Remembering: Gus Schumacher, Food & Farming Hero (1940-2017)

Amanda Bryant Culp Posted on 09/26/2017 by Amanda Bryant Culp
Remembering: Gus Schumacher, Food & Farming Hero (1940-2017)

It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Gus Schumacher, Co-Founder & Founding Board Chair of Wholesome Wave, passed unexpectedly of heart failure on September 24. The good food movement, the agricultural sector, and the world at large has lost one of the most magnificent advocates ever known. Gus leaves an immeasurable legacy: his vision and work improved the lives of untold numbers of farmers and farms of all sizes, and eaters of all incomes. The world is a far better place because of him.

Gus had farmers markets in his DNA. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all farmed in New York City and sold what they grew at city markets. Gus’s dad moved to Massachusetts and became one of the largest parsnip growers in the Commonwealth. Gus himself grew up on a farm in Lexington.

Gus's passion for food justice was awakened one August afternoon in 1980. As Gus was loading up his brother’s truck at the end of the farmers market in Dorchester, a box of Bosc pears fell off the truck and broke apart, scattering the fruit into the gutter. Two young boys and their mother ran over and began picking them up. She explained that she was divorced, on food stamps, and unable to afford fresh fruits and vegetables for her kids. His heart broke, and his life's work began.

He was appointed agriculture commissioner in Massachusetts by Governor Michael Dukakis, and he immediately got to work to help increase affordable access to fruits and vegetables. He realized he could provide support through the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women and Infants and Children (WIC), and began conspiring to change how federal food assistance worked.

Read the full memorial on Wholesome Wave's website here.

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