Gerald “Jerry” Brunetti, December 28, 1950 – December 20, 2014
By William G. Winter, D.V.M.
He was far better than he ever needed to be. Perhaps better than anyone else we had ever seen. Of course, we thought it would just go on forever with Jerry. It was nearly thirty years ago when I first encountered him at one of our first American holistic veterinary conferences. “Who is this guy?” we wondered aloud. Here was this black-haired Italian-American guy, talking at us, talking fast, talking, well, like some kind of East Coast gangster… but we listened and we learned. The wisdom he’d found and was relaying to us was like stepping into the light for the first time. It was our first taste of Jerry Brunetti. Then, as the years began to roll along we joined his flock. We grew with him.
Many years prior to our fortuitous meeting, Jerry’s personal journey with livestock and animal health had begun when he became disenchanted with the more-or-less standard education in agriculture that he was receiving at North Carolina State University. Then one day he wandered into a used bookstore and, under a pile of dust, he unearthed an ancient copy of Louis Bromfield’s forgotten agricultural masterpiece, Malabar Farms. This was the man who had turned a thousand acres of land so worn out and abused it wouldn’t even grow weeds into a veritable garden of Eden. Now, this was news! But it was old, and yet, somehow the land grant colleges had turned their noses up at what had truly worked. Reading this book led Jerry to the other books by Bromfield and he was able to learn and then master the basic agricultural principles that led to fertility, production and restoration of the land.
Jerry had many gifts but a cardinal trait of his was that of finding wisdom from elders and from other voices from the past. This would lead him on a lifelong prospector’s journey of seeking gold. What he discovered was more like a massive and widespread intellectual amnesia of wisdom. Throughout the rest of his professional career Jerry was able to translate this wisdom, combine it with many of the modern scientific, physiological and chemical findings, and then transform it all alchemically into a robust school of thought for the creation of healthy farms and ranches. We are lucky that Jerry was able to publish his book, The Farm As Ecosystem, through Acres USA. It came out in 2013. It’s a worthy read and there is a little slice of Jerry on each page.
As I write, Jerry’s tragically short life is so freshly ended that it’s hard for me to muster the courage yet to refer to him in the past tense. I don’t know, maybe we never will. Certainly his voice resonates in my ear today, just as if he were in the room. His words continue to guide my days. When a dear friend passes away sometimes we remember the oddest things about them, little gestures or words, maybe the way they combed their hair, wore their shoes, or some tiny kindness they once showed. But sometimes, not only memories of their greatness, obviously, that’s important too, but the heart remembers differently than the brain. In these small ways, as well as the larger ones, Jerry lives on inside us.
Jerry lived and worked from his beautiful home and surrounding grounds along Martin’s Creek, just outside of Easton, Pennsylvania. He was 63 when he passed away on December 20, 2014, just a few days shy of his birthday, December 28. Following a position as Regional Dairy Director of the NFO in the Northeast, he moved to run a cow/calf operation in Virginia. In 1979, he founded Agri-Dynamics, a business devoted to providing products and services to farmers practicing ecological and sustainable stewardship towards the earth. Jerry was also active in community based organizations devoted to rebuilding local food systems and local democracy. You can find many of Jerry’s articles and DVDs on farming and a wide variety of topics, as well as his book, at Acres USA. There are also many of Jerry’s powerful and valuable lectures on YouTube videos.
Memorial gifts for Jerry are requested to go to the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture where Jerry was a board member. Make checks payable to “PASA-Jerry Brunetti Memorial” and mail to PASA, Box 419, Millheim, PA 16854, or donate online at pasafarming.org/donate.
God bless you on your next adventure, Jerry!
– Will Winter, DVM, is a livestock nutritionist, holistic herd health consultant, and a lifelong devotee of all things Jerry Brunetti related. He operates grassfarmersupply.com out of Cannon Falls MN, raises pastured pigs, and does invasive weed eradication with hair sheep and meat goats. He is also a writer for several eco-agriculture magazines and websites. Find him at willwinter.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. His life and career were changed positively and forever after meeting and becoming great friends with Jerry. He has used and recommended Jerry’s Agri-Dynamics livestock and pet products for over 20 years.