Meet the Next Generation of Organic Farmers

Rodale Institute's Agriculture Supported Communities program provides organic produce at affordable prices to low-income communities, while training new organic farmers. You can find this year's farmers-in-training tending the production fields, harvesting and preparing food for members, and distributing food at the markets. Now's your chance to learn more about the next generation of organic farmers.

After attending Rodale Institute Field Day a few years ago, current Agriculture Supported Community intern Lydia Fletcher was inspired to join the team and be part of the organic movement at Rodale Institute. Lydia graduated from Binghamton University, where she studied Environmental Studies and Biology. Lydia became interested in agriculture during her senior year when she completed her thesis on urban farming. After graduating, she traveled to China to teach before accepting her ASC internship position. As an ASC intern, Lydia has had the opportunity to expand her knowledge and understanding of farming and has gained a greater appreciation for the food system.

She loves how farming has given her the opportunity to work outside and find a sense of fulfillment in her work. Being at the Institute for the entire season, Lydia says her favorite part was seeing the first fruiting, a sign that her hard work during her first months here was paying off. For Lydia, it’s been inspiring to work with her fellow interns and learn from the program’s amazing mentors. She wants to use the skills and knowledge she has gained to start a farm one day, but in the meantime, she is planning on continuing to work on different farms and attend graduate school to study environmental design or environmental policy.

Through the MESA program, Issack Mlomo traveled from Tanzania to Pennsylvania to learn about organic farming at Rodale Institute.

When Issack was younger he witnessed his mother utilizing organic practices out of necessity. The chemicals other farmers started using in his community were too expensive, so his mother turned to composting and using chicken manure as fertilizer. As other farmers depleted their soil and damaged their crops through the use of these harsh chemicals and other conventional farming methods, Issack’s family farm provided his community with the same quantity of produce, but far superior quality.

With little education on organic farming in Tanzania, Issack struggled to find methods to reduce pests on his property, without the use of pesticides. From his time at Rodale Institute, he has gained the knowledge and skills to mitigate pests without having to use harsh chemicals on his crops. Through his experience on the farm and in the classroom, he has also learned other organic farming practices: when and how to use black plastic, the importance of crop biodiversity and the purpose of cover crops.

Being an intern at Rodale Institute, Issack has had the opportunity to learn how to grow produce he had never seen in Africa, including zucchini, squash, and kohlrabi. He is excited to start growing these on his farm back home and to share them with his community. In addition to sharing this new produce, Issack also wants to share his experience and knowledge. He hopes his farm can serve as an educational platform, where he can teach farmers and the public about healthy soil management and organic farming practices and its impact on food and human health. He wants to see his farm and the farms in his community live on for generations.

We’re stoked Issack is joining us for the summer and is helping the ASC program make a global impact!

Growing up gardening with his mom, KC was curious about agriculture from a young age. His curiosity grew the more he was exposed to the world of agriculture and when he started his own hops farm. KC is joining Rodale Institute this summer as an ASC intern through the Veteran Farmer Training Program. He decided to move to Pennsylvania and work at Rodale Institute to learn hands-on farming from the pioneers of the organic movement and fulfill his internship requirement for his master's degrees. KC is currently enrolled in a dual degree program and upon completion will receive a Master of Science in Food and Agribusiness Management from Audencia Business School in France and a Masters of Business Administration from Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Brazil.

KC says the ASC program has built his confidence as a farmer and has exposed him to the full picture of operating a farm, everything from fixing an irrigation system, to running a CSA distribution site, to building a cohesive business plan. KC wants to utilize the knowledge and skills he has obtained during his time at Rodale Institute to start his own farm. He is in the process of applying to the Battleground to Breaking Ground Farmer Service Agency Program, which assists veterans with accessing farmland and capital.



"Getting my hands in the soil makes me feel like I'm a kid again," says Branson Skinner as he helps customers pack their shares at the Alliance Park market. Being able to interact with customers and talk about the produce is one of Branson's favorite parts of being an ASC intern. He became interested in farming and the ASC internship program through a not-for-profit he co-founded, The OR Foundation, an organization dedicated to addressing ethical issues in the fashion industry and in cotton production.

During his time at Rodale Institute, Branson hopes to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to start a fiber farm and education center. In addition to interning, Branson is in the process of completing his masters in Community Planning at the University of Cincinnati to learn more about urban farming and the issues of food deserts in America.

While it's impossible to know everything about organic farming, Branson says that the ASC program has given him an understanding of the equipment, people and determination that is necessary... and how to ask the right questions to succeed.

Meet Branson at pickup sites, he'll be delivering fresh produce all summer long!

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