Dig Deeper

The Cooperative CSA

By John and Aimee Good

Farming for a CSA market is an exercise in diversity. CSA farmers must possess the skills to reliably 25 or more different vegetable crops and at least 100 different varieties each season. In addition to the challenges inherent in trying to raise so many different crops well, many CSA farmers also spend a great deal of time and energy raising livestock, fruit and even dairy items to expand their product availability.

As apprentices on vegetable farms in New England 12 years ago, we developed a holistic management plan for our future farm. This was the final exercise in our apprentice training program designed to prepare us for starting our own farm. When we look back at that plan now, we cannot help but laugh at our ambition. Our plan went something like this:

•  Grow five acres of organic produce for a 200 member CSA
•  Grow approximately one acre of fruit trees
•  Use pigs to turn our compost and as a source of pork for our CSA
•  Raise laying hens
•  Raise broiler chickens for our CSA
•  Raise turkeys and a few beef cattle every year for ourselves and our members

More than a decade later, we run a successful 200-member CSA. Otherwise, we have achieved none of those goals. (more…)

Meet and greet with our ASC farmer

Come out to the Allentown Health Bureau March 20th, meet Cynthia James and learn more about getting veggies through our ASC program… (more…)

Farm Photo Friday: March 14, 2014

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute! (more…)

Bringing the dirt to your doorstep: Weed Management

For a generation of farmers raised on the idea that herbicides were the ultimate solution to weeds, creeping levels of resistance to chemical control opens the post-chemical chapter in weed management. Herbicide resistant “superweeds” have been identified on 14 million acres in 46 states to date.

Agriculturalists around the world are looking for better answers than have come so far from herbicide-focused efforts. They seek productive systems based on evolving local farmer wisdom. These deal with all pests—weeds included—as part of an approach integrating soil health, biodiversity, advanced understandings of biological interactions, and just enough steel to give crops the edge they need.

Join Rodale Institute, Penn State University, North Carolina State University and Iowa State University as growers and researchers present live, hands-on farmer workshops on organic practices that improve efficiency, soil health and crop health, and increase both production and economic yields. (more…)

Animal husbandry coordinator needed!

Rodale Institute is accepting applications for an Animal Husbandry Coordinator. Primary responsibilities include overseeing the care, feeding and breeding of livestock. (more…)

Organic no-till basics

Organic no-till is a rotational tillage system which combines the best aspects of no-till while satisfying the requirements of the USDA organic regulations. Organic no-till is both a technique and tool to achieve the farmer’s objectives of reducing tillage and building soil health. It is also a whole farm system. And these techniques and tools can work equally well on all farms whether or not they are organic.

Organic no-till can help your farm in a number of different ways but it is imperative that the system be implemented in a way that encourages success. Here are just a few of the key concepts to think about: (more…)

State of the Seed

By Lia Babitch, Turtle Tree Seed

This is a very interesting time to be a small seed company that grows, maintains, improves and cares for a number of vegetable, herb and flower varieties on our own farm. On the one hand, we see an increasing awareness among people who farm and garden that the source of their seeds is important, that not all seed sources are equal, and that choosing where to buy seeds is as important as where to buy or how to raise food.

Industrial seed production, because it is not considered food, is less regulated in terms of what chemicals can go on the crops and into the environment. And industrial seed production is concentrated in a few specific areas across the globe, causing concern that should one of these areas become vulnerable or have a bad season, seed supplies of a given crop could dramatically drop. (more…)

Crossover technologies for soil health

Organic growers have historically had to rely on the surrounding soil and ecosystem biology to support their crops since the chemistry of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers were unavailable. But every farm can benefit from improved soil health and reduced costs. Several technologies that were initiated as organic strategies can easily be transferred to any operation.

Soil health is dependent on several key concepts, all based on the idea that soil is a complex material made up of a physical component, a chemical component and a biological component. It is only when all three of these components are in balance that the soil can function in a dynamic state of health. (more…)

Innovative on-site watewater treatment

By Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute Farm Director

Water is one of the most undervalued resources we have. Less than 1 percent of all the water on earth is considered potable and available for our use. Today, an average American household uses 400 gallons of water per day, most of this precious resource literally going down the drain. In Pennsylvania more than 30 percent of all households use a well as their source of water and an on-lot or decentralized system for handling the waste water coming from their residences. According the U.S. EPA, more than 10 percent of these sewage systems fail every year.

When Rodale Institute began looking at replacing our outdated public facility we started by looking more closely at the source of our water and the systems we were using to manage our waste water. The idea of simply hooking up to public utilities such as municipal water and sewage is not always the answer and many on-lot systems are in some stage of periodic failure. Our waste water systems, nationally, are taxed beyond their ability for expansion and we felt it only right to view our system within this context. (more…)