In Memory of Kevin Brussell …
Organic Activist, Farmer and Researcher
Submitted by Chuck Schwab, principal at Schwab Consulting, LLC, Boscobel, WI,
and Professor Emeritus, Animal Sciences, University of New Hampshire
This senseless and tragic accident took from our earthly world a person with an undeniable, genuine and compassionate heart for humanity and a hope for a more environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly world. His energy and passion were infectious, and his calm demeanor a reflection of the true gentleman that he was. We shared similar values, but it was he, as the organic farmer and activist, that practiced and advocated daily for what he thought was right.
Recognizing his knowledge and expertise in organic agriculture, organic certification, agronomics, and mixed livestock and crop production practices, as well as his wide association with the greater organic community, the University of New Hampshire hired Kevin as the first Farm Superintendent for the Organic Dairy Research Farm, the first certified organic dairy research farm at a land grant university in the United States. As president of Ag Organics, an organic grain consulting and marketing firm, Kevin also continued to work with other clientele in organic-crop production and marketing of grains, beans, and forages.
Kevin had 34 years of organic production experience on his family's fifth generation grain and livestock farm in southeastern Illinois. Following graduation in 1976 with a B.S. degree in Zoology from Eastern Illinois University, he began his career as a grain and livestock farmer. In 1978, as a representative/dealer for the Wonder Life Corporation, he raised his first crop of organic soybeans. Finding little resource support for organic agriculture when he began, he attended many biological farming workshops and conducted extensive production research experiments on his own farm.
Kevin took leadership roles with the Illinois Sustainable Agricultural Society, the Southeastern Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Association, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. While president of the Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Society, he helped coordinate on-farm research and demonstration projects with the University of Illinois Agro Ecology Program; his farm was often used for organic farming field day demonstrations and workshops. To ensure a voice for organic and sustainable agriculture at the University of Illinois, Kevin served on the research committee for the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (CFAR), and as co-chair of the CFAR Rural Economic Development working group.
Kevin was also a founding member of the Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), a marketing agency-in-common for organic grain farmers. He served as General Marketing Director for the Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative from 2001-2002 and General Manager in 2003. Through the Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative, under OFARM (Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing), Kevin provided leadership in organic commodity crop production and sales.
To promote crop diversity, Kevin helped establish and later served as president of the Buckwheat Growers of Illinois and the Illinois Wheat Growers Association. As founding board member of the Illinois Chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), he served on and later chaired the certification committee. He became certified as an organic farm and processing inspector by the Independent Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), the only recognized inspector training organization in the U.S. at the time. He taught "Transitioning to Organics" seminars at major organic conferences such as the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference and the Indiana Horticultural Congress as well as conducting numerous workshops on organic production and marketing. Kevin also provided impetus for the formation of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA) and later served as a non-producer board member for that organization.
Kevin had an infectious enthusiasm for organics and enjoyed sharing his knowledge. He put his heart and soul into helping others to be successful. In 2008, Kevin received the Spirit of Organics Award from the Organic Trade Association, which recognized his broad influence on the expansion of organic agriculture.
Just prior to his death, Kevin accepted a position with Midwestern Bio-Ag in Blue Mounds, WI. Looking forward to being together, his wife Juli recently resigned her position as the Agricultural Program Leader for UNH Cooperative Extension in New Hampshire to become Executive Director of the Ceres Trust, a private trust that supports an organic research initiative. Together they purchased a small southwestern Wisconsin farm where Kevin could move his treasured Shorthorn cows, the genetics of which go back to the beginning of his family's involvement with their Casey, IL farm. He LOVED his cows!
Kevin will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Juli has established a scholarship fund in memory of her husband. The Kevin Brussell Scholarship Fund, set up at Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), will support beginning organic farmers. Donations may be mailed to MOSES, PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767 or submitted online at www.mosesorganic.org. Please contact Faye Jones or Nancy Frank with questions at (715) 778-5775.
For his community and his friends, there will be a celebration honoring Kevin's life at the 2012 MOSES Organic Farming Conference in February, 2012, in La Crosse, WI.