Our Mission: Through organic leadership we improve the health and well-being of people and the planet.
Rodale Institute was founded in 1947 by organic pioneer J.I. Rodale to study the link between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people. He moved from New York City to rural Pennsylvania in the late 1930′s where he was able to realize his keen personal interest in farming.
He learned about organic food-growing concepts being promoted by Lady Eve Balfour and Sir Albert Howard and theorized that to preserve and improve our health we must restore and protect the natural health of the soil. Developing and demonstrating practical methods of rebuilding natural soil fertility became J.I. Rodale’s primary goal when World War II’s sudden shortage of nitrogen fertilizer—as it was diverted to making munitions—exposed the natural nutrient poverty of the nation’s soil. In 1947, J.I. founded the Soil and Health Foundation, forerunner to the Rodale Institute.
J.I. was the author of numerous books and the creator of many magazines still available today, including Organic Farming and Gardening (now known as Organic Gardening) and Prevention. The publishing company he founded, known today as Rodale Inc., is the authoritative source for trusted content in health, fitness and wellness around the world.
The concept of “organic” was simple but revolutionary in the post-World War II era. Manure, cover crops and crop mixtures were standard practices through World War I, but chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, artificial ingredients, preservatives and additives for taste and appearance in the years since the war rapidly changed agriculture. As J.I. Rodale communicated the idea of creating soil rich in nutrients and free of contaminants, people began to listen and acceptance grew. “Organics is not a fad’” J.I. wrote in 1954. “It has been a long-established practice – much more firmly grounded than the current chemical flair. Present agricultural practices are leading us downhill.”
J.I. Rodale died in 1971. His son Robert expanded the farm and research with the purchase of a 333-acre farm near Kutztown, Pennsylvania. With his wife Ardath, Robert established what is now the Rodale Institute and an era of research began.
Powerful testimony by Robert, the Institute’s president at the time John Haberen, and the farmers and scientists who swore by their sustainable organic methods convinced the U.S. Congress to include funds for organic agriculture in the 1985 Farm Bill. Today, federal, state and local governments, land-grant universities and other organizations nationwide are pursuing organic agriculture research and education programs.
When Robert Rodale was killed in a traffic accident in Moscow in 1990, Ardath Rodale became the Institute chairman and their son Anthony became vice-chairman. Anthony and his wife Florence developed outreach efforts to children during their period of active program involvement before Anthony became an international ambassador for Rodale Institute’s mission. The family continues their active involvement today. Maria Rodale, Robert’s daughter and current CEO of the family’s publishing business, Rodale Inc., serves as the Institute’s co-chair with Paul McGinley.
Rodale Institute is committed to groundbreaking research in organic agriculture, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating people about how organic is the safest, healthiest option for people and the planet.
Read a letter from our Executive Director Coach Mark Smallwood.