Updated on April 5, 2018
Farewell from Matt Russell
For the past six weeks, Pat and I have been trying to burn some pasture at our Coyote Run Farm. Finally, on Easter Sunday, we were able to get the job done. The Easter holiday seemed like a terrible day to try to do this big job, but with good weather and family and friends coming together, burning off the dead prairie of last year and celebrating the new life that will poke out of the blackened earth turned out to be perfectly timed.
Just like burning the pasture brought an end and a new beginning, tomorrow marks the end of 12 years of working at the Drake University Agricultural Law Center and a new beginning as the Executive Director of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light. Iowa Interfaith Power & Light is a statewide organization mobilizing the religious community to become leaders in the movement for climate action. My new position combines my life’s work in faith, sustainability, public policy and agriculture with my passion for the value non-profits bring to individuals, communities and the greater good. My work and colleagues at Drake have prepared me well to lead efforts to find hopeful, empowering, unexpected solutions to the great challenges of climate change.
As I reflect on these years of serving farmers and landowners, I’m honored to have helped key agriculture stakeholders make profitable and sustainable decisions regarding our nation’s land and agricultural production alongside our director Neil Hamilton.
The list of interesting projects I got to work on is long and diverse. Some of my favorites include exploring rural community ownership of grocery stores, coordinating Central Iowa’s Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign, developing a tool to help farmers craft fair manure management agreements, identifying opportunities for the state of Iowa to purchase more food from Iowa farmers, promoting food policy councils, educating landowners and farmers about crafting leases to put more conservation on farms and increasing agricultural opportunities for under-severed farmers.
I am proud that I was able to help Neil host more than a dozen statewide and national conferences. We filmed and produced scores of videos. I was able to travel to Cuba—twice. Whenever an opportunity came to go speak about agriculture, rural communities, or conservation, Neil’s response was always yes, and he always found the resources to make it possible for me to go.
After speaking at different events and writing many articles, including an article on agriculture and climate change for the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law, I am prepared for my last day tomorrow and my new career at Iowa Interfaith Power & Light.
I am fired up for the work ahead, because I believe we can solve climate change. Iowans can lead the world in finding the solutions, and Iowa farmers can innovate on our farms to sequester carbon and reduce emissions.
Looking back, I have so many fond memories of the exciting work and inspiring people at Drake. Looking forward, I can see Drake Agricultural Law Center has prepared me well for this new leadership position.