I’m not sure about you, but by the time March arrives, I’m itching to get outside to work in my garden. I long to get my hands in the soil and start planting. While I know it’s too early to do anything more than clean up my beds, there are things I can do in anticipation of the growing season ahead. I can build a raised bed or, better yet, I can start composting. I always wanted to try my hand at organic gardening. Lucky for me, the Rodale Institute in Kutztown can help me with this goal.

When I was younger, I recognized Rodale as the publisher of Prevention Magazine. Later, I came to learn Rodale’s true forte is organic farming. In fact, Rodale is hailed as the birthplace of organic farming in North America. The Institute can trace its beginning to 1941 when J.I. Rodale left his job to pursue farming because of his health issues. He purchased a 63-acre farm north of Reading, in Emmaus to experiment with organic farming. Rodale documented his findings and in 1942 published them in a magazine, Organic Farming and Gardening, later called Organic Gardening. Today it is the best-read gardening magazine in the world. By 1947 Rodale established the Soil and Health Foundation, now the Rodale Institute. After J.I. Rodale died in 1971, his family moved the farm to its current site, a 333-acre farm in Kutztown, PA. For over sixty years, the family-fun Rodale Institute has led the way in organic farming.

Those of us who live in Pennsylvania’s Americana Region know the benefits of Rodale’s research extends far beyond farmers and scientists. The farm is a phenomenal resource for anyone interested in an organic lifestyle. There are opportunities to get involved as a volunteer, or with internships, and to learn through online courses and webinars.Their Garden Store sells seeds, organic foods, books compost, and gardening supplies. I can go to the store for help with my soil and leave with advice on designing my garden.
People ready to pick organically grown apples at Rodale InstituteRodale also offers tours of the farm and year-round events, like apple picking in the fall. They even sell farm-to-table organic holiday feasts.

Locals can also take advantage of Rodale’s Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC). The program provides members with farm-grown vegetables, fruits, eggs, meats, and flowers, depending on one’s level of participation, during the growing season. And, the farm now has livestock and bees. Rodale’s work just continues to expand and evolve. It’s amazing to think that one man’s quest for improved health through organic farming could have such a profound impact on so many. I think it’s time I start to embrace J.I. Rodale’s tenets.