Organic farming as a business opportunity

The Rodale Institute research farm started a new model called the Agriculture Supported Community. (Contributed photo)

With organic agriculture already a $31 billion annual industry just for food and beverages, a Berks County research farm is seeking to partner with businesses and organizations to further promote healthy eating.

With organic agriculture already a $31 billion annual industry just for food and beverages, a Berks County research farm is seeking to partner with businesses and organizations to further promote healthy eating.

Behind executive director Mark Smallwood, the Rodale Institute in Kutztown started a new model called the Agriculture Supported Community which targets food deserts and underserved communities, said spokesman Aaron Kinsman of the institute. A food desert is a geographical area where residents have little access to a healthy, affordable food.

“This program has done very well for us; we distribute to Allentown, Reading, Bethlehem, Easton and here at the farm for 200 families,” Kinsman said.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski is working with Rodale Institute on an initiative to bring organic agriculture to vacant lots and open spaces in the city to create access to people who normally wouldn’t have it.

This initiative is in the planning stages but should launch in 2015.

Smallwood, known as “Coach,” became inspired by the organic movement as a child and noted that his grandmother was a driving force.

As his career progressed, he became a teacher and basketball coach.

“I found opportunities to get into business and began coaching businesses on how to take a more environmentally friendly approach,” Smallwood said. “As I developed an expertise for that, the coaching skill-set worked over into business very easily.”

Smallwood started consulting for the green industry and became a local forager for Whole Foods, which helped to achieve a 90 percent diversion rate from the grocery chain’s landfill.

He stayed with Whole Foods for six years before joining Rodale Institute, where he is in his fourth spring growing season.

Brian Pedersen
Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108.

Business Journal Events

HR Symposium

Wednesday, September 25, 2019
HR Symposium

2019 Reader Rankings Awards

Wednesday, October 02, 2019
2019 Reader Rankings Awards

2019 Fastest Growing Companies Awards

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
2019 Fastest Growing Companies Awards

2019 Icon Honors

Wednesday, November 06, 2019
2019 Icon Honors