Smallwood stresses stewardship to attendees

AFP Correspondent

LINCROFT (Feb. 1, 2015) — “Think about how you can be a good steward.”
Those were the words of Mark “Coach” Smallwood, executive director of the Rodale Institute, as he started his keynote speech at the 25th annual Winter Conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey held at Brookdale Community College from Jan. 24-25.
Smallwood pointed out a honeybee will sting one time and die.
“The bee sacrifices for the hive,” he said. “We should say, ‘How can I sacrifice and make sure others are doing the same?”
As executive director of the institute where the term “organic farming” was coined, Smallwood is attuned to the history and present of the movement.
He brought livestock back to Rodale and expanded the research into the connections among the soil, food and health.
He also runs a program to train veterans to farm organically.
“There hadn’t been livestock on our farm in 35 years,” he said. “We can’t call ourselves the birthplace of the organic movement without animals.”
Smallwood brought in the first dairy cattle as well as a pair of oxen named Lewis and Clark.
The veterans’ program is in conjunction with Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa.
It is a one-year certificate program and Smallwood is hiring two coordinators, one to work at the college to recruit veterans and another to work at Rodale to place them after their training.
“Our goal is to place the veterans with aging farmers,” he said. “I tell them we are helping them by actually bringing in the Marines.”
The veteran’s program is funded through a donation per case of vegetables sold by Rodale member farmers.
That would be their sacrifice for good stewardship, Smallwood said. In addition, organic product companies donated to the cause.
Smallwood also pairs up Lehigh University MBA students with farmers to develop a business plan.
At Kutztown, the institute is working with the Honeybee Conservancy to compare the survival rates of bees treated organically with those treated conventionally.
One major point in his keynote speech was a discussion of the new Rodale white paper on regenerative organic agriculture.
Bob Rodale, the latest member of the family to be part of the institute, addresses agriculture as something that “makes everything better every day.”
The white paper advocates protecting the soil with more planting, cover crops and no-till, as a way of sequestering carbon in the soil and curtailing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The report estimates transitioning all cropland to carbon sequestering would reduce emissions by 40 percent.
If the same could be done for pasture and rangeland, the reduction would be 71 percent, meaning a net reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Smallwood said.