Dig Deeper

Healthy Soil, Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby

Originally published on October 10, 2012

By guest blogger Pooja Mottl

What if someone told you “dirt” and “pregnancy” are intimately connected? Would you believe it? Consider this: The health of “dirt” (a.k.a. soil) could have a significant impact not only on the health of your pregnancy but also on the well-being of your baby after he or she arrives into the world. Let’s explore this fascinating connection by linking the dots one by one.

The healthier the soil, the more nutrient dense your food

Vibrant, healthy soil is where it all begins. Just look back at the philosophy of organic pioneers J.I. and Robert Rodale who knew that the nutritional value of foods begins with the condition of the soil and the way that food is grown.

Every day, our precious soil is altered by harsh agricultural processes and chemicals unknown to Mother Nature. The use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, for example, essentially makes our soil “sick,” depleting it of its naturally-occurring minerals and vital microorganisms. Sick soil can’t grow food that has the maximum amount of nutrients possible. Only healthy soil can do that. “Nutrient density” is a measurement of the amount of nutrients per volume of food . If a food is giving you the maximum amount of nutrients it can per volume, it is a highly nutrient-dense food. Healthy soil maximizes the nutrient density of the food we and other animals (cows, sheep, etc.) eat. The more we respect the health of soil, the more nutritious our food

Another (often surprising) aspect to healthier soil is that it enhances the flavor in food. Raspberries taste sweeter. Milk, butter and yogurt taste creamier, richer and more indulgent . This is why the world’s top chefs seek out only the freshest ingredients from the most sustainable farms – they want their food to blow your taste buds away!

Healthier food means a healthier 9 months

Pregnant mamas have a lot to look forward to. Take it from me: I’ve had the honor of having this experience. However, during these precious nine months, optimal nourishment is the most critical for mom as she not only needs to nourish herself but also her growing baby . Whole, unrefined foods that come from healthy, organic soils are what she needs most (and we just learned how tasty this food can be!). Otherwise, if food is coming from unhealthy soils, moms may need to eat a higher volume of foods to get the same amount of nutrients. And we know what that means: more volume = more weight gain. Unnecessary pounds during pregnancy can lead to a less energetic, more “achy” three quarters of a year. Also, unnecessary weight gain, especially from refined and processed foods, can lead to gestational diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia and increased risk of caesarian section delivery .

A healthier pregnancy, a healthier baby

There are numerous studies linking the foods that moms choose to eat prenatally and how this can affect babies after they make their arrival into the world. Pesticide exposure is a big one and has been linked to damaged brain development in babies . Growing babes need a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrient-dense foods to develop the vital organs and other body and brain functions they require.  Healthy babies also benefit from a physically stronger, happier, and more balanced mama during pregnancy. So at the end of the day, it just makes sense that the healthier a prenatal experience, the better chance for a baby to end up being a strong and optimally nourished child, free of ailments and disease.

Bringing It Full Circle

That’s how the dots connect: healthy “dirt” ultimately leads to a healthy baby! It’s a linkage we don’t seem to think about, but one which is so critical to the beautiful, human experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. Campaigns to grow our food and take care of our soil as J.I. and Robert Rodale envisioned can support millions of women on their way to partaking in one of the most natural and ethereal experiences of their lives:  becoming mothers. If we honor our soil, we are ultimately honoring the next generation.

Pooja Mottl is a Sustainable Chef, Speaker, Healthy Lifestyle Coach and Creator of 3-Day Resets (www.3DayResets.com) and Pooja’s Way (www.PoojasWay.com). She is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, and holds a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. She has taught cooking classes at Whole Foods Market and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Pooja has appeared on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America,” WGN TV’s “Lunchbreak,” as well as Martha Stewart Radio (Sirius XM) among other outlets


The value of rain barrels

By Heather Kaiser, Rodale Institute Intern

Here at Rodale Institute, we believe that conservation and environmentally friendly products are the key to preserving our homes, gardens, and communities. One way of implementing these positive changes is through the use of rain barrels.

Rain barrels are containers that capture and hold the rainwater that drains from your roof. The size of the barrels can range anywhere from 50 to 80 gallons and can incorporate a spigot for hose connection or for filling watering cans and other containers.

IMG_20140724_155449_145There are many benefits to having rain barrels; conserving money, having healthy plants and soil, and the reduction of excess runoff are just a few ways that these environmentally friendly barrels can benefit your life and the environment.

The use of rain barrels provide a no cost water source for irrigation that puts no strain on the city’s or your personal water supply. Unlike tap water, rainwater does not contain any inorganic ions or fluoride compounds that can gather in the soil overtime, potentially harming plant roots and microorganisms found in soil. During a storm or a period of heavy rain, runoff picks up soil, fertilizer, oil, pesticides, and other harsh chemicals from hard surfaces and various landscapes. With the use of rain barrels, this excess rainwater is captured before it has the chance to become runoff.

This Saturday, we are holding a Make Your Own Rain Barrel workshop. This workshop will provide you wit
h the knowledge and hands-on experience to create your own rain barrel at the workshop and the education to pass on the knowledge of self-sufficiency and conservation to your friends and family.

We hope you can join us.

Farm Photo Friday: January 30, 2015

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!


The snow made today a great day for building and creativity! Michael Schmaeling, one of the farm's Strategic Solutions Team members, showed this photographer how to build a raised garden bed in the shop. You can learn how to make your own raised bed at our Organic Gardening II: Starting a raised bed garden event in March!


Just next door in the greenhouse, Molly Sweitzer, Marketing and Sales Manager, is getting her hands dirty creating these awesome terrariums. Inside these terrariums are different kinds of plants, flowers, and mosses.


These beautiful terrariums will be for sale starting next week, Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Rodale Institute Garden Store. Be sure to pick one up for your very special valentine!


It's ok Miss Peggy, we know it's hard to get out of bed on these snowy mornings.


"Can I help you?" Despite the cold temperatures, it seems as if this photographer has interrupted the donkeys' sunbathing! Many pardons!


Lunch time! The chickens didn't wish to speak with their mouths full, but it doesn't look like the snow is bothering them too much.


Following up on last week's Farm Photo Friday, it seems as if all our goats do is eat! Greedy, greedy goats!

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!


Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC) internships available!

Rodale Institute is now accepting applications for Internship Positions in the  Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC) Program for the 2015 growing season.

The ASC Program is a modified farm share program offering affordable payment plans to make fresh, local, organic produce accessible to just about anyone in the community.

Internship participants will be trained with responsibilities in every aspect of operating a small local organic grower’s business; it is an educational internship with real life responsibilities.

Individuals who are serious about taking the next steps towards starting their own sustainable, organic growers business should apply. Applicants should have some farming experience, be able to lift up to 40 lbs, and expect to be working in seasonal environmental elements.

Hands-on training will include: seed starting, greenhouse production & seasonal extensions, transplanting, pest & weed management, soil health, introduction to large equipment, harvesting, processing, marketing, customer relations, and working with community partners. In addition the internship program will follow a comprehensive curriculum exposing participants to training in business planning & marketing, nutrition education, and designing a crop plan.

Interns will graduate from the full-time 8-month program (April – November) considered an Ambassador of the Rodale Institute and can expect a continued developing relationship with our organization.

Individuals from urban areas are encouraged to apply (i.e. Allentown, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Baltimore, New York, etc)

To apply, fill out an ASC intern application and send it along with your resume and cover letter to Cynthia James, ASC Program Manager at the Rodale Institute. cynthia.james@rodaleinstitute.org

Visit our Work With Us page for more job, internship or volunteer
opportunities available at Rodale Institute!

Research Interns needed at Rodale Institute

Rodale Institute’s Research Department investigates a number of scientific and regenerative farming issues, including cover crop practices, organic weed management, organic no-till systems, compost use, influences of agricultural practices on water quality, and effects of mycorrhizae and other soil biota on crop and soil health, and yields. The Department also oversees the Farming Systems Trial (FST), the oldest continuous trial in the US that compares organic and conventional farming systems.

To support this research, our interns work with staff researchers to lay out experimental field plots, assist with greenhouse plantings, conduct lab experiments, tend and maintain experiments, collect and process samples from the field, and enter data for statistical analysis and interpretation. This work involves physical activities in the field, lab work, and computer use, operating both in teams and individually. Many long days in the field collecting soil samples, assessing weed populations, and picking crops to determine yield should be expected. Interns that can work for two or more months duration, between May and December are desired. Preference will be given to applicants who can be present for longer periods of time. (more…)

Livestock Intern needed at Rodale Institute

In recent years, the Rodale Institute has added a variety of livestock to the farm in order to diversify the use of land and increase the biology of the soil and compost. We are currently focused on dairy cows, organic swine and poultry, but also house a team of oxen, a small herd of goats, two sheep and two donkeys. We have begun research on our poultry as well as our swine, and hope to continue with the help of an enthusiastic intern. This unpaid internship will have a flexible schedule and will be required to work up to 40 hours per week. Some days will exceed 8 hours. The Institute will accept an intern on a semester basis.

This internship is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about organic animal agriculture and organic veterinary care. The knowledge and experience obtained during the internship will allow for the individual to feel comfortable during future college courses and a career in animal husbandry.

Housing is available for the unpaid intern. Intern should be available from 6 months to a year.


• Assist in the day to day care of the animals, while learning and gaining experience about organic animal production, health, research, and management.
• Assist with daily animal chores including, but not limited to, feeding, watering, rotating pastures, collecting eggs, and socializing with the animals.
• Be able to recognize any problems that may occur in the health and wellbeing of the livestock.
• Assist in solving any issues related to the livestock.

• Caring and compassionate with animals.
• Experience in the handling and care of animals.
• Capable of strenuous physical activities on the farm.
• Willingness to work in all weather elements.
• Be comfortable working individually or as a team.
• Ability to communicate with other staff members and the public, including neighboring farmers.
• Interest in research that has the potential to improve organic pork and poultry production.

• Must have a high school diploma.

Minimal travel


To be trustful and respectful to all staff and visitors.

If interested please submit resume and/or application to elaine.macbeth@rodaleinstitute.org

Farm Photo Friday: January 23, 2015

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!


The moment you've all been waiting for... Our new hog facility is almost completed! You've seen plenty of photos from a distance, so today you'll get a peek inside the pigs new crib.


Only one of these doors will be open at any given time, opening to fresh pasture. As the pigs are rotated to new pasture, the next door will be opened for them to graze. From the sky, the operation will look like spokes on a wagon wheel, with the facility in the center.


Miss Peggy was introduced to our Farm Photo Friday friends just last week. She's smiling to show how much she's enjoying herself here at Rodale Institute!


This week, she was introduced to the piglets. She's already receiving sweet smooches so she must be assimilating nicely.


Today is Lauren Cichocki's day off. What's she doing here? As the Animal Husbandry Coordinator, she keeps tabs on all the animals' health.


Houdini is having some breakfast. From this angle, he looks like a Kong-sized hog who could eat Stephanie Zimmerman and Lauren in one chomp! Watch out ladies!


"This is our lunch. Goat get your own!"


The cold doesn't seem to bother these Buff Orpingtons one bit...


The donkeys, on the other hand, are so over winter. This photographer overheard them talking about getting tickets for a cruise to Bermuda. A donkey can dream, can't he?


 Is that a nice loaf of bread in a warm oven? No! Rae Moore, Research Technician and Dr. Kris Nichols, Chief Scientist, are sterilizing sand. Why would they ever sterilize sand? One of our current research experiments is testing out what happens when compost extract is applied to plants. Will it help the crop grow? Will it help the weeds grow? Both? One and not the other? We will see! But we want to be sure that the only biology at work in this experiment comes from the compost extract, so the sand will need to be totally sterile.


The caption is tough to read, so here's what it says: "Almost 40% of household water use during the summer is for lawns and gardens. Rain barrels help conserve water and save money." Want to learn how to make your own? Register now for our workshop, "Make Your Own Rain Barrels!"


Dan Kemper, Strategic Support Team member, just completed this heated bed in the greenhouse. To save some money on heating, the temperature for the greenhouse will be turned down, but we will still be able to start plenty of produce thanks to this heated bed.


The plastic has tiny holes to let water drain. Heating pads will be placed on top of the tarp.  The tarp will keep in sand, which will fill the bed.  The sand conducts heat from the heating pads to warm the trays of starts so that the seeds will be warm enough germinate.

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!

Garden Internships

Rodale Institute is offering an educational and hands-on opportunity for interns to learn and practice the fundamental principles of Organic plant cultivation and garden maintenance. In 2015, the garden will undergo renovation of existing beds. New garden areas will include a Medicinal Plant Garden, Demonstration Garden and Cut Flower Garden. Interns will have the opportunity to work with a diverse selection of plant material including vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.

The garden intern will be involved in all aspects of garden establishment and maintenance including:

♦  Seeding in the greenhouse, watering and maintenance of greenhouse plants.
♦  Establishment of garden beds, assisting in garden layout and spring planting of transplants.
♦  On-going plant care including: pruning, dead-heading, watering, mulching, and weeding.
♦  Harvest of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
♦  Implementation of organic pest control measures when needed.
♦  Preparation and application of Compost Teas.

Must be able to routinely lift 50 pounds, move freely around the farm, have the ability and willingness to operate machinery, and be able and willing to work under adverse weather conditions. Must have attention to detail, follow directions, and maintain accurate garden records.

To apply, please send a letter of interest and your resume to Maggie Saska, Plant Production Specialist maggie.saska@rodaleinstitute.org

St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm Internship

stLukesSliderRodale Institute is seeking enthusiastic individuals with a positive spirit to apply for an internship at the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm. The farm is a partnership between the Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s Hospital to create an innovative farm-to-institute model. The farm provides produce to all six hospitals in the St. Luke’s health network. In 2015 the farm will also pilot a small CSA program for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm is embarking into its second growing season and requires strong and confident individuals to join the team. Interns will be trained in greenhouse production, field work, pest & weed management, farm equipment, record keeping, irrigation, CSA distribution, bee keeping, Wholesale distribution, and various other skills associated with the day to day operations necessary to run an organic farm. Interns will also have access to educational opportunities and training at the Rodale Institute.

SLUHN.Intern Interns must be committed to the farm’s success, and in turn, the farm will be committed to the intern’s success. The program strives to help launch interns into a farming career by proving a solid foundation in agriculture and helping interns make connections in the field of agriculture both literally and figuratively.

Interns will be provided with on-site housing, access to vegetable, and a small stipend. The internship will begin in April and end in November.

Rodale Institute believes healthy soil, produces healthy food which produces healthy people. The St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm Internship is an amazing opportunity for interns to begin an agricultural career, uphold the Rodale Institute’s mission and change our current food system for the better.

To apply, send a letter of interest and resume to Lynn Trizna, Project Manager at lynn.trizna@rodaleinstitute.org

Farm Photo Friday: January 16, 2015

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!


Hello again, Farm Photo Friday Friends! Meet Miss Peggy.
Miss Peggy, how about a kiss for our Farm Photo Friday Friends?


These pigs are enjoying new pasture today where we've planted radishes and some of their favorite grasses. But what's that in the background?


In the back ground you can see that their new facility really came together this week with a tarp...


And wow! When you zip this thing up, it fits really well!


Even though they haven't moved in yet, the pigs are feeling so appreciative they could just kiss Stephanie Zimmerman, Strategic Solutions Team Member.


Cynthia James, ASC Program Manager, is getting ready for the upcoming ASC season by selecting and ordering seeds, working on plot plans and reviewing applications for ASC interns! Want to intern at the Rodale Institute? Check this out!


Here is where the sheep and goats get along together in harmony. However, some of the younger buck goats have been a bit rambunctious this week. Shay-ay-ay-ay-ame on them!


Sharing space with Cynthia is Maggie Saska, Plant Production Specialist. Maggie is taking a look at the tool offerings from our good friends at Corona!


SEED SWAP tomorrow! The Winter Warm Up is tomorrow at 11am-2pm and is a great opportunity to meet other growers, swap seeds, order from our various seed catalogs and get expert advice!


How many farms do you know of that have a server room? Not many. Jay Belanger is our Part-time IT Administrator and is seen here demonstrating the new telephone system. Jay is a behind the scenes, bona fide tech wiz and one of our best kept secrets. Until he made it onto world famous Farm Photo Friday.


What a special treat we had today for lunch! Michael Schmaeling, Facilities Team Member, and Molly Sweitzer, Marketing and Sales Specialist, worked together to whip up a wonderful wunch. Er... lunch.


Not only did they serve up some fried fish but we were also treated to a hardy stew of venison and bear meat!


Mike hunted and harvested the meats for the whole meal. Way to go and thank you Mike!


Lunch is over. Back to work! Dan Kemper, Strategic Support Team Member, is already ahead of the game. Dan designed and constructed this root washer from a rain barrel.


We were able to catch up with him as he was putting the final pieces into place. They fit perfectly, just as planned. An exciting moment!


With the root washer now in place at the greenhouse, we chalk up one more solid improvement to the farm - thank you Dan!

Don’t forget… Show your organic love!