Rodale Institute Establishes California Organic Center for Research, Outreach

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Phil McGrath, owner of McGrath Family Farm, on the site of the new California Organic Center in collaboration with Rodale Institute and powered by Ventura Seed Company. Photo: Phil McGrath

Camarillo, CA—Phil McGrath, fifth-generation farmer and supporter of biodiversity and regenerative agriculture, will be hosting Rodale Institute’s new California Organic Center, a satellite location for the institution to conduct regionally focused research trials, farmer outreach, and consumer education.

The project will be funded, according to a press release, by Ventura Seed Company, a hemp seed propagation and cultivation company. Ventura currently grows about 60 acres of certified organic hemp for CBD on McGrath’s farm.

The California Organic Center is powered by the Ventura Seed Company, California’s first licensed USDA certified organic hemp CBD supplier. Photo: Ventura Seed Company

McGrath said: “We’ve moved to conventional, chemical and industrial agriculture, and we’re seeing a rise in issues with pests, water shortages, and heavy chemical use. The world needs a wake-up call. We have to rethink the big picture now. Cheap food has an environmental and social cost. Farming can just as easily hurt us as sustain us. We need regenerative agriculture for our collective future.”

California has 2713 certified organic farms, 19% of the total organic farms in the U.S., but farmers there face the effects of climate change in the form of fires and droughts, and pesticide use is at an all-time high. The California Organic Center aims to solve challenges for farmers both regionally and globally by conducting research in new climates and soil types, and on crops, pests, diseases, and weeds that are most relevant to farmers. The ultimate goals are to increase the number of organic farms and acreage, help farmers improve soil health, and server as an organic research and education hub for farmers and consumers alike.

Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute executive director, said in the press release: “We know that organic research is still vastly underfunded compared to the size of the industry in the United States. We need more resilient agriculture that can deal with the extreme weather of climate change, so that farmers can continue to feed our growing population. That all starts with soil health. With researchers on the ground working on solutions geared for organic farmers in their own communities, we’ll continue to increase both the demand and supply of organic products in this country and around the world.”

The California Organic Center is Rodale Institute’s third such center; all three centers were launched in 2019. The other two centers are the Midwest Organic Center in Marion, Iowa, and the Southeast Organic Center in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.

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