Honeydale Meets Rodale!
First stop was the ground breaking Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, whose work I’ve long admired. Founded in 1947 by organic pioneer J.I. Rodale, it’s aim is to ‘study the link between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people.’ This closely reflects our work at Cotswold Seeds, which has always sought to support healthy soil, livestock, people and farm profitability. The 333 acre farm at Rodale soon became the epicentre of the huge and global organic movement and is now the base for pioneering research, education and outreach.
Though Honeydale is not certified organic, the diversity of Rodale’s mixed farm closely reflects our farm. Just like us, they have livestock, vegetable production, honey bees, orchards and farming system trials, so it was really interesting to see how they operate. I was given a farm tour by Education Officer, Maria Pop who offered plenty of help and guidance towards creating our own farm education and outreach centre in the UK.
A 45 minute drive from the centre of New York City is The Stone Barns Centre for Food and Agriculture, which aims to ‘change the way America eats and farms by creating a healthy, sustainable food system’.
I had another guided tour by Farm Manager, Jack Algiers, and learned about public engagement and the quest to promote consumer awareness of regenerative agriculture and its many benefits. It was great to see a focus on training and opportunities for new young farmers too, through their ‘Growing Farmers Initiative.’
The Schumacher Center for a New Economics, founded in 1980 and based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, presents a vision of a ‘just and sustainable global economy’ based on local models which can then be rolled out more broadly through educational programs. I heard two excellent lectures from Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm and Ed Whitfield of the Fund for Democratic Communities, challenging conventional thinking, the idea that ‘the current agricultural model is not broken, it’s doing exactly what the corporations designed it to do!’
Travelling between these three destinations we had the chance to see New England in it’s stunning autumn colours and it was also wonderful to see how this region of the States has many small towns with cafes and restaurants which support their local farms with the likes of farm to table markets. In New York City itself the big brands definitely dominate, but even here there’s a sense of a rapidly growing interest in more locally sourced food, showing that the Rodale Institute, Stone Barns and the Schumacher Center are achieving their mutual goal of producing healthy soil and food through sustainable farming.
So I’ve returned to the UK freshly enthused for the work we are planning to do on Honeydale Farm.