You’ve probably never heard of District Conservationist Brad Harrison, but as an NRCS employee, partner or customer you’re probably familiar with the NRCS tagline: Helping People Help the Land. Brad wrote this NRCS tagline and successfully pitched his idea to former Chief Bruce Knight.
Brad, 58, worked for NRCS for 36 years. He died April 10, after fighting cancer for 18 months. He was a passionate and creative conservationist, who never gave up on a good idea for selling conservation. In addition to the national NRCS tagline, two of these many ideas included:
A soil health rap song and music video called: Don’t Treat it Like Dirt. Because of Brad’s passionate and persistent enthusiasm, he successfully recruited a team of talented volunteers who performed, recorded, produced and wrote the music for his rap lyrics. Every person donated their time and resources to his project. The video has been viewed nearly 7,500 times on YouTube and downloaded by teachers around the country.
A team of natural resource conservation superheroes called The Whobuddies. After creating the Whobuddies concept, Brad reached out to countless movie production companies and animation studios to see if they could help bring his band of six owl superheroes to life. After receiving at least one “cease and desist” letter from a well-known animation studio, which sternly, yet politely asked Brad to stop contacting them, he didn’t give up. He redirected his energies, and found his own illustrator to give Bubo, Otus, Tyto, Strix, Ninox and Asio their visual personalities. (Always the educator, he named the characters after the actual genus name of each owl species.) Iowa NRCS is currently working with the same illustrator to develop the fourth Whobuddies comic book and video this year. The Whobuddies resources have been shared with school children all across the United States.
Brad was a tireless advocate of the soil, launching his newest soil health promotion idea just last month. Called the “1% Challenge”, his local program encourages farmers to work towards a 1 percent increase in soil organic matter through soil health practices.
But he was much more than a persistent conservation promoter. Brad was a seasoned and skilled conservation planner, a trusted resource for local farmers and a selfless mentor to young NRCS employees. He felt strongly that getting out in the field and developing a trusting relationship with farmers was key to getting conservation on the land.
He was our kind, generous and encouraging friend.
Brad’s daughter Megan wrote, “My dad was the hardest working man I’ve ever known and an amazing husband, father, son, brother, grandpa and friend. He had the best attitude, even in his weakest moments. My hope is that he is never forgotten and always honored for all that he accomplished in his beautiful life.”