Max Yasgur’s farm, made famous by the Joni Mitchell song (which most folks know in the CSNY version) is on the market. Its current owner is tired of fighting the local “powers that be” over use of the property for anniversary concerts.
The figure who’s lost in all this is NY dairy farmer Max Yasgur, who agreed to rent his alfalfa field (now no longer part of the farm) to those Young Men With Unlimited Capital so they could have their rock concert back in 1969 – and make cultural history in the process.
When the Young Men – John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Micheal Lang – tried to get permits to stage a rock “festival” (an idea borrowed from Monterrey Pop, ultimately), the village of Wallkill, NY, said “NO.” (They were equivocal in their permission originally – until they came to see such a festival as evil incarnate coming to town with big amps). The Woodstock organizers seemed stymied.
Enter Max Yasgur.
Max was an independent, crusty old codger who took a liking to the four fast talking, well heeled festival planners. He agreed to let them rent his alfalfa field near Bethel, NY. He asked for a stiff price once he found out the possible size of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival: Three Days of Peace and Music. But he staunchly supported the crowds of kids who came to his alfalfa field to hear The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe, and the others who gained a kind of immortality as a result of Woodstock.
Max Yasgur’s speech to the crowd can be repeated (at least in part) by almost everyone who has ever seen the film made about the Woodstock festival:
“I’m a farmer…(interrupted by a cheer from the audience)…I don’t know how to speak to twenty people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world â€” not only to the Town of Bethel, or Sullivan County, or New York State; you’ve proven something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We have had no idea that there would be this size group, and because of that you’ve had quite a few inconveniences as far as water, food, and so forth. Your producers have done a mammoth job to see that you’re taken care of… they’d enjoy a vote of thanks. But above that, the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids â€” and I call you kids because I have children that are older than you are â€” a half million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music, and I – God Bless You for it!”
Max died less than four years later – and his farm has been broken up and sold off. What’s for sale is only a small part of the original farm where the festival happened all those years ago. But no matter how often it changes hands, for the Woodstock nation, it’ll always be “Yasgur’s Farm.” As Joni observed:
We are stardust,(we are a billion year old carbon)
we are golden (caught in some devil’s bargain)
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
To some semblance of a garden.
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