One week ago, on January 25th, one of my closest friends, and greatest inspirations left this world…. Jesse Hull will be missed by an amazing number of people for so many things that he has done, and I will miss him for these certainly. But mostly, I will miss one of my truest friends. I believe that all events will change and shape our lives. This is one that will certainly leave an effect on me.
I first met Jesse about 6, or maybe 7, years ago when he was working at Sweetwater Aquaponics in Milwaukee, WI. I had come up from Texas to attend a weekend training at Growing Power with a friend. This friend knew a few of the people who started Sweetwater and was able to get us in for a private tour. Jesse happened to be our tour guide that day. From that day, he and I stayed in contact via email and such – we exchanged ideas, and to tell the truth, mostly I asked him questions and listened closely to his answers… He was ALWAYS willing to help and to spend time with those who wanted to learn.
The next time that I saw Jesse in person was at the 2012 Aquaponic Association conference in Denver. At this conference, we spoke several times and again he was very interested in the few things that I was doing in the Dallas, Texas-area and was still willing to answer all of my questions. Jesse told me that he and Molly Stanek were going to be part of the upcoming weeklong training at Ouroboros Farms (Pescadero, CA) in March of 2013. I immediately began working out how I could attend.
I think that event was a turning point in our friendship. Over the week that we were there, I think I spent three or four nights staying up late talking with Jesse, and others, about all things related to aquaponics and urban farming and the importance of teaching people how to grow good food. These conversations allowed me to see exactly how important all of those concepts were to him. When I arrived in California for this training, I already respected Jesse for his knowledge of aquaponics and hydroponics. After these conversations, I realized that knowledge was only a small facet of what I could learn from him. As well, I learned that Jesse truly wanted the best for the people he interacted with.
Over the next few years, we corresponded regularly and worked together on several projects. We became closer friends and talked about a wide range of subjects. In November of 2014, I visited Milwaukee to present at the 2014 Growing Power: Food Justice For All conference. Jesse was exceptionally generous and hosted me in his home, chauffeured me around town, and took me out to both meet members of the local sustainable community and some excellent dinners. We had a great time and during this trip, I introduced Jesse to a man who helped organize a non-profit in Dallas that was looking to make some big waves in the North Texas area regarding aquaponics and urban food production. After a few conversations, Jesse accepted the job and moved to Dallas. There is so much more that could be said, but instead I will say that we had talked many times about how we could now work together to accomplish great things in the Dallas-area.
In the years that I have known Jesse, I have seen him be uncommonly generous and giving to everyone around him. I have seen him spend hours working with refugees or community groups to build gardens or plant trees. I have had conversations with him about the importance of teaching everyone how to grow food, the importance of healthy food, and what exactly “healthy food” is. At times we have disagreed and argued, but always, I have learned so much from him.
I feel that I learned so many things from Jesse that I can’t even list them. I feel as though I have lost a guide in my life. While I was certainly walking this path before I met Jesse years ago, I think that many of the decisions that I have made since then were certainly influenced by the conversations that he and I had and the things that I learned from him.
My friend Jesse had the gifted mind of a scientist, and yet he also housed the soul of an artist. In my time as his friend, I saw firsthand his passion for truth, beauty, and justice, and furthermore, I saw that this was clearly visible through his dedication to the urban agriculture movement, aquaponics, and hydroponics. I know for fact, that he has inspired me to do better, and I promise to do so as my way to honor his legacy. I promise to pay forward the things I learned from my friend.
I miss you, man. One day we will meet again, and maybe this time I will have some things to teach you. I cannot say how thankful I am for everything you taught me. You were one of the people I looked up to the most. I will forever be honored to call you my friend.