Brent Porteus: Cultivating a Cure
Brent Porteus is no stranger to hard work. Having grown up on a farm in Coshocton, Ohio, he was raised to help in the family’s chores. Now as the managing partner of the family-owned farm and agricultural business – Blair Porteus and Sons – he has passed this work ethic along to his daughters, Amy and Beth, and he expects the same hard work from his caring community.
Brent’s wife, Debra, shared his work ethic in her roles in the family business and also had a special ability to build relationships to benefit the business and community. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 1997, there was no doubt that she would fight with everything she had. After a mastectomy in 1998 to remove the cancer, doctors discovered in 2005 that her cancer had metastasized. Debra went to Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy, MD, and nurse practitioner Julia Garrett at the OSUCCC – James. While the prognosis was not good, Debra’s strong will and support gave her five more years with her family before she died in 2010.
Brent wanted to find a way to honor Debra and the team who cared for her. He had also identified the need for an outlet for Ohio’s agricultural leadership to come together across commodities and collectively address the opportunities for success. To bring those ideas together, Brent reached out to the Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Cultivating A Cure event was born.
After being hosted at Blair Porteus and Sons farm in Coshocton in 2011 and 2012, the 2013 event was held at The Leeds farm in Ostrander, Ohio. The initial intention of the move was to engage more attendees by making travel easier, and then another motivation was discovered. One week after the Porteuses reached out to Leeds farm, the family matriarch, Christy Leeds, received a breast cancer diagnosis. This is one of many cancer connections that Brent has discovered while forming the event. “Many of the attendees have shared that they have a cancer connection and are so pleased to be brought together not only for the discussions about business, but for a cause close to their hearts,” says Brent. Guest speakers share their cancer experiences at each event, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Bobby Mossier, former dean of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, and Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
In its third year now, Cultivating A Cure has raised more than $120,000 for research at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). These funds support three separate efforts:
- Dr. Ramaswamy’s breast cancer therapy research
- The Lee Discretionary Fund supporting cancer prevention efforts using food and nutrition
- The Cooperatives for a Cure Fund, a collaborative effort between the OSUCCC – James and Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to identify dietary and nutritional links to cancer treatment and prevention
Brent knows that this event isn’t just about agriculture, nor is it solely to honor Debra, but to bring the community together for a shared cause. “It’s always good to give and even better when you’re joined by your community in the effort,” he says.