Deep the rural communities throughout Kentucky, one song could signify what is happening not only in the bluegrass state, but throughout the United States.
You can’t make a good living these days
Cause the truth just won’t sell
So if you go out my back door just over the hill
You’ll see all these plants that’s been paying my bills
But you can’t cash my checks
And you can’t feel this hunger
You can push me into the water
But you can’t hold me under
You can bring me down
But you can’t make me beg
You can take my word
But you can’t cash my checks
-“Can’t Cash My Checks” by Jamey Johnson, Jason Cope, James Otto, Shannon Lawson
Three years ago, Jamey Johnson debut “Can’t Cash My Checks” live at Farmaid. This year it seems as though Can’t Cash My Checks could very well be the theme song for farmers as many throughout the United States are getting out of the business. The high cost of living and providing for their family doing what they love has proved to be too much for some. When someone offers good cash settlement in some cases, it is easier to walk away from the family farm than try to work it out.
In Kentucky, with the tobacco buyout years ago, most farmers gave up on the cash crop. Some moved away from the farm. For others, they diversified their options by growing items such as vineyards for wine, honeybees, cattle, horses, etc. Funds from the Agriculture Development Fund helped some farmers with new opportunities beyond tobacco.
Jamey Johnson recently spoke about his involvement with Farmaid and why it is important to him. “Farmaid is not just important to me, but it is important to anybody that eats. Farmaid is set up to look out for the family farmer; the ones that actually take part of the same crop they produced for other people. They’re not just growing food to send down the line. Their family eats the same food that they sell, so they are actually looking after your health better than some other farmers that don’t eat the same crops they grow,” according to Johnson.
Farmaid was started thanks to Willie Nelson over 25 years ago. This year’s event will be held on August 13th at the LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. It will not be televised, but will broadcast live online at www.farmaid.org.
It is still evident that problems of yesteryear are still prevalent today. Corporate farming has become a way of life instead of supporting the family farmer.
For Jamey, he believes that “the right result is farmers that can actually afford to make enough money off their crops to continue to keep doing it. Right now you’ve got people filing bankruptcy and getting out of the farming business every year because they can’t seem to make any money. They’re getting squeezed out by a bigger, more financially resourceful competitor.”
Many generations have come and gone in the family farm business. “For most of these farmers, this is a trade that has been passed down from generation to generation as far back as they can remember. Everybody in their family did this for a living. This is a skill, it is an art.”
Just like farming is a skill and art form, Johnson has took to songwriting as his own personal form of art. “Songwriting is about life. It’s not just about my current life, it’s about my entire life,” Johnson recalled.
This Sunday, fans can see Jamey Johnson, along with Blackberry Smoke, at the Riverbend PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati. You never know what to expect at a Jamey Johnson concert, but you can expect a good time. To Jamey, “it’s a great deal of good music by highly trained musicians that never step back on their accomplishments. My stage is full of the best musicians I can find. We’ve got to be real close friends, as close as family over the past several years.”
Fans play a special part in his life. When describing his fans, Jamey said, “two words immediately come to mind and that’s passionate and loyal. And they get the same degree of both from me. There is a warm kindred fellowship we get together. My real fans, the ones who show up as often as several shows a year. We see the same faces. It’s good to see them. Every time I step out on a stage I look out there across the crowd and I see a couple of smiling faces that I’ve seen several times a year for the past 5 or 6 years or so. I can’t tell you what that means to me. It’s very important. It’s very soothing just to know they’re still there.”
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.