By LORI PATRICK
Special to the press
âThe world we live in, the world we grow in, is changing,â said Jeff Moyer, CEO of the Rodale Institute.
That simple statement sounded like a thematic message for the âOrganic Town Hallâ presented under the farm pavilion at the 333-acre Rodale Institute headquarters on September 9 in Kutztown.
There was excitement in the air with conversations about Pennsylvania’s most recent farm bill, a first in the country.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bill is a $ 23 million set of laws that touches on areas important to farmers and includes a real estate transfer tax exemption to help a skilled farmer transfer preserved farmland for a next generation. production and sustainability.
Other aspects of the bill can be found at agriculture.pa.gov/FoodForThought by searching Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill allows the Rodale Institute to provide its organic farming advisory services free of charge to farms wishing to make the transition.
Farms find support opportunities that probably wouldn’t exist without it.
It’s a leap of faith made possible by the expert advice Rodale has, through experience and extensive study, and research into soils that create an atmosphere to join the organic regeneration movement.
State Representatives Ryan Mackenzie, R-134th, and Gary Day, R-187th, and State Department of Agriculture Director of Market Development Laura England were part of the speaking party for talk about the progress made in the cultivation of organic agriculture, explaining the beneficial reasons. for farmers to sell to consumers.
Each of them highlighted the importance of the Rodale Institute’s working partnership in helping farmers make the transition through consultation, funding and education.
The understanding expressed at City Hall is that Pennsylvania has a support system beyond any other region in the United States, as the state drives the country toward more organic production for the benefit of all in this regard. which concerns health, economy and sustainability.
The Rodale Institute has expanded to eight campuses in the United States, including California, Iowa, and Georgia, and now one in Italy.
Opening the session, Jeff Tkach, Chief Impact Officer, provided an overview of the mission of the Rodale Institute.
He mentioned that “Rodale’s roots are right here in Kutztown and Emmaus where JI Rodale bought his first farm in the 1930s”.
Tkach later called the great Lehigh Valley “the world’s organic Silicon Valley”.
The first introduction was Rodale CEO Jeff Moyer.
âWe have been truly fortunate here in Pennsylvania to have a rich history of willingness and support for the concept of transitioning from conventional to organic farms,â said Moyer.
He thanked the representatives of the State Mackenzie and Day, and England from the Department of Agriculture for being there.
Moyer spoke of market demand far exceeding supply, making it necessary to import food, fiber, raw materials and processed products.
He also discussed the fragility of current systems, including climate change and the impacts of weather conditions, where the challenge is to meet the needs of consumer demand.
For the future, keeping products local for consumers in Pennsylvania is of the utmost importance, Moyer said.
The director of the Rodale Institute for Organic Crop Consulting, Sam Malriat, then spoke.
He mentioned that his very first transitional consultation was a dairy farm, which has effectively gone organic and has now doubled its organic acreage.
âThis is a very good sign and it shows you the support we can provide.
“They need someone to lean on, so they can help make this point not just to their families but to themselves about the importance of it.”
He spoke of the profitability for the farms to be involved.
âIt’s a market that has grown 4-25% every year since its inception and it’s a great way to diversify your existing business. “
Malriat said the Bell and Evans and Cargill companies have entered into a long-term contract to purchase grain, giving Pennsylvania organic farmers even more confidence with guaranteed market prices.
Next to the desk was Mackenzie.
He spoke of the state of health, as well as the potential economic benefits for the farmers who get involved.
Mackenzie began with some health statistics by stating: âWhen it comes to the health and well-being of Americans, 75% of the US $ 3 trillion annual health care spending is related to health and wellness. preventable lifestyle diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
“We are also seeing that autoimmune and neurocognitive disorders also heavily influenced by diet are on the rise and at the same time we are using record levels of pesticides at 5.2 billion pounds per year here in the United States. . “
Mackenzie believes that everything is interconnected and that through the organic farming approach we can improve the health and lives of individuals.
Referring to the economy, Mackenzie spoke of creating biological detection centers where everyone works together, which will create small businesses beyond agriculture and will need more employees coming back to the research, development, consultation and the farmers who make this process work.
Day, who was introduced next, spoke about the Farm Bill, Pennsylvania Preferred Organic Program.
Day mentioned that âit created the opportunity for the farmers to get rid of the barrier to make the decisionâ.
He also said that many new farmers are actively looking for land that has already been transformed, so that they can get to work once they have acquired it.
âWith the improvements in organic farming, farmers are finding that these organic farmers are seeing that these organic farms are actually becoming more profitable and that it promotes more jobs for people. “
England joined the presentation and spoke about the importance of the relationship with the Rodale Institute.
The Farm Bill has consulting funds available for farmers to have free help with industry experts.
She spoke of the advancing certified organic farms and urged farmers to seek newly available planning or succession grants.
She also shared recent organic census data which revealed that 1,048 farms in Pennsylvania are now USDA certified organic.
England stresses “We still have a long way to go, but we are here as a partner of the PA Ministry of Agriculture with all of you, to see what we can do in the future.”
Guest farmers and partners Michael Conner and Marcie Boettger of Sarahsway Farm in Gilbertsville were invited to speak about their experience as a transitional farm to USDA organic certification.
Conner initially spoke of finding Rodale Institute as a fluke, essentially driving down an unfamiliar road.
They inquired at the “Garden Store” and from there they took the necessary steps to transition their farm.
He has talked about being curious in the past, but the word in the farming community was, how much it would cost and how the government would be in their business.
So he discovered for himself the real story of the accompaniment and all the free services available to them during his chance visit to the Rodale farm.
In July 2019, they completed their farm papers with Malriat.
They introduced cattle into their program as well as existing hay to become truly regenerative.
Then Boettger continued to laugh about her t-shirt which she was wearing which she had bought at the Garden Store.
It displays the slogan written by the founder of the farm, JI Rodale “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People”.
She enjoys wearing it as a uniform as she works so she can explain to people who may stop to ask questions the importance and benefits of what the quote says.
Boettger spoke about the philosophy of the farm, mentioning regenerating the soil they are working on so that they can make it completely healthy for growing food.
Even though some of the land they bought is not in optimal condition at the time she says land,
âDon’t worry, we’ll take care of you because it’s our connection to the landâ and even raise their cattle saying, âWe just feel like if we give them love in the way we raise them and how we fool them on the pitch, that the love we give them comes back to us in the form of nutrition. Tkach suggested that the public check out rodaleinstitute.org for all of their offerings. free education for consumers and farmers, including courses and webinars.
PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK Jeff Tkach, Impact Director of the Rodale Institute, discusses the Rodale Institute’s commitment to organic farming around the world. To the left is General Manager Jeff Moyer, who has been on Rodale’s staff since 1976.
Rodale Institute Director of Education Maria Pop listens to Laura England, Director of Market Development at the state Department of Agriculture, as she discusses the joining of forces between the Department of Agriculture and the Rodale Institute for the Future of Organic Agriculture.
Rodale Institutes CEO Jeff Moyer explains the changing landscape of the need for organic farming, highlighting consumer demand and today’s climate change.
Director of Market Development at the Department of Agriculture Laura England grew up on a conventional dairy farm and understands that years ago communication was not available to farmers as it is today through partnerships.
State Representative Ryan Mackenzie, R-134th, talks about the effects of food in the marketplace on health and the overall benefits of organic food for personal well-being.
State Representative Gary Day R-187th opened his speech with a quote from an old trout fisherman “looking for the bait” regarding the importance of everyone coming together and maintaining a interest in organic farming.
Lehigh County Agricultural Bureau Chairman Bill Boyd and his wife Karen of Mertztown own farms in Lehigh and Berks counties. They both found encouragement at the September 9 town hall meeting at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, which focused on organic farming.
The director of the Rodale Institute for Organic Crop Consulting, Sam Malriat, said there are around 160 farmers who have committed to transitioning at least part of their farms to organic certification across the state.
Participants and speakers received a canvas tote filled with information resources as well as a bottle of organic honey from the Rodale Institute. The tote, which carries the short slogan âRegeneration Nationâ, talks about the advancements in organic farming over the years.
PRESS PHOTOS BY LORI PATRICK Guests at the lectern are organic hay farmers and partners Michael Conner and Marcie Boettger of Sarahsway Farm, Gilbertsville. They were among the first clients of the Rodale Institute consulting firm to switch from conservative farming to certified organic farming.