Local good-bye: Farmer, activist Kathryn Russell
The local food movement lost one of their own last week, as Kathryn Russell, owner of Nelson County’s Majesty Farm and a founding member of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmer’s Association was killed in a traffic accident as she tried to cross Route 29 South at Plank Road on October 22. She was 54.
According to news reports, Russell was crossing 29 in a 1989 Dodge pickup with a crate of chickens in the back when she was hit by a van with two passengers inside. Police says neither alcohol nor speed was involved, and the two passengers were taken to the hospital with "non-life-threatening" injuries. Russell, however, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from her truck by the impact and killed instantly.
Russell leaves behind her husband of 36 years, Wayne Russell, as well as eight children and four grandchildren.
Russell, in addition to being a farmer, wife, and mother, was an outspoken activist for the local food movement. Like fellow farmer/activist Joel Salatin, Russell felt strongly that current government regulations on food production were an unnecessary burden on small farmers.
“The whole thing was overkill,” wrote Russell under a 2007 Hook story about the arrest of fellow farmers Richard Bean and Jean Rinaldi in 2007, a couple in their 60s caught selling mislabeled local pork. “While the Commonwealth of Virginia imports more food than they export, they are using your tax dollars and mine to terrorize and attempt to drive out of business small diversified producers who are feeding their communities.” Later, Russell took it upon herself to solicit donations for a fund to help Bean and Rinaldi with their legal expenses.
“The concept that inspecting a farm guarantees anything to customers is na¯ve,” Russell continued. “The issue of a relationship between the farmer and consumer is an important part of what provides food security. I don’t go to the Charlottesville farmer's market. But if I did, buying from both John Coles [local goat cheese producer and Double H [Bean and Rinaldi’s farm] would be one of my first choices, because I have seen their farms, eaten their foods, and know they will answer any questions I have without evasion or annoyance.”
A memorial service for Russell has already been held, but messages of condolence may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Russells, 3539 Red Hill School Road, North Garden, VA 22959. You can also sign the online guest book under Russell's obituary in the Daily Progress.