Rural Eastern Pennsylvania's rolling green fields include a 333-acre farm that's leading the way for organic crop research. The nonprofit Rodale Institute has finished a year of farm trials, including a study on arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus, which can help plants thrive when it lives in healthy relationship with their roots. The Institute boasts of running the longest ever study of conventional versus organic farming. Rodale Institute Director of Communications and Outreach, Maya Rodale, says organics are an answer to many of our current problems, "For example, Rodale Institute's Farming System's Trial, America's longest running side-by-side comparison of conventional and organic agriculture, has demonstrated that organic yields can match or surpass conventional, outperform those chemical crops in years of drought, sequester more carbon, have less chemical run-off, and have more fertile soil."
The Rodale Institute farm opens again for tours and workshops starting Saturdays in March, then five days per week in April. If you are close enough to take advantage of their spring plant sale, you might want to mark that down for April 8 and 9. In the later season of numerous harvest festivals, there you can help celebrate the organic apple harvest. Here's a link to farm hours and special spring events.
The Institute's website includes an impressive amount of free tools for aspiring organic gardeners. It also seems to take a pragmatic approach to dealing with the economic realities of farming. The website includes a calculator for helping farmers start converting from conventional to organic methods. The New Farm section is inspired by the Rodale Publishing's New Farm magazine, offering easy-to-read articles that make the case for sustainable practices.
Maya Rodale certainly shares her great-grandfather's passion and is keeping it alive, "We can--and need--to cut out the chemicals and return to a more organic system. I'm happy to see that this truth is no longer on the fringe, but gaining wide acceptance."
Note: My local library is still waiting to receive the 1959 edition of Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening on my behalf. I'll let you know when it arrives.
Labels: farm, garden, green, organic