Springtime at The Rodale Institute
New research, responsibilities and projects keep our farm manager busy.

By Jeff Moyer, The Rodale Institute® Farm Manager
Posted April 13, 2006

Jeff Moyer is the farm manager at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm, and has been here for over 26 years, refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems. The farm has over 1,000 organic apple trees, a 3-acre CSA, 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market, and 25 acres of experimental research plots that have been used to test and compare the yield, soil health and environmental impact of organic and conventional systems for the last 22 years.

"It's been extremely rewarding to work at The Rodale Institute," says Jeff. "Working on projects and with people who are having a positive impact on family farm practices, economics, and environmental stewardship is very fulfilling. The positive changes I've seen on our own farm over the years—and farms around the world— convinces me that we're on the right road."

How to contact Jeff

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611 Siegfriedale Rd.
Kutztown, PA 19530

Well, April is here and it’s beginning to feel like spring has sprung. We all know spring is time to put all those winter plans to work. If you’re like me there are plenty of winter projects still on the list to be completed that will inevitably end up on next year’s list.

We’re all busy spreading soil amendments, plowing, tilling, planting and transplanting. The greenhouses are full. The cold frames are bursting at the seams and there is more work around every corner. This year is starting out very dry in the Northeast. This enabled us to get our oats planted by March 15. They’re up about two inches and looking good.

This year is starting out quite differently for me than most spring seasons. Between the success of our biologically based no-till system, my position on the National Organic Standards Board, our research agenda, and all our standard farm work, I’m busier than ever. In fact, like most of you, I don’t which way to turn or which fire to put out first.

Organic regs: Next week the NOSB gets together in Pennsylvania for its first meeting of 2006. Along with a full agenda of very important items, we will be discussing the issue of pasture. This is one of the hottest topics in the organic industry, especially if you’re concerned about dairy. There are several loopholes in the current language of the USDA’s NOP (National Organic Program) describing pasture and the pasturing of animals. What is a pasture? When must animals be on pasture? How long should they be there? And what percentage of their diet should come from pasture? Lots of difficult questions with difficult answers that will have large ramifications across the industry.

Research on beans and weeds: This year we have a full plate of research geared towards addressing many of the issues you’ve told us are important to you. Did you know that some soybeans varieties might not only do better in the presence of weeds than others but they might also suppress the weeds themselves. That’s right! We have preliminary evidence that some soybean varieties actually prevent certain weeds from growing. If cultivation is part of your weed management plan you know how revolutionary that information can be. We’re also continuing our “groundbreaking” work on the nutritional content of food crops grown conventionally and organically side by side in our long term Farming Systems Trial. While this information is not ready for publication, I think you’ll be amazed at the results once we can share them with you.

These experiments and many more can be seen this summer at our annual field day July 21. See The Rodale Institute's website at for more information. We’ll be demonstrating weed management tools—such as several cultivators, rotary hoes, tine weeders—and even our cover crop roller for organic no-till. I invite each and every one of you to join me and the rest of the staff of the Institute that day. I suggest you look around your own state for field day activities this summer. Plan now to attend. I know you’re busy. But attending a field day and seeing new technologies in person is worth the time away from your farm.

CSA at TRI: Many of you have written to tell me about new ventures you are planning for this season or to ask questions about new enterprises you are considering as part of your farm plan. I’m excited by your creativity and I look forward to hearing how things turn out. At the Institute, we’re also starting a new venture. Well, not exactly new but renewed. And, not exactly the Institute, although we are supporting the project. It’s a new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) enterprise. After three years without a CSA on our farm, we’re back at it, this time bigger and better than before. John and Amie Good are our new farmers, and they bring with them years of experience and tons of energy. We’re looking forward to an exciting year of direct marketing through subscription sales.

It seems this time of year no matter where you look there is work to be done. Don’t forget this year to spend some time enjoying the farm….stop and smell the flowers—they’re everywhere this time of the year.

From One Farm to Another