Many of you have heard, Darwin Kelsey, the Founder and Executive Director of Countryside Conservancy since 1999, passed away over the weekend.
My words cannot do just to the impact that Darwin has had on my life. I suspect that if you are reading this, you have felt many of the same impacts. Without Darwin’s passion and commitment to sustainable agriculture and local foods, and the creation of Countryside, there would be no Countryside Farmers’ Markets for me to manage - I am not confident that I would have found something that I am as passionate about, or that I find as fulfilling, for a career. I also would not have the relationships that I do with farmers, vendors and customers - many of whom I count as some of the most important people in my life now. And I wonder if, without Darwin, I would be able to buy and eat food that I believe in. I am terribly and tremendously grateful for all of these things. And I am only a small and single example of the butterfly effect of Darwin’s passion, vision, hard work, and dedication to agriculture and local food, and his achievements around those things.
Darwin lead the markets at their inception, and over the years, as Countryside and the markets grew, he took a less visible and hands-on role, but his passion for them never decreased. When Darwin would travel, he would always find a market to go to and he would come back and share his experience. Regardless of the interesting things he would see, in the end, he would beam with pride because no market he visited was living the mission of supporting its farmers and food producers and impacting individual lives and the community as much as our own. His appreciation for the hard work and quality produced by our market vendors, as well as the support of our dedicated customers, was constant. As long as he could, Darwin made a priority of being at the markets - to touch base with those people he valued so deeply and to experience the passion and commitment first hand. Darwin was a modest man and would never take credit for creating such an amazing opportunity and experience, but I know that witnessing the impact of the market almost every Saturday morning continued to fill him with hope for the future and a sustainable and healthy food system and world.
Darwin’s wife, Chris, shared with us that one of the last questions that Darwin asked was, “How was the market this morning?” Darwin remained committed to the markets and all the lives that they touch to the very end.
I will forever be grateful to Darwin for his passion, vision and leadership and what he was able to accomplish through those qualities - for the blessings he brought to my life, and to the lives of so many others who value a humane and healthy farming and food system, and the human connections that are a part of that.
~~erin molnar, Farmers’ Market Manager
To read more about Darwin's life and contributions, please click here.
A memorial service to celebrate Darwin's life will be held Saturday December 17, 2016 at Happy Days Lodge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 500 W Streetsboro St, Peninsula, OH 44264. Respects can be paid during calling hours from noon-2:30 pm. A brief service will follow at 2:30 p.m..
Memorial gifts will benefit Countryside Conservancy, and can be sent in his honor to Countryside Conservancy, 2179 Everett Road, Peninsula, OH 44264
Photo Credit: Sara Graca Cooper, Palamedes Photography