The organic farming program run by the Rodale Institute and Delaware Valley University has received a nearly $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The money is a three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant that prepares graduates for careers in organic agriculture.
Diana Martin, director of communications for the Rodale Institute, said generating more careers in organic farming is good for the economy.
“Today, 5 percent of the food we eat in the U.S. is organic. And yet, less than 1 percent of our nation’s farmland is organic. So we’re importing a lot of our organic food. That is food that farmers could be producing right here in the United States,” she said.
Martin said not only is organic produce healthier for consumers, but organic farming is more profitable for farmers, and the institute considers organic agriculture the future of farming.
“There is a growing demand for organic products, and organic farming can be profitable while letting young people run their own business and support the environment,” said Lyndsey Antanitis, Rodale Institute’s veteran farming program coordinator. “The interest in this program is growing. It’s helping people realize their dreams of being organic farmers and providing safe, healthy food.”
This is the second grant from the department. The first, which covered 2014 through 2017, was for about $370,000.
The 36-credit, one-year organic farming program was established in 2012 and includes two semesters at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown and one semester at Rodale Institute in Maxatawny Township.
Antanitis said that while the organic farming program is open to all students, it has been particularly popular with military veterans looking to transition into civilian careers.
The program aims to enroll 43 new students, including 28 veterans, over the next three years.