Organics

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I saw the future in Newark, New Jersey. It was green. Really green. No GMOS, no pesticides and it was delicious. Aero Farms is a high-tech farm that has been working for a few years now. It not only is growing beyond it’s million pounds of greens, but is inspiring the community. In fact it has donated a small farm apparatus to the local charter school Phillips Academy. The academy has an amazing school kitchen program and a roof top garden. I was pleasantly surprised to meet one of ICC’s graduates there, Robert Wallauer, who is their chef and Food Service Director.  The program itself is run by Ecospaces Education, lead by the dynamic Program Director Frank Mentesana. It is no wonder that Michelle Obama chose the school last month to visit!

Robert Wallauer and Frank Mentesana

Now what really makes these greens exciting is that with lighting and patented growing medium technologies Aero Farm is making tenderer and exquisitely delicious greens. I for one, never hopped on the kale bandwagon but the baby kale I tasted in Newark was so tender, with a flavor that screamed out for a touch of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil that I instantly became a fan. The micro watercress as crunchy, refreshing and I popped like candy.

For us gardeners to hear that seeds germinate and grow in a matter of days, not weeks is nothing short of miraculous. Now, you might say you are committed to the earth and soil grown greens. As a lifelong gardener, I would have said that too until I think now of the plight of the world.

We have 8 million people living in NYC alone. We want them to eat fresh produce every day. In an ideal nutritious world that is 58 million servings a week. The land around NYC is developed and the few open spaces are too expensive for farming. If we are serious about fresh produce we need to look to the underdeveloped suburbs around our cities.
Aero Farms is leading the way. And I am fully on board that bandwagon!

A big shout out to Mark Oshima and the Aero Farm team for inviting me to Newark. They are changing the world.

Marc Oshima

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A gorgeous winter day and I am beaming. To be on a farm with happy pigs, clucking hens and hoop houses growing greens, one hardly notices the freezing temperatures outside. Welcome to the Rodale Institute’s farm in Mennonite country, Pennsylvania.

Hoop Houses

Rodale, Inc., the company, publishes many note worthy magazines from Prevention to Men’s Health. My friend James Oseland, formerly editor in chief of Saveur, is now the editor in chief of Rodale’s newest venture, Organic Life. James invited me down to the farm and I insisted on a winter’s day.  This is a farm that produces year round. Anybody can grow veggies in the summer!

Maria Rodale and James Oseland

My first treat was to meet Maria Rodale herself. She is passionate, articulate and incredibly knowledgeable about the state of the organic movement today. As she should be. Her grandfather J.I. Rodale almost single handedly popularized organics in America. He founded the Rodale Institute in 1947. This non-profit organization has carried out serious research and education on organic farming and since its founding, a Rodale family member has been at the helm. Maria is third generation and has a strong voice on the subject. Her book, Organic Manifesto, is highly readable and enlightening. The Institute todays sits on 333 pristine acres and conducts Farming Systems Trials in conjunction with the USDA and leading universities.

Veggie Tower

Among their key findings which they are happy to share with you show that:

  • Organic yields match or surpass conventional yields
  • Organic yields outperform conventional yields in years of drought
  • Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient

Rodale’s philosophy is simple: healthy soil, healthy food, healthy people. Only two hours drive from NYC, it really is an experience. It’s open to the public, plan a visit but maybe you would prefer to go in the summer. That’s okay too.

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