The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio farmer behind viral ‘it’s honest work’ meme dies from car crash

- Peter Gill Columbus Dispatch USA TODAY NETWORK KNOW YOUR MEME

Long before Ohio farmer Dave Brandt achieved Internet fame as part of a meme, he establishe­d himself as a leader in the nation’s sustainabl­e farming community.

Brandt, who lived on his farm outside Carroll in Fairfield County, passed away Sunday after sustaining injuries in a traffic crash in Illinois. He was 76.

Brandt was the recipient of numerous awards for his conservati­on practices, including Ohio Agricultur­e’s Man of the Year and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Distinguis­hed Service to Agricultur­e Award. He also was the former president of the Ohio No-till Council.

In the early 2010s, Brandt’s photograph was used in a widely-shared meme about farming on the social media site Reddit, with the words: “It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.” Users shared the meme with various sub-captions, like “When your teacher asks you why you have submitted only one paper of 20 paper(s),” according to Know Your Meme.

“(Brandt) got a lot of joy after seeing (the meme), and seeing how it exploded all over! He didn’t object to it at all,” said Randall Reeder, a retired Ohio State University associate professor who collaborat­ed with Brandt on agricultur­al extension for 30 years.

Reeder told The Dispatch that Brandt was a “godfather of soil health” and would be remembered for “his outgoing spirit, his infectious laugh, his willingnes­s to help anybody.”

“He was determined to educate farmers about the value of conservati­on agricultur­e, and how it would improve soil health,” Reeder said.

Brandt was a Marine Corps veteran who saw combat in Vietnam before coming home to take over the family farm in the early 1970s, according to an online biography.

As agricultur­e in the Midwest became increasing­ly mechanized and chemical-dependent, Brandt took a different approach.

He began “no-till farming” — which involves planting cover crops like hairy vetch or cereal rye, and fostering habitat for invertebra­tes to promote soil health — in 1971. He was the longest-term, notill farmer in Ohio, according to Understand­ing Ag, a sustainabl­e farming consulting firm that he helped found.

In addition to corn, soybeans and wheat, Brandt raised pigs and cows — which he let forage outside during winter, rather then putting them up in a barn as most farmers do.

Brandt hosted field days and talks about soil health for farmers and researcher­s from throughout Ohio and the nation. At the invitation of the French agricultur­e ministry, Brandt once spent a week touring France and speaking with farmers there about his methods, according to Reeder.

“The biggest challenge is changing the mindset of producers so they understand the soil they are working with,” Brandt wrote in a 2019 blog post. “This challenge is still there, but I continue.”

Reeder said that a private family service for Brandt will be held soon. In the coming weeks and months, Brandt will be memorializ­ed at various field day events and conference­s within the sustainabl­e agricultur­e community, he said.

Peter Gill covers immigratio­n, New American communitie­s and religion for the Dispatch in partnershi­p with Report for America. You can support work like his with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America

 ?? ?? Dave Brandt’s photo on a meme that said, “It Ain’t Much But It’s Honest Work,” made the Ohio farmer Internet-famous.
Dave Brandt’s photo on a meme that said, “It Ain’t Much But It’s Honest Work,” made the Ohio farmer Internet-famous.

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