Rodale Institute Announces Chief Scientist

Dr. Andrew Smith, environmental scientist and organic farmer, aims to connect soil health with human health in new role as head of Rodale Institute research.

“The world needs science-based evidence that organic and regenerative agriculture is the healthiest approach for people and the planet,” said Andrew Smith, Ph.D. In his new role as Chief Scientist for Rodale Institute, the global leader of regenerative organic agriculture, Smith aims to lead the organization’s rigorous research in proving just that.

To Smith, health is more than just calories and measures of blood pressure—it includes social, emotional, and environmental well-being and the health of families, communities, and ecosystems at large. Smith believes regenerative organic agriculture has the power to positively impact them all.

“We need to continually look to nature as we create our farming systems,” he says, “because there’s a direct link between how we treat the soil and how we treat people.”

Smith, who grew up on a farm that used both organic and conventional practices, had an innate interest in agriculture. He earned a Bachelor of Science in agronomy at Cornell University and a Master of Science in entomology at the University of Maryland. After two years in the Peace Corp sassisting a cooperative of small-scale vegetable farmers in Guatemala and ten years farming organically in Pennsylvania, Smithattended Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he earned his Ph.D. in environmental science with a concentration in molecular and population ecology.

The same week Smith submitted his Ph.D. thesis in 2015, he accepted a position with Rodale Institute as the Research Director for their Vegetable Systems Trial, a long-term, side-by-side comparison of vegetable crop nutrient densities in organic vs. conventional systems. The study will continue under Smith’s direction in his new role.

It’s the long-term, systems-based approach that sets Rodale Institute apart from other research institutions. Take, for example, its Farming Systems Trial, the longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional grain systems in North America. After decades of data, the Farming Systems Trial has shown that organic yields match conventional under normal conditions and can outperform conventional in times of drought. “If the trial had been a two-year study and those two years had shown adequate rainfall, we’d never have known that organic systems are resilient in times of drought,” says Smith. “It can take five, ten—even fifteen or twenty years—for a study to yield its most valuable results,” he adds. “We’re in it for the long game.”

Smith’s approach is people-centered, ultimately aimed at improving quality of life for both farmers and consumers. His philosophy can be seen in action at the 140-acre organic farm he owns with his wife. Alongside a pick-your-own fruit operation, the farm boasts a “Universally Accessible Garden” with raised beds at varying heights and wheelchair-accessible pathways so people of all ages and abilities can visit and connect with each other. Produce from the garden goes to local food banks and is distributed with assistance from Philabundance, Philadelphia’s largest hunger relief organization. Smith’s farm is a microcosm of the regenerative model: good for everyone involved.

Rodale Institute’s research focuses on three primary areas: growing organic agriculture, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and solving food insecurity by growing nutrient-dense foods. In addition to its long-term studies, the Institute currently conducts more than 20 research projects on its 333-acre experimental farm in Kutztown, PA. Areas of focus include investigations of soil carbon accrual, production and use of mycorrhizal inoculum, nutrient management in organic systems, and improved techniques for compost management and pest and disease prevention.

“I had the chance to work alongside Dr. Smith as he developed the Vegetable Systems Trial­—innovative research that is connecting food and farming to human health and healthcare,” said Jeff Moyer, Executive Director of Rodale Institute. “Dr. Smith truly epitomizes one of our core values: that our research is a catalyst for change. We’re honored to launch Dr. Smith onto a global stage so he can help provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

Learn more about Rodale Institute’s research at

5 Responses to “Rodale Institute Announces Chief Scientist”

  1. David Stuart

    Does Andrew lead Rodale’s Regererative Agriculture Initiative?

    I am writing an article on this subject and would like to talk to siomeone there regarding this subject.

    Are you using the Cool Farm Tool at Rodale? .

    Dave Stuart
    717 215 6409

    • Rodale Institute

      Added you successfully to Rodale Institute’s e-newsletter and media list.

  2. Hans Emil Klink

    Growing nutrient-dense foods: putting plants back into their evolutionary pathway.
    If this triggers your interest Dr. Smith, I will send you a link to my presentation, which might add value to the Rodale Institute and possibly be a catalyst for change.

  3. Denilson Silva

    Noble Members of the Rodale Institute (RI)

    My name is Denilson Silva, I’m from Brazil, I’m graduating in Biology (in State University of Rio de Janeiro, UERJ) and I’m Scientific Director of the Meliponiculture Association of Rio de Janeiro (AME-Rio). Meliponulture is the rearing of stingless bees, of the Meliponini tribe. They are all over the continent, from the Canada to Argentina, but their creation has been left out. The creation of Apis mellifera, the stinged bee, has become hegemonic and we have lost traditional knowledge about the wild species throughout the colonization of the continent by Europeans. My contact has a sincere and deep interest in starting a productive dialogue because I consider RI as an international benchmark in Sustainability and Agroecology research.

    AME-Rio has 10 years of existence and we are currently seeking partnerships and projects to disseminate and encourage this activity. Brazil begins to turn to the use of these species, much more adapted to the flora of the Americas, much safer (without security expenses due to the lack of sting) to work and even more productive in the matter of honey than A. mellifera. Brazil has 302 species of, some already well established in the knowledge about its creation, such as Mandaçaia (Melipona mandacaia) and Uruçu-Amarela (Melipona rufiventris). In addition, there are species with a low production of honey, but they increase the productive capacity of any crop due to its environmental service of polinization (by up to 40%, according to academic studies), with very low cost, since its handling is much safer and cheaper than A. mellifera, like Jataí (Tetragonisca angustula).

    I hope I do not exasperate you with so much information in a first message, but my primary interest in this space is to initiate a good scientific and academic dialogue with you. At the moment I am building an institutional partnership with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and we are waiting for the result of a project selection announcement by the Consulate of Germany in Rio de Janeiro, which will help us greatly to promote the issue in traditional indigineous comunities and small farmers. I intend next year to continue my studies at a postgraduate level and compete for other project selections. So the search for contacts is a necessity, because with a wide network, it is always possible to appear opportunities and generate partnerships. I am grateful for your attention and wish for a good academic relationship among us, because the Rondale Institute represents the most advanced research on agroecology in the Americas.

    Denilson J. da Silva
    Director of the AME-Rio Scientific Nucleus
    Academic of Biology / UERJ
    Phonel/Whatsapp: +55 21-975205408


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