Max Yasgur, the Farmer Behind Woodstock

One of the important people of the rock era, Max Yasgur, was born to Jewish immigrants from Russia on December 15 in 1919. Yasgur’s place in rock history came nearly five decades later. He was the owner of the dairy farm that hosted the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, which was held between August 15 and August 18, 1969.

After other towns in upstate New York rejected the idea of hosting the festival, Yasgur leased a field in Bethel, New York to the concert organizers. The 49-year-old farmer was paid for the lease. But he also proved his generosity.

When Yasgur saw that such a large number of kids showed up for the concert, he worked to make sure there was enough free water. Also, he told his own kids to give away all of his milk and dairy products to feed the concert-goers.

At one point during the concert, Yasgur addressed the crowd. He began by saying “I am a farmer.” Then, he explained he did not know how to address a crowd of young people. But as you may see in the video below, he did.

Many of Yasgur’s neighbors were angry at him for allowing his land to be used for the concert. Some of them sued him. And his own land suffered damage from the concert.

In 1971, Yasgur sold his land and moved to Florida. A year and a half later on February 9, 1973, he died due to a heart condition. But as Brian Doyle recently wrote in “The Sudden City” in the April 2016 issue of The Sun magazine, “Max had a great heart.” Doyle uses Yasgur’s acts of generosity to remind us in today’s cynical world that there are people everywhere doing good things to help others.

Yasgur’s kindness reminds us to be nice to others. On top of that, he also helped set the table for a concert that emerged as a symbol of people coming together in peace and love.

There was great music. But as Doyle writes, “perhaps the deeper story, the better story, the more substantive story, is how a sudden city of young Americans arose briefly on a hillside for one summer weekend, and no one got beaten up, and hundreds of people . . . handed out water and sandwiches and blankets.”

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