It has been said that a gifted teacher is like a candle that consumes itself to light the way for others. Some candles shine brighter than others, and one of the very brightest flickered to an end just before Christmas in 2014.
Jerry Brunetti opened minds and touched hearts like no teacher I have ever met. His capacity to share was legendary and seemed inexhaustible. His students surrounded him after every talk, always hoping for more, and his response was always infused with generosity, compassion and graciousness.
Graeme and Jerry in Brisbane three years ago
I first met Jerry while compiling the interview series that became my first book, Nutrition Rules!. I was struck by his passion, knowledge and wonderfully incisive mind. However, it was his warmth, wit and humour that really set him apart, and we soon became friends. He kindly agreed to team up with Gary Zimmer and myself for a series of two-day talks across Australia and New Zealand, which became the legendary "Three-Up Tour". I still meet people to this day who tell me their lives were changed after attending one of these events. My daughter, Laura and her two best friends, Renee and Jackie, attended one of those talks and, after hearing Jerry's impassioned vision of proactive health, they all decided to embark upon degrees in naturopathy. They have long since successfully completed those studies and remain eternally grateful to the man who set them on that journey.
Just before we were due to board a plane from South Australia to Perth, in the midst of the "Three-Up Tour", I called my aging parents in New Zealand to check that all was well. To my horror, my Mum informed me that my father was booked in for a major operation the following week. He was scheduled to have his parathyroid gland removed and there was apparently an element of risk involved. Sometimes the voice box can be damaged during the surgery, so my Mum transferred me to my father, just in case it would be my last chance to hear his natural voice. I shared my deep concern with Jerry en-route to WA, and he immediately asked if we had tested Dad's boron levels. I had never heard of a link between boron deficiency and the dysfunction of the parathyroid gland, and Dad's specialists were equally ignorant. It made sense though. Parathyroid problems exhibit as an unacceptable rise of calcium levels in the blood. Boron is the main calcium synergist in the soil, so why could it not play a similar role in our bodies?
I decided to act. When we arrived in WA, I called my parents again and pleaded with them to postpone the operation until we had conducted tests to determine Dad's boron status. Thankfully, they agreed. My naturopath sister, Jill, commissioned those tests and the results revealed no measurable boron. We began boron supplementation and his parathyroid gradually returned to normal.
This was a life-changing moment for me. I was shell-shocked when contemplating how often our doctors might have resorted to the knife when the root cause was nutrition. Why would our medicos even pause to contemplate this possibility, when their seven-year medical degrees featured just 60 minutes of nutrition? It was at this point that I began to research nutrition and my passion for proactive wellness continues to grow. These days, I travel the world sharing the links between soil health, animal health and human health. Often, following another ten-hour session on stage, when I can barely stand, I think of Jerry and his saint-like capacity to keep on giving and I am re-energised. Thank you my friend for your wonderful gift. I will be forever grateful.
Jerry reuniting with Daniel Sait (Graeme's son).
During our work together, I accumulated around 20 hours of footage featuring Jerry at his inspirational best. I plan to edit some highlights of his sharing, to produce a video tribute. It will be released on YouTube when complete and perhaps others who are not familiar with his work will come to recognise his brilliance and may choose to expand his message.
I have also decided to include the poem below, which summarises my feelings about a great man. For those of you who don’t know Jerry and his work, I will update you a little so that this poem will make sense.
Jerry was a remarkable animal nutritionist who formed a company called Agri-Dynamics over 25 years ago to market his innovative range of animal health solutions. He developed expansive knowledge of soil nutrition and, following a bout with cancer 15 years ago, he also developed an unparalleled understanding of human nutrition and wellness strategies. He has shared this knowledge selflessly across the globe for the past couple of decades and his impassioned presentations became the highlight of countless conferences, including the renowned Acres USA annual events. Jerry often rallied against corporate greed and lack of ethics and he lamented the industrial agriculture model that had swallowed up family farms across his homeland. He offered hope to many, particularly those suffering the cancer plague, and his generosity is legendary. It is such a sad loss but his work will live on, as will his memory. Here is my poem:
Words for Jerry
It's written in nature, all lifetimes must end
But those who remain mourn a magical friend
Your life was our gain and you helped us transcend
Our problems, our pain, now empowered to mend
A life filled with love, deep compassion and grace
Rare wit fused with wisdom, we'll never replace
Your passion flowed freely, you filled every space
Your mission, to trigger our need to embrace
The path to more justice, for livestock and soils
A road to sweet reason, to counter the spoils
Of corporate cowards, the Princes of oil
They'll still feel your wrath, you will still be their foil
From the thousands of farmers you helped to compel
To change their perspective, to help shed their shells
The wonder of nature will now ring their bells
We thank you sincerely, you did it so well
From the children enabled to reclaim their health
To the parents who now understand what is wealth
From the students who marveled, including myself
We thank you sweet Jerry, you did it so well
As the memories flood and the anecdotes flow
We're missing you sorely but somehow we know
That the depth of your care is the seed you have sown
And the bright light you shared will continue to grow.