U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday awarded Willie Nelson the 2011 Vermont Free Spirit Award.
The senator made the presentation during a weekend concert by the country music legend at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, Vt.
The award was given to Nelson "in honor of your tireless support of our nation's family farmers, and in honor of the genuine, inspiring spirit of freedom with which you live your life and create your music."
The plaque said the award was presented "on behalf of the people of our independent state, WBKM Radio, The Farm Aid Vermont Committee and United States Senator Bernie Sanders."
Sanders and others who met with Nelson before the concert invited him to stage his annual Farm Aid concert in Vermont during the summer of 2012 to help preserve family farms and to celebrate Vermont's agriculture heritage.
"Willie Nelson has been a great supporter of family farmers in Vermont," said Sanders. "Willie Nelson is an American hero. In addition to being one of the great entertainers of our time, he has been a leading supporter of family farmers in Vermont and across the nation."