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Rodale organic center to provide research, resources at Indian Creek Nature Center farm

Starting this spring, staff will be planting organic and conventional crops at Indian Creek Nature Center’s Etzel Sugar Grove Farm in Marion. (Indian Creek Nature Center)
Starting this spring, staff will be planting organic and conventional crops at Indian Creek Nature Center’s Etzel Sugar Grove Farm in Marion. (Indian Creek Nature Center)

A pioneer in organic agriculture research has announced plans to open its first facility in the Midwest at Indian Creek Nature Center’s Etzel Sugar Grove Farm in Marion later this year.

The Rodale Institute, based in Kutztown, Pa., has been researching best practices in organic and regenerative agriculture since the 1940s. Its Midwest Organic Center is intended to provide Iowa farmers with access to research and training as well as act as a consultant to the 700‐plus certified organic farmers in the state.

The organic center will be located at Sugar Grove Farm, which was donated to the nature center in 2016 by George Etzel. It will have a farm manager, a Ph.D. research scientist, educators and farmers on staff.

Starting this spring, staff will be planting organic and conventional crops to provide a side‐by‐side comparison. It takes three years to be certified organic, according to an Indian Creek Nature Center news release.

Not only will this build the Rodale Institute’s data pool geographically but also “Iowa farmers want to hear from Iowa farmers,” said John Myers, nature center executive director. “The Midwest Organic Center will be a place where they can come and see these methods in action.”

Meyers said the organic center will focus on local food initiatives and bringing sustainable and responsible farming practices back to Iowa.

“The use of Roundup within agriculture has been a substantial change to our environment,” Meyers said.

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“It’s hard to continue having meaningful conversations about Roundup without addressing the negative environmental impacts it’s had, from increasing erosion to decreasing the quality of our water and our food. At the (organic) center, we want to show farmers different practices that will allow them to maintain or even increase their yields so that they don’t have to choose between production and doing what’s right for the environment.”

Zoe Schaesser, content creation and media relations coordinator at Rodale Institute, said the organic center will hold an annual Field Day beginning this summer, where the public and farmers are welcome to observe best practices in action at the farm while staff share research and talk one on one with farmers.

“We see ourselves eventually being able to serve as a consulting arm to help farmers on their land,” Schaesser said. “For those farmers who’ve already transitioned (to organic), our goal is to provide the tools

and personalized support they need to be successful.”

Frontier Co-op is an intial sponsor.

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