There’s big opportunity for organic agriculture in the Midwest, so we’re putting boots on the ground.

The Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center at Eztel Sugar Grove Farm provides research, education, and assistance to farmers looking to implement organic practices on their farms. It’s also an educational center for the public, and the site of collaboration between Rodale Institute researchers and local partners.

The Midwest Organic Center is located in Marion, Iowa near Cedar Rapids. If you are interested in taking a tour of our farm and speaking with our farm and research team, please contact

Why Iowa?

In 2016, the USDA reported that Iowa—long considered the epicenter of agriculture—is fifth in the nation for number of certified organic farms. That makes the state representative of a growing movement. Yet the region lacks truly progressive, widespread access to research and training in regenerative organic practices.

Goals for the Center

To research innovative, regenerative, organic farming methods and provide farmers with the education and resources to implement those methods on their own farms.

To gather data on the differences between conventional and organic farming methods in Iowa’s unique climate and soil.

To expand organic acreage in the Midwest.

To expand public access to Rodale Institute’s research.

To create progressive opportunities in agriculture.

About Etzel Sugar Grove Farm

Etzel Sugar Grove Farm is a 190-acre farm located in Marion, Iowa that represents the future of agriculture in Iowa. The farm implements and educates the public on regenerative agriculture practices that restore the health of Iowa’s farms, watersheds and environment.

Eztel Sugar Grove Farm is part of  Indian Creek Nature Center, Iowa’s first and only privately owned and operated non-profit nature center.

Midwest Organic Center Staff

Drew Erickson

Farm Manager

Drew is a lifelong steward of the land with a diverse background in land management. Following graduation from Colorado State University’s natural resource program, he spent several seasons with the United States Forest Service, then worked for a parks department in Oregon. Prior to joining Rodale Institute, Drew spent 8 years working at a diverse farm in California’s Napa Valley. There he raised chickens and turkeys, cared for horses, managed the forest, and assisted with producing fruits and vegetables. He joined the team at the Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center in February of 2021.

Sean Stokes, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr. Sean Stokes is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Rodale Institute’s Midwest Organic Center. Sean is a recent graduate from Colorado State University with a PhD in Soil and Crop Science and an MS in Environmental Toxicology. His research has focused on a variety of topics related to agricultural systems, including the molecular changes to soil organic matter after application of biochar and compost and the impact of decreased soil health on crop productivity in orange trees infected with citrus greening disease. Additional research in these citrus groves includes evaluating the efficacy of pesticide applications and degradation rates. Another major focus of Sean’s research includes evaluating the reuse of non-traditional water sources such as produced water and agricultural runoff, and the potential for treating this water for application as agricultural irrigation. Understanding the impact of soil health and management practices on water quality will be a major focus of Sean’s research at the Midwest Organic Center since nutrient runoff is currently a major problem in Midwest cropland. He will be conducting a study utilizing biochar application and different tillage techniques to evaluate the impact of these practices on vegetable production, soil health, and water quality.

Midwest Organic Center Steering Committee

Craig Chase, Iowa State University

Program Manager of Farm, Food, and Enterprise Development
Ames, IA

Kathleen Delate, Iowa State University

Professor of Horticulture and Agronomy
Ames, IA

Ravin Donald, Ph.D., Frontier Co-op

Vice President of Technical Services
Norway, IA

Andy Dunham, Grinnell Heritage Farm

Grinnell, IA

Wendy Johnson, Joia Food Farm

Charles City, IA

Dan Pickar, Hills Bank

Commercial Banking Officer
Hills, IA

Martin St. Clair, Coe College

Professor of Chemistry
Cedar Rapids, IA

Loran Steinage, FLOLOfarms

West Union, IA

Live Weather Updates from the Farm

The Midwest Organic Center’s Hobo Weather Station continually collects data to inform future research trials on the farm. Our onsite staff use this data to connect weather patterns with soil moisture and temperature responses under different crop management practices. Check out the live data for updates anytime!

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Support Our Work

The Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center is working to make regenerative organic growing methods in Iowa sustainable and profitable. With your help we can grow organic acreage in Iowa and the surrounding states.

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Midwest Organic Center
3706 St. Peters Rd.
Marion, IA 52302
P. 610.683.1414

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