SLU news

In Memoriam: Kjell Sjelin

Published: 01 November 2022

Kjell Sjelin – a pioneer of sustainable farming, who in his active engagement with land use research also contributed to our work in Mistra Environmental Communication – has passed away after a period of illness. This obituary is an edited and shortened version of a text first published in Upsala Nya Tidning on 24th October. The writing of the text was coordinated by Emil Sandström.

Kjell was a pioneer of sustainable farming, working with his wife Ylwa on their farm outside Vattholma to find new and more integrated approaches to farming. This included practices that made animal husbandry an integral part of soil cultivation, but Kjell also experimented with different crops and crop rotations, including heritage cereals and, recently, an increasing number of perennial crops. The aim was to find crops with higher resistance to drought, less need of fertilizers, and the ability to sequester carbon in the ground.

Kjell was constantly looking for new knowledge to make food production – both at his farm and in wider society – more sustainable. He gathered inspiration and knowledge from all corners of the world, adapting and putting it into practice on his farm. Kjell gave widely appreciated lectures for students, researchers and teachers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) as well as elsewhere. Many of us joined study visit or even did an internship at Kjell’s and Ylwa’s farm. Kjell’s ideas, knowledge and farming practices were often way ahead of current research, and his holistic thinking about food production in society was a source of inspiration for many.

We all remember Kjell with great warmth. His humble attitude, wisdom, drive and, last but not least, his pedagogical approach were remarkable. Kjell not only talked about change, but also showed how farmers could realize change in practice – and asked us, as researchers, critical and challenging questions.

We miss Kjell, but we are convinced that his innovative ideas and deep knowledge in finding “the key” to more sustainable food production will continue spreading like ripples for a long time to come.

Emil Sandström, Malin Beckman, Thomas Norrby, Karin Gerhardt and colleagues at the Department of Urban and Rural Development, SLU.
Jan Bengtsson and colleagues at the Department of Ecology, SLU.
Göran Bergkvist and colleagues at the Department of Crop Production Ecology, SLU.
Anke Fischer, Neil Powell and colleagues at the research programme Mistra Environmental Communication.
Karin Ullvén and colleagues at the SLU Centre for Organic Food and Farming (Epok).