Arial view of the Rodale Institute Organic Farm

Rodale Institute, the testing ground for organic gardening and sustainable practices

With so much interest in taking care of the health of our planet and our bodies, the term organic has more meaning today than ever before. And, rightly so…chemicals and pesticides are so widely used in farming and home gardening almost every person in the US has pesticide residue in their system.

Joe and Patti travel to rural Pennsylvania to the Rodale Institute, the cradle of organic gardening in America. Founded in 1941, by visionary J. I. Rodale, and nurtured by four generations of the Rodale family, today the Institute resides on a 333-acre farm. Rodale Press has evolved into the largest multi-media company dedicated to restoring a healthy planet and continues to pioneer the organic movement through research and it’s books and magazines. Rodale’s flagship publication “Organic Gardening” (1942) still enjoys a robust following today.

Chairman and CEO, Maria Rodale

In her interview Rodale Chairman and CEO Maria Rodale, granddaughter of J I, gives her frank, research-based opinion about the far-reaching effects of chemicals and pesticides so prevalent in our lives today. Generations ago chemicals and pesticides were unheard of but as science progressed so did the notion of “better living through chemicals”.

That simply isn’t true and there is sufficient evidence to indicate that eating organic food is good for our health. There is also mounting evidence that the agrichemicals we continue to ingest lead to certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, autism, and ADHD. Maria’s call to action is to “demand organic” and is passionately and eloquently stated in her book, “Organic Manifesto”.

Through conscientious efforts and dedication the USDA Certified Organic label has evolved to provide a way for consumers to identify products that meet their strict standards. Seventy years ago organic was simply an idea but fortunately today, consumers are waking up to what ‘organic’ really means to our health and the health of the planet. There are consequences related to the way we farm and garden and even to the decisions we make in our daily lives.

Next Joe speaks with Maya, Maria’s daughter and fourth generation Rodale who has, by design, worked her way up in the organization (she is Director, Communications of Rodale Institute) and is an author in her own right. They discuss the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial®, begun in 1981 when few institutions were seriously studying organic farming methods. It is the longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming methods in the US, and one of the oldest in the world. *1

The organization lives by the mantra that “healthy soil equals healthy food, equals healthy people, equals a healthy planet” and has proven that organic yields match or surpass those of conventional farming methods. The reason is the exquisite care given to the soil by nurturing it with natural amendments and cover crops.

Maya explains how this extra care results in healthier soil and demonstrates how it binds together, protecting it from erosion. It is this soil health that allows for better drought and wet condition tolerance by the plants that are grown in it providing evidence that equally high yields are not only possible, but profitable as related to farming with a dependence on chemicals

Patti visits the apple orchard speaking with Farm Manager, Jeff Moyer a 35 year veteran of the Rodale Institute. The decision to grow such a challenging fruit as apples was by design. Unlike crops, trees cannot be rotated so carefully selecting disease resistant cultivars and paying special attention to the soil is the first step. Admittedly, the soil for the orchard had been prepped for 15 years before the trials began which has resulted in remarkable growth. Over thirty varieties grown in the orchard are showcased each year at the Organic Apple Festival on the farm.

Patti brings Chef Nathan a selection of apples from the farm, which he uses to make Spiced Applesauce, a perfect companion to Seared Pork Tenderloin.

For more information:

Joe’s podcast with Maria Rodale

Rodale Institute

Rodale Inc.

Organic Manifesto

Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen

J I Rodale bio

This link addresses a study whereby “The Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.”

Pesticides in food: What to Eat and What to Avoid

* 1.


Growing A Greener World is a national gardening series on Public Television that features organic gardening, green living and farm to table cooking. Each episode focuses on compelling and inspirational people making a difference through gardening. This gardening series covers everything from edible gardening and sustainable agriculture to seasonal cooking and preserving the harvest.

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