Dig Deeper


Halfway Through and Looking Ahead

photo 1_200by Caroline Hampton

When I reflect on my first year as an independent farmer, I feel proud of what I have accomplished. Though I can certainly credit myself for working hard and dedicating much time to my operation, I feel sure that luck has contributed just as much to my successes this season. This taste of early success has certainly hooked me on farming and made me feel that this is the career path that I can and want to continue to pursue. Every season for a farmer is about making it through the current season under changing conditions while thinking ahead to the next season and planning what can be done differently to improve next time around. In the coming months as we near fall, my posts will focus on what lessons I’ve learned and changes I will be making. (more…)

Farm Photo Friday: July 25, 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!

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The Growing Season

photo 1_200by Caroline Hampton

The growing season is in full swing in the High Country of North Carolina, with summer crops in the ground and coming up. At this summer solstice time, it is exciting to watch the accelerated growth of crops from the long daylight hours, growing a noticeable amount daily. This month has been filled with planting and it is now time to seed fall crops. I enjoy admiring my mature crops in the field and watching the daily progress of plants recently transplanted or seeded. There is always something new to see and much of it is good. I have had very few problems with disease and insect damage up to this point. (more…)

Revitalizing Heirloom Grains in the Pacific Northwest

In appreciation of their support, we invite Rodale Institute Business Members to share an article about their work on our website. These articles often include insightful information based on their experience and line of work.  It provides a unique perspective of organic agriculture that we enjoy sharing with our readers. 

By Laurie Mooney, Landscape Design Specialist, Pacific Foods

In late fall 2012, a small container of the earliest wheat seed variety known to the Pacific Northwest was delivered to Chuck Eggert, founder of Pacific Foods of Oregon and farmer in the North Willamette Valley. The container was from Chuck’s longtime friend and associate, Dr. Richard Scheuerman. Richard is an associate professor of education and author of the book, Harvest Heritage: Puget Sound Heirloom Crops and Agricultural Orgins. As an advocate for cultivating heirloom grains and an author on the subject, Dr. Scheuerman was looking for help in preserving the seeds and conducting grain trials in their native region. Chuck and Pacific’s affiliated farms jumped at the chance to join him and have started experimenting with heirloom barley and oats in addition to wheat. All are winter crops, planted in the fall and harvested in summer.

Steeped in deep cultural and culinary tradition, heirloom grains were 19th century staple crops for indigenous people of the region. These grains are unique because unlike many crops today, they have remained genetically stable for thousands of years and are free of any GMO alteration. In addition, the grains have thicker bran layers and higher levels of important trace minerals, so the foods prepared from them have enhanced nutritional benefits.

Chuck values being a good steward of the land and supports a cultural heritage rooted in connectedness. Working closely with Dr. Scheuerman, Chuck has not only agreed to bring these seeds back into cultivation, but also to grow them using old world agrarian techniques and traditions.

White Lammas Wheat

Spring Wheat

The farms’ heirloom grain trials have primarily focused on a soft white winter wheat originally from England called “White Lammas.” It also goes by the nicknames “Hudson’s Bay” or “Old White Winter.” While the grain itself is a white wheat, the stalks are distinctly blue. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s been nicknamed “Pacific Bluestem,” though seed for that particular Lammas strain likely came from Australia in the mid-1800s. An Oregon farmer had kept this historic variety vital in the early 1900s. Nearly a century later, the same seeds landed in the hands of Dr. Scheuerman.

During the trials, the grain grew strong throughout the spring months. It seeded quickly and easily with nearly a 98% germination rate and little extra care. One benefit of growing crops like this heirloom wheat is a more efficient use of water. This is because grains like these in particular develop a deep tap root system and don’t require additional irrigation, ultimately resulting in production cost savings.

The staff at Pacific’s affiliated farms use a harvesting method that mimics those used in the early 1900’s. The wheat is harvested using a sickle blade, cutting a handful of grain at a time. It is then laid out for curing on propagation tables in greenhouses for at least two weeks. This process hardens the kernels to a point where they shatter easily and cannot be dented with your thumbnail. Then, the grain is separated. To do this, the grains are laid on a tarp and stomped over, a process known in pioneer days when used with horses as “treading out.” The remaining, separated seeds are transferred to buckets for winnowing.

The winnowing process used is also a back-to-basics method and completely manual. The seed is poured from one bucket to another, letting the breeze from a fan push the chaff off the grain. Using this technique, the team produces about five pounds of wheat in 30 minutes.

Barley

Barley

Barley & Oats

Pacific’s affiliated farms are also experimenting with some heirloom varieties of barley and oats. The barley, called “Scots Bere,” was originally cultivated as early as the 8th century by Viking colonizers in the northern British Isles and is still used by a small, dedicated group of farmers on Scotland’s Orkney and Shetland islands. The farms also grow two varieties of heirloom oats: Scottish Chief Oat and Palouse Wonder. These have a similar heritage to the barley, both deriving from Scotland.

The heirloom barley is a hardy six-row landrace and is highly regarded for use in both brewing beer and baking bread. Scots Bere, along with other similar varieties, was raised in the Willamette Valley until the 1870s. It is well acclimated to cooler coastal climates, making Pacific’s affiliated farms a perfect testing site for trials.

The team at the farms first harvested the heirloom barley in the summer of 2013. Once harvested, the barley was returned to Dr. Scheuerman who in turn shared it with Washington State University’s Bread Lab and craft brewers in the region. To extend his work, Dr. Scheuerman has recently launched a small business, Columbia Heritage Grain & Trading Company, which works with a group of Pacific Northwest organic farmers to grow heirloom grain varieties.

In the Pacific Northwest, and specifically the North Willamette Valley, nature takes its own course with average annual rainfall of almost 40 inches of rain per year – 80% of the rain coming during October through May. Laurie Mooney, Landscape Design Specialist for Pacific’s affiliated farms, and her team have found that the heirloom varietals they have been working with grow best in the North Willamette’s rich soil conditions and mild climate without needing irrigation.

The farms look forward to continuing to experiment with growing heirloom grains in the Willamette Valley, saving the seeds and sharing when possible.

Recommended Readings:
Harvest Heritage by Richard Scheuerman, Alexander C. McGregor and John Clement
The Book of Wheat, An Economic History and Practical Manual by Peter Tracy Dodlinger

Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s University Health Network Partner to Provide Organic Produce to to Patients, Staff and Visitors

St. LukesBETHLEHEM TWP, Pa. (7/17/14) — St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, in partnership with Rodale Institute, is one of the few hospitals in the nation to offer patients organic produce grown at an organic farm located on the hospital campus, the partners announced today.  In addition, organic produce is now available to the employees, visitors and caregivers to offer healthy options for health and healing through the hospital’s food services vendor, Sodexo Inc.

“Working with the Rodale Institute to develop an organic, working farm onsite will allow St. Luke’s to continue providing patients with a holistic health care experience that creates a positive atmosphere for health and healing,” said Ed Nawrocki, President, St. Luke’s Anderson Campus. “By providing patients with locally-grown organic produce, St. Luke’s is showing a commitment to the environment and promoting the health of its patients and the community.”

The farm at St. Luke’s will allow the network to raise community awareness about the importance of healthy eating and the impact of food choices on overall health and well-being.

“Numerous studies prove that organic fruits and vegetables offer many advantages over conventionally-grown foods, such as: increased amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and antioxidants, which reduce incidence of heart disease and some cancers; and a lowered risk of common conditions such as cancer, heart disease, allergies and hyperactivity in children,” said Bonnie Coyle, MD, MS, Director of Community Health, St. Luke’s University Health Network.

Rodale Institute has developed a five acre tract into a produce farm on the 500 acre St. Luke’s Anderson Campus. St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm will offer organically grown local produce that will be distributed to all six St. Luke’s  hospitals to be used in daily food preparation by Sodexo Inc. for patients, as well as offered in the hospital cafeterias for staff and visitors.

As part of the partnership, Rodale Institute has provided St. Luke’s University Health Network with Lynn Trizna, an onsite organic vegetable farmer, to ensure the quality of the farm’s produce, follow organic farming practices and coordinate the produce deliveries with Sodexo for the St. Luke’s hospitals. Trizna is also responsible for transitioning the land to organic and overseeing the organic certification process with the USDA.

“Through the partnership between St. Luke’s University Health Network and the Rodale Institute, the farm will accomplish what was thought previously impossible, growing organic and nutritious food on site for hospital patients,” said Trizna. “The farm will act as an evolving model for institutions across the country as well as for farmers who have the knowledge but lack the resources to start their own farm. St. Luke’s Anderson Campus and the Rodale Institute are ‘planting a seed’ in sustainable and local food production,” she said.

Planting at the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Organic Farm began this spring. Crops have already been harvested, said Trizna. The 1120 sq. ft. hoop house will provide an extended growing season, she said. St. Luke’s Auxiliary announced its support of the hoop house through fundraising efforts, and the hoop house was named after the Auxiliary.

“St. Luke’s Auxiliary is honored to support these efforts in providing a service to the community through organic produce farmed at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus,” said Kristina Warner, St. Luke’s Auxiliary President. “We are pleased to support the hoop house and this initiative allowing patients, staff and community members to make healthier eating choices and improve their lifestyle.”

The farm is equipped with refrigeration to store excess produce before it is transported to other locations. Some of the produce that will be planted at the farm includes lettuce and salad greens, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash, Swiss chard, kale, garlic, cabbage, beets, potatoes and a wide variety of herbs.

During the first year, Rodale Institute expects to produce approximately 44,000 pounds of fresh produce on five acres. In the future, the farm is expected to double in size and is expected to produce nearly 100,000 pounds of produce, said “Coach” Mark Smallwood, Executive Director of Rodale Institute.

“In addition to providing patients, families and staff at the hospitals with fresh, organic produce, organic agriculture builds healthy soil,” said Smallwood. “Organic agriculture reduces pollution from run-off, prevents toxic chemicals from building up in our ecosystem and is a primary driver in carbon sequestration. This partnership presents a ‘farm to hospital’ model which can be replicated around the world. We’re proud to be proving concepts once thought impossible.”

For more information about the St. Luke’s Rodale Institute Farm please visit www.sluhn.org/organicfarm.

Since its founding in 1947 by J.I. Rodale, the Rodale Institute has been 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. The Institute is home to the Farming Systems Trial (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture. Consistent results from the study have shown that organic yields match or surpass those of conventional farming. In years of drought, organic corn yields are about 30 percent higher. New areas of study at the Rodale Institute include rates of carbon sequestration in chemical versus organic plots, new techniques for weed suppression and organic livestock.

St. Luke’s Anderson Campus is one of six hospitals in the St. Luke’s University Health Network and is Pennsylvania’s newest, full-service health care facility. The campus is set against a serene, natural landscape conveniently located on Freemansburg Avenue, right off of Route 33.  State-of-the-art medical and surgical services are offered in three adjacent buildings – the main Hospital, the Medical Office Building and the Cancer Center.  Since the hospital’s opening in 2011, the campus has added walking paths, flower gardens and most recently employee community garden plots to develop the surrounding land in healthy, innovative and creative ways.  St. Luke’s University Health Network is a non-profit, regional, fully integrated and nationally recognized network providing services at more than 150 sites.  The network is the second largest employer in the Lehigh Valley region.

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Farm Photo Friday: July 18, 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!

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Rodale Institute Welcomes New Chief Scientist, Dr. Kristine Nichols

(Kutztown, PA, July 8, 2014) Rodale Institute, a non-profit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach, today announced that Dr. Kristine Nichols is the new Chief Scientist and began July 7th.

Raised on a conventional farm in southwestern Minnesota, Dr. Nichols is a leader in the study of soil biology, particularly mycorrhizal fungi.  The term ‘mycorrhizal’ refers to a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular plant.  The presence of mycorrhizal fungi in a plant’s root system is an indication of good soil and plant health.

Prior to joining the Institute, Dr. Nichols was a Research Soil Microbiologist with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for 11 years.  Her professional achievements have focused on the impacts of cropping and grazing systems on soil microbiology, nutrient cycling, and soil aggregation to improve soil health and water quality.

Dr. Nichols has received several awards, including the 2012 Conservation Research Award from the International Soil and Water Conservation Society.  Listed in the “Top 40 under 40″ by North Dakota Business Watch magazine, she was recognized as “a leader in the movement to rebuild the health of our soils for the sustainability of global food production.”

“Rodale Institute has led the movement toward healthy, living soil for over 65 years.  As Chief Scientist, I will conduct research and develop best methods of regenerative organic agriculture which can be replicated across the world.  I am honored to join Rodale Institute, where the work can have this level of impact,” said Dr. Nichols.

As Chief Scientist, Dr. Nichols will take the lead on all Rodale Institute research projects; act as the scientific voice for the Institute as she travels worldwide; and help create a vision for the future of food and farming.  She will also represent Rodale Institute at conferences and make presentations domestically and internationally.

“Dr. Nichols’ deep understanding of life in the soil is built on years of study and exemplary research.  Her role will be central to the work of Rodale Institute, where we continuously work to illuminate the interconnection of healthy soil to healthy food, and ultimately, to healthy people,” says Executive Director ‘Coach’ Mark Smallwood. “She is a most welcome addition to our team.”

Since its founding in 1947 by J.I. Rodale, the Rodale Institute has been 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. The Institute is home to the Farming Systems Trial (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture. Consistent results from the study have shown that organic yields match or surpass those of conventional farming. In years of drought, organic corn yields are about 30% higher. This year, 2014, marks the 34th year of the trial. New areas of study at the Rodale Institute include rates of carbon sequestration in chemical versus organic plots, new techniques for weed suppression and organic livestock.

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ABOUT RODALE INSTITUTE

Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For more than sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest options for people and the planet.

www.rodaleinstitute.org

Allentown Champion of the Homeless Joins Organic Mission

(Kutztown, PA, July 8, 2014) Rodale Institute, a non-profit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach, today announced that Gary Millspaugh is the new Senior Director of Development and began July 7th.  Gary had previously served as Executive Director of the Rescue Mission in Allentown, which provides rescue, rehabilitation and restoration for adult men in crisis. In his new role with Rodale Institute, Millspaugh will focus on working with major donors and initiating a capital campaign in tandem with the ongoing development of a master plan intended to expand Rodale Institute’s presence both nationally and internationally.

“Regenerative organic agriculture’s role in a safe and healthy future of life on Earth becomes more clear every day, and with that increasing awareness, the impact of the Institute must also continue to grow its presence,” said ‘Coach’ Mark Smallwood, Executive Director of Rodale Institute.  “Gary’s track record and proven abilities are integral to realizing our vision of the future of the Institute.”

Ed Pawlowski, Allentown Mayor, made the following a statement on Millspaugh’s move; “Gary’s continued commitment to the Allentown community has created a legacy of positive impact.  Rodale Institute also has a legacy of improving public health, both locally and globally.  I look forward to working with Gary and the Rodale Institute team to further the city’s promise to become a center for urban organic agriculture,” said the Mayor, referring to a partnership between the City of Allentown and Rodale Institute to create a network of urban farms on vacant lots and open spaces, including park spaces.

Over his 20 year tenure at the Rescue Mission, Millspaugh crafted several successful programs including community based housing, professional counseling, a medical clinic in partnership with DeSales University, and a licensed addiction treatment center.  The Mission’s buildings were completely renovated in 2007 as part of a capital campaign led by Millspaugh.  His new role with Rodale Institute will focus on working with major donors and initiating a capital campaign in tandem with the ongoing development of a master plan intended to expand Rodale Institute’s presence both nationally and internationally.

“At Rodale Institute I can continue a long-time passion, providing nutritious, quality food to those in need,” said Millspaugh.  “As executive director of the Rescue Mission, I brought that passion to the food served there.  Joining Rodale Institute expands my potential impact from local to global.”

Since its founding in 1947 by J.I. Rodale, the Rodale Institute has been 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. The Institute is home to the Farming Systems Trial (FST), America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of chemical and organic agriculture. Consistent results from the study have shown that organic yields match or surpass those of conventional farming. In years of drought, organic corn yields are about 30% higher. This year, 2014, marks the 34th year of the trial. New areas of study at the Rodale Institute include rates of carbon sequestration in chemical versus organic plots, new techniques for weed suppression and organic livestock.

ABOUT RODALE INSTITUTE

Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For more than sixty years, we’ve been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing our findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest options for people and the planet.

Farm Photo Friday: July 11, 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!

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Bloom Alert: July 9, 2014

We have a wide selection of flowers for sale at our garden store this week! If you are looking for show-stopping flowers to make over your backyard, garden or patio, visit our Midsummer Makeover Sale this Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  We have incredible blooms, succulents, vegetable seedlings and herbs.

We are also featuring two cut flowers this week – marigolds and sunflowers.

The marigolds are huge and gorgeous! We have yellow and orange varieties, and the bright green foliage makes an excellent filler for flower arrangements. Did you know that marigolds also repel mosquitos? Next time you are headed out to work in your garden, grab a little bit of the marigold greens or flowers and rub then on your arms, legs and sunhat. Mosquitoes will not bother you at all!

Our sunflowers are also in full bloom this week. Please stop by and get some before the Japanese beetles eat all of their petals! We have the traditional bright yellow variety, but they are a bit smaller than the Mammoth variety used for collecting seeds. This cut flower variety is the perfect size for flower arrangements. Come out to the farm to pick your own, or call ahead and we will have a bunch waiting for you. Also, we still have nasturtiums!

Rodale Institute is THE place for pick-your-own ORGANIC flowers! Our Bloom Alerts will keep in the loop so you know when to come out to the farm for fresh organic flowers. Check back to see what is bursting forth each week.

For more information on the who, what, when, and where of pick-your-own flowers at the farm, contact our Garden Store.