The Farmer Behind Woodstock

The Farmer Behind Woodstock

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Said, I'm going down to Yasgur's Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free

— Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

August 20, 2019

With the 50th anniversary of Woodstock being commemorated this month, it is of interest to note – whether you were there, wish you could have been there, or perhaps thankful that you weren't there – that, behind all the high profile rock stars and the various goings on of the half million fans in attendance, there is the story of a man and his farmland.

As recently profiled by TIME, Max Yasgur was a humble dairy farmer who agreed to host the festival on his Bethel, NY dairy farm – much to the chagrin of most of his neighbors, and despite personal views which were, in some significant respects, at odds with the hippie generation. (It was revealed years later that Yasgur was a conservative Republican who supported the Vietnam War.) But he was strongly in favor of freedom of expression and reportedly said that "if the generation gap is to be closed, we older people have to do more than we have done."

Some interesting facts about the man, his farm, and the iconic event:

  • Estimates beforehand of anywhere between 50,000 and 150,000 attendees fell far short of the actual mark, estimated at around 500,000 total over the four day festival.
  • Though reports differ, Yasgur was ultimately paid an apparent sum of $75,000 for use of his 600 acres (which includes a settlement from festival organizers to compensate him for the virtual destruction of his entire dairy farm).
  • Yasgur was sued by several of his neighbors as well, who claimed various degrees and kinds of collateral damage (including one farmer who said his cows refused to give milk due to stress caused by the nearby event).
  • Yasgur sold the farm and retired to Florida just two years after the Woodstock festival. He died of a heart attack in 1973.
  • Performers at the festival included, among many others: Jimi Hendrix; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, The Band, and the Grateful Dead.
  • A planned 50th Anniversary event at or near the original location eventually fell through, and was officially cancelled only as late as July 31, 2019.

(Sources: Time, Wikipedia)

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