David Brandt: One of a Kind

Fairfield County – and Central Ohio, the state, and the country – lost a giant last week.

David Brandt, as an agriculture innovator, was decades ahead of his time because he was smart enough to draw on the past to nurture his soil and build a better life for himself, his family, and his descendants.

Brandt, who died last week in an accident in Illinois, is sometimes known as #godfatherofsoilhealth and was respected across the country for his decades of practicing and preaching the value of no-till farming and cover crops.

Web Chick is deeply saddened by the passing of the irreplaceable Brandt, who brought so much to his community and his country. For the past eight years, Web Chick has worked with Brandt and his family on the website for Brandt Farm and Walnut Creek Seeds.

David Brandt

James Hoorman, a USDA soil health specialist and longtime OSU Extension educator, called Brandt “a great educator and a great friend to everyone. … He loved not only talking about no-till, cover crops, and soil health, but showing people how to do it. He also loved his family and including them in everything he did. That may be his biggest legacy. David was such a humble guy but he taught not only in Ohio, but across the USA and the world.”

In appearance, Brandt was a farmer straight out of Central Casting: heavyset, close-cropped hair, seed cap, checked flannel shirt, and faded bib overalls – so perfect that he went viral as a meme a decade ago.

In reality, he did embody “good, honest work.” But David Brandt was so much more. 
After serving as a Marine in Vietnam, he returned to Fairfield County and, within a few years, was experimenting with no-till agriculture – drilling seeds into soil stabilized by the previous year’s post-harvest stubble in order reduce erosion. A decade later, he further nurtured his soil with off-season cover crops that added natural nutrients to his field. As a pioneer in these practices, he experimented with different crops and mixes of winter seeds over the decades.

His success with good yields and rich, resilient soil increasingly attracted attention. He hosted field days to share his methods with other farmers, and often went afield to other communities and states to talk about his passion and experimentation. Eventually his off-season talks and travels took across the  country, and to Canada, and even overseas.

The Alabama-based Soil Health Academy established the David & Kendra Brandt Memorial Scholarship Fund for women and/or new and beginning farmers who are committed to growing the regenerative agriculture movement. Kansas-based No-Till on the Plains established the David Brandt Inaugural Legacy Award to recognize farmers who had committed their lifework to improving soil health. These are in addition to numerous honors he received in Ohio.

The ordinary man in the meme was in truth an extraordinary man – literally and figuratively “outstanding in his field.”

David Brandt will be missed. But just as he nurtured his soil, he also nurtured his family. There are two more generations of Brandts on the farm and in the business, and they all share the late patriarch's passion for experimentation and doing the right thing for agriculture and the environment.
Brian Williams contributed thoughts to this post.