Weekly Comments Archive
Archived Issue
Monday, May 29, 2023
ISSUE #1161
Honoring David Brandt, the Meme and the Man.

Last week I included a short tribute to a friend, David Brandt, who was nationally known for his educational efforts promoting no-till, cover crops and other conservation agriculture practices. Here is more information, plus photos.

He and his wife Kendra, began growing crops without plowing in the early 1970s, partly because no-till required less machinery. They benefited from no-till research begun by Ohio State University a decade earlier and encouragement from a representative of Chevron Chemical Co. which produced an effective herbicide to manage weeds. Dave soon began experimenting with cover crops (planted after harvesting corn, soybean, and wheat cash crops) in order to keep living roots in the ground and “cover” the soil to minimize erosion from rain and wind. He was always willing to share his successes (and failures) to help other farmers succeed with what is known today as Conservation Agriculture System practices.

You may not know the farmer, David Brandt, but you have probably seen his photo. A photo of him, taken in 2012 by the USDA, was used a few years later to create a “meme” with the words, “It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.” The meme went viral and has been seen by millions around the world.

Brandt was recognized nationally and internationally as a top example of how farming could and should be done. He was in demand as a speaker and consultant promoting soil health in a way that is saving soil, profitable for the farmer, and results in cleaner air and water for society. He was very human, likeable, generous, and had an infectious laugh. He won’t be forgotten.

Last week I was on a Zoom webinar about David Brandt, hosted by two Indiana farmers. Other panelists were from Iowa, Oklahoma, and Ontario, Canada. For more than two hours, we told stories about the influence he had on us and others. A dozen listeners, from as far away as Australia, chimed in with their own memories.

Because I worked with David Brandt for thirty years as an OSU Extension Agricultural Engineer and Executive Director of the Ohio No-till Council, I have been called on for information, quotes, and photos for local and national media. I’ve posted several of these articles about his passing on Facebook.

Responses from his friends and colleagues are amazing, but not surprising. Here are a few: “Such a great man and such a loss.” “Kind and generous soul who helped and guided so many farmers.”  “Very sad for losing a friend, and it’s a big loss for conservation agriculture all around the world. He was here in France in 2015 invited by our ag minister.”  “May his legacy of promoting soil health live on.” “Condolences from Nebraska, such a special, one-of-a-kind person. ” “All those lives he touched will continue his legacy.”

Historic quote by Will Rogers:

Will Rogers wrote this tribute on the passing of William Howard Taft, the only person to serve as both President (1909-1913) and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taft was a “big man.” This quote fits David Brandt who was also a big man.

      “It’s great to be great but it’s greater to be human. He was our great human fellow because there was more of him to be human. We are parting with three hundred pounds of solid charity to everybody, and love and affection for all his fellowmen.” DT #1122, Feb. 28, 1930

Photos: the famous Meme. And my photo of David Brandt in Sept. 2020.


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