The Rodale Institute welcomes first CEO
New leader combines dairy farming background, academic teaching and vision for advancing ecological change.

Posted August 7, 2007

The Rodale Institute has announced the appointment of Timothy J. LaSalle as chief executive officer. Previously, LaSalle served as executive director of the Northwest Earth Institute in Portland, Oregon.

“Timothy LaSalle has dedicated much of his career to educating people about organic health and global environmental solutions. I am delighted he will lead the Institute into a phase of new growth,” said Ardath Rodale, co-chair of The Rodale Institute.

“The Rodale Institute has good work to do in explaining how building soil health on America’s farms can lead to greater profitability,” LaSalle said. “Organic crop management can help farmers be part of the answer to global warming by sequestering carbon. This will greatly decrease farming’s ecological footprint as well as reduce overall CO2 contributions.”

For 12 years he was a full professor at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), where he taught dairy science classes. He also served as the president and CEO of California’s Agriculture Education Foundation. More recently, the new Institute leader served in an executive capacity with various nonprofit organizations, including the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County and the Allan Savory Center for Holistic Management.

LaSalle has completed a Ph.D. in depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. He holds a M.S. in Populations Genetics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a B.S. in Science from Cal Poly. He has served on many nonprofit boards and committees.

“We aim for The Rodale Institute to be at the forefront of scientific research on organic farming and its effects on human and environmental health, and through those efforts to build a diverse and thriving community more passionate about organic,” said LaSalle. “I look forward to building upon the firm foundation established by J.I. Rodale and the Rodale family.”

A current supporter of organic dairying and farming, LaSalle started and operated a conventional dairy for six years near Templeton, California, while he was teaching dairy science at Cal Poly. He opposed the use of synthetic BST hormone injections from the start of the practice, initially because it created more milk when milk was already in surplus. Its use has proven to be hard on cows and not beneficial, overall, for farmers.

LaSalle’s doctoral work in depth psychology focused on the reasons why human economic and cultural systems—including non-organic agriculture—are so resistant to change.

“Only about 20 percent of us are confident enough in ourselves to ‘risk’ our established identities on making a significant change, even when we know it is the right thing to do,” he said. “At Rodale, we can create incentives and build confidence in new opportunities through our outreach to increase the active support for new food and farming systems.“

LaSalle will succeed John Haberern, the first president of the Institute, who retired in June, 2006, after 46 years of leadership. The Institute was led by interim president Rosalba Messina while the search for the new CEO was conducted.

The Rodale Institute is a non-profit organization that has been pioneering the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming since 1947. It was the brainchild of J.I. Rodale, who moved to rural Pennsylvania in the late 1930s to explore his keen personal interest in farming. Chronic food shortages following World War II prompted many farmers to increase yields by using nitrogenous fertilizers and pesticides derived from the munitions industry.

Concerned about the health effects of using these chemicals to grow food, Rodale was inspired to develop organic methods and prove—scientifically and practically at the farmer level—that they worked.

Sixty years later, The Rodale Institute is home to the country’s longest-running scientific study comparing chemical farming with organic. Institute research has shown again and again that organic agriculture is not only more productive and profitable for farmers, it is also significantly better for the health of the soil and all the environment.