The Rodale Institute developed out of the efforts begun by J. I. Rodale to promote organic gardening and farming in the 1930s. The notion of recycling organic matter back into the soil to yield healthier and more productive crops was not widely accepted at that time, so in 1942, Rodale began publishing Organic Gardening and Farming magazine.
From those simple beginnings, Rodale's mission grew to become a multi-faceted organization dedicated to "improving human health through regenerative farming and organic gardening." Today, the Rodale Institute supports and publishes research to further organic farming , facilitates farming networks, engages in international farming programs, and publishes numerous resources for gardeners and organic farmers.
The Rodale Institute Research Center is a 333-acre (135-ha) farm in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, where organic horticulture and sustainable agriculture techniques are tested. The Rodale staff focuses on farming projects that help enrich and protect the world's natural resources . Of particular importance to the institute's gardeners are the flower, fruit, vegetable, and herb gardens that are maintained at the Research Center. Practices that are employed in these gardens include the use of beneficial insects and cover crops to reduce reliance on chemical pesticides.
Another goal of the institute is to facilitate communication between farmers and urban dwellers. This is especially important as urban communities continue to expand into the countryside. The Rodale Institute sponsors programs to help these two seemingly competing groups work together for mutual benefit. For example, Rodale has initiated a community composting program whereby the grass cuttings and leaves from urban areas are collected and delivered to farms, where they are composted and used to enrich the soil. This program decreases the need for landfill space and provides soil-enriching organic matter to farmers. Rodale Institute also encourages mutual understanding between farmers and city dwellers by hosting such events as Field Days and GardenFest.
The Rodale Institute's networking program helps farmers link up with one another to share information on sustainable farming. These farms participate in Rodale Institute's research and often experiment with alternatives to conventional farming methods. Through the publication The New Farm, the cooperational farmers share their experiences and questions with many farmers across the country.
Rodale has established cooperative programs with several universities around the world to further their research. Among those universities are Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, Michigan State University, University of Padova (Italy), Northeast Forestry University (China), South China Environmental Institute, Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences (China), and the Institute for Land Improvement and Grassland Farming (Poland).
Rodale Institute's programs extend to international farmers as well. With sights set on developing long-term, preventative measures against famine and poverty, the institute has established programs in Africa and South America. The African program is based in Senegal and brings together farmers, villages, government agencies, and other organizations to work toward famine prevention through conservation and soil quality improvement. In South America, Rodale works with Guatemalan farmers to encourage sustainable farming and help preserve the disappearing forest regions. This particular program combines modern knowledge with traditional Mayan farming techniques to produce high quality yields from healthy soil.
Perhaps to the non-farmer, Rodale is best known for its publications. In addition to Organic Gardening and The New Farm magazines, Rodale publishes a large selection of instructional books for farmers, gardeners, and others interested in organic farming.
[Linda Ross ]
The Rodale Institute, 611 Siegfriedale Road, Kutztown, PA USA 19530-9320 (610) 683-1400, Fax: (610) 683-8548, Email: [email protected]