image by Sara GracaIn memory of a true gentleman - Darwin Kelsey 

Darwin Paul Kelsey, died December 11, 2016 of complications from pneumonia. He was 76.

Darwin was born on June 8, 1940 , in Waverly, New York, to Dortha and Paul Kelsey. He grew up on the family dairy farm in Danby, New York.

Darwin graduated from Candor High School, in 1958, in New York, and went on to Broome Technical College in Binghamton, New York, where he earned an associate’s degree in electrical technology. He moved to Idaho, where he worked as a nuclear reactor operator at the Argonne National Laboratories .

He earned a BA in history from Seattle Pacific University, a master’s degree in American Folk Culture from Cooperstown and worked on his doctorate in historical geography at Clark University.

In the 1970s, he was a senior vice president of Old Sturbridge Village, where he served as the chief agricultural historian and head of the farm department. At Sturbridge, he established the Freeman Farm, one of the first living history farms in the United States.

Throughout his life, he was a prolific writer and published many articles about agriculture, living history, and local food. He was named to Who’s Who in America in 1975.

In 1982, he established the National Museum of the Boy Scouts of America, in Murray, Kentucky, and served as its director.

In 1989 Darwin was selected by Lake Metroparks to provide a direction and vision for the newly purchased property that was being developed as Lake Farmpark. When opened in 1990, Farmpark was recognized nationally and internationally as a model for connecting Americans with their agricultural roots and heritage. During his tenure, Farmpark's program centers were constructed and many of its award winning events and educational programs were established.

In 1999, Darwin founded the Countryside Conservancy in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Here, he focused his life work on his passion for sustainable agriculture and the importance of local food production. His Countryside Initiative program for the National Park Service was a one-of-a-kind farm land leasing model that has been studied and replicated many times across North America.

His work led to the creation of a robust farmers' market program that hosts not only one of the top 50 markets in the country, but also a technical assistance program that helps other communities build farmers markets. He envisioned an education program that engages everyone from the farmer to the consumer to better know where our food comes from.

Darwin’s work at Countryside has led to millions of dollars of local, community economic impact and opportunities for thousands of people.

In recent years his time was spent creating and planning the future of Countryside with his dream, the Countryside Center, a special place where food, farm, culture, and education could come together to inspire change in the way Americans produce and consume their food — a true culture shift.

In addition to inspiring scores of new and seasoned farmers, Darwin championed bringing sustainable agriculture and local healthy food to all communities in northeast Ohio. And we can attribute much of its local food scene to Darwin and his pioneering peers! He envisioned a world where everyone understood and participated in our food system, in ways that nurtured our natural resources as well as our bodies.

Darwin is survived by his wife, Christine Van Huysse-Kelsey, of Peninsula, Ohio, and by his children: Rachel (Kelsey) and Tony Lauriel, of Wickliffe, Ohio; LaMont Kelsey, of Evansville, Indiana; Amanda (Kelsey) and Doug Musick of Solon; Jordan and Jodi Kelsey of Denver, Colorado; Max Van Huysse of Los Angeles; along with seven grandchildren. His parents and two brothers, Dale Kelsey, and Ronald Kelsey, preceded him in death.

The family requests that donations be made in Darwin’s name, either online at http://www.cvcountryside.org/give-donate . Or send a check to Countryside Conservancy, 2179 Everett Road, Peninsula, OH 44264

Photo Credit

Sara Graca Cooper Palamedes Photography