Philadelphia, the mural capital of the world, is known for its more than 4,000 colorful murals telling stories of history and honoring champions of social issues. Artists collaborate on these larger-than-life creations dedicated to transformative change within individuals, communities and the world. Today, you can find the same powerful message about the regenerative organic movement at Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA. The nonprofit partnered with Philadelphia-based Amber Art & Design to create “Farming in Harmony,” a new mural that celebrates the farmers who use organic and regenerative practices to protect the Delaware River Watershed.
Linda Fernandez and Keir Johnston of Amber Art and Design have collaborated with communities worldwide to gather inspiration for the art they create. In the process of creating “Farming in Harmony,” they researched Rodale Institute’s long history and began to see the parallels between farming and art. According to Keir, “Even though the vision is towards the present and the future, we did want to acknowledge the past.” This process led them to a deeper understanding of regenerative agricultural practices and inspired the design’s foundation, a watercolor by Rodale Institute’s founder J.I. Rodale’s wife Anna Rodale.
Art is a really powerful way to tell a story… Everyone learns in different ways. Some people learn from reading, some people might learn from hearing and some people learn from seeing. When people see this mural, there is a lot of information here. This is not just telling the story of the history but also of the future, the story of regenerative organic farming.
– Linda Fernandez, Amber Art and Design
The Layers Unfold
Much like a book unfolding chapter by chapter, Linda and Keir’s research began to create layers of the mural. “I hope people see many things,” said Linda, “noticing all the details and piecing together the story of regenerative organic farming. It’s like a giant puzzle.”
The mural includes original artwork by Bob Rodale’s son David of flowers, pollinators and music notes; farmers who dedicate their lives to caring for the land (including organic farmer Jennifer Taylor, of Lola’s Organic Farm); references to the crucial role of science and research to Rodale Institute’s mission; and water connecting us all from rural to urban settings. Within the colors that tie the mural to farm’s landscape, you will find plants, animals, words, publication titles, historic graphic designs and even a roller crimper.
Once the design layers were complete in Photoshop, the team painted the mural on parachute cloth, a non-woven fabric, in their studio in Philadelphia before installing it at the Rodale Institute campus.
The Clean Water Connection
The mural is part of the Grow Clean Water initiative educating young families in the Philadelphia region about the connection between healthy farming practices and healthy rivers and streams. The initiative, funded by the William Penn Foundation, is part of a larger project to reduce agricultural runoff in the Delaware River Watershed, a water system which spans parts of 4 states and provides drinking water to more than 13 million people including residents of New York City, Trenton, Wilmington, and Philadelphia. With nearly 15,000 farms in the watershed, agriculture comprises a large portion of its land use. Erosion, pesticides, and fertilizers from farm fields are among its largest pollutants, threatening both wildlife and human health. By supporting healthy farms, such as organic farms using practices like reduced tillage, crop rotation, and composting, we positively impact both healthy soil and clean water.
The Part We Play
This mural reminds us that we are all connected: a message we desperately need to hear today. By championing health, stewarding the soil and the land, honoring our farmers by investing in their work, and ensuring safe water for generations to come, we play our part in supporting one another.
We invite you to enjoy the mural, “Farming in Harmony” at our Visitor Center and let the creative influence inspire you.