JoAnne Skelly: Rodale Institute offers sound information about organic growing

I first heard about the Rodale Institute a few decades ago when I used to read its “Organic Gardening” magazine. It has been around for 60 years researching and teaching organic gardening. Through the years, I have turned to the Institute and its well-written books when I wanted reputable information about organic growing. It is known for its research, its publications and its programs. It explores compost, soil health, weeds, pests, livestock, farming systems, agro-forestry, wastewater treatment and climate change. It started a honeybee conservancy program in 2012 in response to the colony collapse disorder and provide classes in beekeeping.

This nonprofit certified organic research farm is located on 333 acres in Kutztown, Penn. It is dedicated to organic leadership. J.I. Rodale started growing food organically in 1941 and started writing about his experiences in his “Organic Farming and Gardening Magazine” in 1942. The Institute started as the “Soil and Health Foundation” in 1947 with the motto, “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People.”

You can visit and take a self-guided tour or arrange for a custom tour designed to meet specific educational needs. Tour topics include: soil health versus soil quality; organic apple production; herb gardens; composting for backyard gardeners; and many others. Or, if you can’t visit, you may want to sign up for an online course. Its Organic Transition Course is a 15-hour online program about the National Organic Standards with an instructor who has more than 30 years experience farming organically.

One of the research projects I’m interested in is its Farming Systems Trial. It “is the longest-running side-by-side U.S. study comparing conventional chemical agriculture with organic methods.” It was started in 1981. The Institute found that after a few years of decline in yield when a farm changed from conventional to organic methods, the organic farm very soon came back matching or even surpassing the conventional farm’s yield. Some of the facts they discovered are “organic outperforms conventional in years of drought;” “organic farming uses 45 percent less energy and is more efficient;” “conventional farms produce 40 percent more greenhouse gases;” and “organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.”

Explore the Rodale Institute website,, if you are interested in learning more about organic growing.

The last two classes in our Grow Your Own series are Berry Production on April 28 and Walapinis: Experience with a Below-ground Greenhouse, April 30. Both run from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2621 Northgate Lane, Suite 12. Call 775-887-2252 to sign up.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment