Kevin Brussell, 56, a long time organic activist, researcher and working organic farmer, was tragically killed on Saturday, June 11. Kevin’s wife, Juli, has established a scholarship fund in memory of her husband. The scholarship fund will support beginning farmers.

Kevin was the superintendent of Organic Dairy Research at the University of New Hampshire, overseeing the first working organic dairy farm at a land grant University. Through the Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative, under OFARM (Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing), Kevin provided leadership in the volatile area of organic commodity crop production and sales. Kevin received the Spirit of Organic Award from the Organic Trade Association in 2008, recognizing his broad influence on the expansion of organic agriculture.

Kevin Brussell had thirty years of organic production experience on his family’s fifth generation grain and livestock farm in southeastern Illinois. 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. He served as president of Ag Organics. He also helped coordinate on-farm research and demonstration projects with the University of Illinois Agro Ecology Program, and was a part of the research committee for the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (CFAR), and co-chair of the CFAR Rural Economic Development working group.

Promoting crop diversity, Kevin helped to establish and was elected 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 chaired, the certification committee. He became a certified organic farm and processing inspector, and has taught “Transitioning to Organics” seminars at major organic conferences across the country. Kevin provided impetus for the formation of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA), then 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.

Kevin will be missed throughout the organic community and we all extend sympathy to the Brussell family for their tragic loss. At the 2012 MOSES upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference, there will be a celebration honoring Kevin’s life.

Kevin’s wife, Juli, has established a scholarship fund in memory of her husband. The Kevin Brussell Scholarship Fund will support beginning organic farmers. Donations may be mailed to MOSES, PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767 or online at www.mosesorganic.org. Contact Faye Jones or Nancy Frank (nancy@mosesorganic.org) with questions (715) 778-5775.

E-mails of condolences for Kevin’s wife, Juli, can be sent to: juli.brussell@gmail.com

Eulogy to Kevin Brussell
by Nick Maravell, a friend of Kevin’s and current member of the National Organic Standards Board

I first met Kevin over a decade ago—the passion, the determination, the sense of justice, the willingness to lead selflessly—a man at ease with the world, but not satisfied until he could leave it a better place. Gathered here, we are the celebration, the tribute to that drive— his life’s work tragically, ironically ended on the home farm.

He touched many people’s lives. That we, his friends and beloveds, will miss him deeply is assured. And now the others will never experience his commitment to the farming community, to organic agriculture, to rural America—to a better future for our nation.

Kevin and I, and later his wife Julie, were pulled together by unstoppable natural forces—a vision for a just and sustainable agriculture. A vision Kevin could not only ably articulate and exemplify, but from which he could inspire, lead, and cooperatively build.

A serious man, yes. One who commanded, but also gave, respect. But I remember most fondly the personal side. You could count on Kevin in time of need. If you had Kevin with you, by golly, you could really make a go it—whatever “it” was.

But I cannot remember laughing so hard, often at myself, as I did with Kevin. He would let you into his very personal world view, sharing his observations and amazing insights. We could talk for hours about the future of agriculture and who was doing what and where all this was leading. He was at the same time hopeful and realistic.

Kevin and I shared many experiences. We met over the issue of securing our fair share of organic research funding. Now with almost $50 million in Federal organic research funds—unimaginable just a few years ago–we can appreciate Kevin’s contribution that effort.
Kevin’s desire to get a fair price for the organic farmer led us down a common road to bring farmers together to act cooperatively. We supported each other, sharing our successes and our frustrations, joining forces where we could. Today many farmers do not know they are reaping the benefits of Kevin’s work.

Kevin’s determination to get a fair deal for organic and sustainable family farms has led many farmers to participate at the Federal level. Sustainable family operations are now a force to contend with in the Farm Bill and other legislation.

In all these cases, Kevin was motivated to achieve fairness with and for his fellow farmers.
But what I will miss the most is the farming we shared–separated by 600 miles—both of us right off of Interstate 70. “Corn went in late this year…What do you hear about the South American bean harvest….What are you getting for first cut alfalfa?…Any signs of soybean aphid?… “

Kevin yet draws me to him, just like he did that first day–his inviting smile, the spark in his gaze, his dry humor, his confident passion. He has drawn all of us together. I hope we can take up the challenge that he leaves us—to keep alive that passion for justice and fairness.

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