Rodale Institute and Indian Creek Nature Center took three steps closer to opening the Midwest Organic Center at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm in Marion, Iowa with the recent hires of Research Director Carl Rosier, Extension Scientist Kristine Lang and Farm Manager Scott Koepke.

Rosier, of Newark, DE, has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and microbiology from the University of Montana. Rosier’s research examines the direct effect soil microbes have on their plant hosts and how indirect microbe-driven environmental conditions shape the plant community. He will start in July 2019 and will use his expertise in ecology and soil resource management to inform farmers and others about our soil environment and the effect farming practices have on this critical resource.

Lang, originally from Pelican Rapids, MN, is on track to receive a Ph.D. in Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture from Iowa State University in August. Her research, which she has presented locally, regionally and nationally, focuses on methods to optimize high tunnel production systems for Midwest vegetable growers. Kristine will join the MOC in September.

“I am excited to continue strengthening my relationships with Midwest farmers and organic food systems advocates while expanding crop diversity and making positive, lasting changes on the landscape,” Lang said

(Liz Zabel / Indian Creek Nature Center)

Koepke, who joined the Nature Center’s staff in May as the Etzel Sugar Grove Farm Manager, grew up in Cedar Rapids and is also a graduate of Iowa State University. His passion for vegetable production and community development germinated while serving as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal. He founded and directed New Pioneer Food Co-op’s Soilmates program, co-founded and co-managed Grow Johnson County, and continues to teach horticulture therapy at Kirkwood Community College and correctional facilities in the area. Scott is “thrilled to be home, modelling biodiverse agriculture at Sugar Grove, honoring the legacy of the Etzel family and partnering with the esteemed Rodale Institute.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome three very talented leaders in the organic movement to the team at the Midwest Organic Center,” said Rodale Institute Executive Director Jeff Moyer. “There is a growing need for organic research, demonstration and extension, especially focused on particular climates and regions. The Midwest Organic Center will be a hub of these resources in Iowa. We’re excited to provide access to the science and training on the ground that Rodale Institute is known for to a new group of farmers and scientists. We’re one step closer to making that a reality.”

All three staff will be based at the Midwest Organic Center at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm in Marion. They will be dedicated to transitioning the land to organic — a process that requires three total years. They will designate areas for grain production, vegetable production and long-term systems trial similar to Rodale Institute’s flagship Farming Systems Trial.

Rodale Institute recently announced its second Regional Resource Center, the Southeast Organic Center, in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. Read more about that new initiative and opportunities to get involved here.