tour. It’s really something that through the years that’s become a tradition of ours.”
And for everyone whose school closes to make way for Luke Bryan and his crew, we’re sorry to break it to you, but there’s always a makeup day later on.
Ryan Tipps is the managing editor for AGDAILY. He has covered farming since 2011, and his writing has been honored by state- and national-level agricultural organizations.