April 12, 2002 – Under overcast skies, friends, family and government officials gathered Thursday morning to rename the V.I. Agriculture Department facility in Estate Lower Love on St. Croix in honor of Rudolph Shulterbrandt — and to remember his contributions in agriculture, music and more.
Sen. Douglas Canton Jr., who proposed the renaming legislation, said he felt a need to honor the former Agriculture commissioner, who served under Governors Cyril E. King and Juan Luis and promoted agriculture as an industry in the Virgin Islands for more than 40 years. "Let this be an example to us that we must recognize and honor our elders, those who blazed the path for all we enjoy today," Canton said.
Saying that he got the idea of renaming the facility from Shulterbrandt's wife, Lena, Canton added, "The idea was like a seed that was planted. I see myself as just the vessel."
The Shulterbrandts' son Shelton played a tribute on saxophone honoring his father's contributions as an accomplished musician and composer whose instrument of choice was the tenor sax. "I'd like to do something special for Daddy," Shelton, a keyboardist, said. The jazzy rendition from an original manuscript called "All of Me" included the lyrics:
Do a good job in anything you do.
Do a good job and a reward will come to you.
Do a good job in anything you do.
Do a good job and they'll remember you.
Speakers reminisced about the 1960s, when Rudy and the Vibratones enchanted listeners at such hotspots as the Plantation nightclub. And there were the annual "parties at my father's house," Lt Gov. Gerard Luz James II said. James also spoke of muddy days at the old Mannings Bay horse-racing track, today the Randall "Doc" James Race Track, recalling that Rudy was an avid horse lover.
At the end of 1980, Shulterbrandt presented his proposed Policy Guidelines for the Development of Virgin Islands Agriculture to Luis. The document of more than 70 pages was the work of a task force consisting of John Bernier, Dr. Marva Browne, Henry Carter, Carl Christopher, then-senator Hector Cintron, Dr. Mario Gaspari, Arthur Hartman, Fritz Lawaetz, Murille Millin, Oliver Skov and Michelle Thurland.
The guidelines included a departmental reorganization, land-use maps, farm enterprise programs, future farmer recruitment, water resources development, cost-sharing incentives and marketing needs. Shulterbrandt envisioned the guidelines as a blueprint for a new agricultural policy which would foster school garden programs, technical assistance programs and marketing development.
"Our monetary incentives and cost-sharing program will challenge the sincerity and dedication of our farmers and others citizens who want to farm," he said. "Our cash contribution for food produced will assist in offsetting the demands for which farmers have been clamoring."
Agriculture Commissioner Henry Schuster, whose career with the department began as a high school student in a youth development program, said Rudy's vision for agriculture was communicated strongly, yet affectionately, to his employees. "I wonder what status agriculture production in the territory would have been today, had those plans been implemented or sustained," the commissioner said.
Schuster said the funding constraints Shulterbrandt experienced remain a problem for the department. "Some 22 years later, lack of funding is even more a critical issue," he said, noting that the fiscal year 1981 budget was $3,778,902, while for 2002 it is $2,728,012. "If agricultural production is to realize its true potential, the Department of Agriculture must be given the necessary funding," he added.
Patrick Williams, a former commissioner and colleague of Shulterbrandt's, said Thursday's tribute was well deserved. "He worked hard, and he started a lot of things," Williams said, adding that he was disappointed that Shulterbrandt was not around to enjoy the accolades. He added, "I sure wish when you honor people, you did it when they are alive."
Speaking endearingly of her husband's dedication to work in the field of agriculture, Lena Shulterbrandt said, "This place was Rudy's home." On Sundays, she recalled, he would pack their three children along with their bikes into the family truck and take them to Lower Love to play while he worked on the coming week's assignments. "The grounds were their playground," she said.
Kenneth Anderson Sr. said he had attended a free jazz concert at Island Center on Wednesday night as they chronicled Rudy's contribution to the arts. Environmentalist Olassee Davis and another former Agriculture commissioner, Roy Rodgers, spoke of Shulterbrandt's role as mentor guiding them down their career paths.
Davis said when he moved to St. Croix from St. Thomas, Rudy invited him to his home, where they spent many nights discussing agricultural issues, sometimes at 2 or 3 a.m. — and where he got used to waking up to the melodious sounds of saxophone music accompanying the sunrise.
"He had a passion for agriculture. It was in his blood," said Davis, who was known as Rudy's adopted son. "He encouraged me to go to school and study and come back home to contribute to the community." Davis said he is now is pursuing a Ph.D.
Rodgers, an agronomist, worked for the Agriculture Department after his return from college, helping Shulterbrandt to implement initiatives. "Rudy was a visionary who upgraded the department," he said, proudly referring to his mentor as "Boss."
Shulterbrandt started the sorghum production program and the tick eradication program and planted the mango grove on the fairgrounds — a treasured spot for fairgoers seeking a cool spot to rest on the yellow benches beneath the trees, Rodgers said. He said Rudy's foresight led him to lobby Gov. Luis for two days — in vain — to purchase the seven-acre Fountain Valley property known now as Carambola Golf Course, which was on the market for $10 million.
Looking up toward the sky as light, misty droplets of rain formed, Kendall Petersen, vice president of Farmers in Action, said, "This is a blessing." For him as a farmer, he said, the rain was a welcome sight for his crops. "See, he is still with us," he said referring to Shulterbrandt. "If you left it up to Mr. Shulterbrandt, we would have had an agricultural industry."
Petersen, whose organization also is promoting the development of a viable local agricultural industry, added, "When he was commissioner, you could come here and get food to buy. Let's bring his dream to a reality."
Rudolph Shulterbrandt was born in 1922 and grew up in the Savan area on St. Thomas, attending Charlotte Amalie High School in the structure which is now the Legislature Building. He served in the U.S. Army in the 1940s. He earned a bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of Maryland and a master of science from Cornell University. He died on St. Croix on Jan. 18, 2002.
To see a copy of the Policy Guidelines for the Development of Virgin Islands Agriculture, visit any office of the V.I. Agriculture Department or of Delegate Donna Christian Christensen.
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