Tribute to an organic pioneer – J.I. Rodale

J.I. Rodale - organic pioneer and man of incredible vision

With reference to the philosophical and practical concerns of its founders, the organic movement of today has been thoroughly transformed. This becomes quite evident when we respectfully investigate the pioneering efforts of influential figures like J.I. Rodale. Born in 1898, Jerome Irving Cohen (Rodale) was raised in New York City. He expressed an early interest in the physical training, health and dietary philosophies of Bernarr McFadden but initially pursued an accounting career which helped him become a federal income tax auditor. During the Depression, he started an electrical manufacturing business in collaboration with his brother. During this time, J.I. Rodale experimented with writing and publishing enterprises but encountered very limited success across a range of subject areas.

One of the first Americans to appreciate the significance of Sir Albert Howard’s analyses, J.I. Rodale purchased a farm to practice the organic principles outlined in Howard’s 1940 publication An Agricultural Testament. In 1942, Rodale started a periodic magazine called Organic Farming and Gardening. Despite enlisting the authority of Howard as associate editor, the magazine was extremely unpopular with farmers. Astute to alternative marketing options, Rodale changed the name to Organic Gardening, and concentrated on articles suitable to the less restrained opinions of hobby and lifestyle gardeners. The magazine continued to struggle financially and was not profitable for many years.

One of J.I. Rodale’s greatest attributes was his ability to capture the public attention with interesting announcements concerning human health and plant nutrition. Some critics accused him of distorting scientific evidence and exaggerating the findings which suited his own arguments. It is interesting to note that his territory of investigation remains controversial to the present moment. For example, we continue to debate the possibility that organically grown vegetables contain more essential vitamins and nutrients compared to those raised with chemical fertilizer and sprays.

Despite the slow start, Rodale Press grew steadily in popularity during the 1950’s and the subsequent decade of counterculture movements. Under J.I.’s guidance, the management of Rodale Press negotiated a range of popular titles which coincided with the spirit of the counterculture. There was a small yet steady drift of individuals turning away from the industrialised cities to take up new lifestyles in the rural countryside. Many of these individuals were experimenting with alternative ideals like the rejection of industrial agricultural technology, chemicals, and other inputs perceived to compromise the integrity of the environment.

During this time of social upheaval, Organic Gardening was recognised as a major source of information and a communication forum for those interested in alternatives to conventional agriculture and food production techniques. Rodale himself used the magazine to reinforce his personal belief that organically grown food was infinitely healthier than the alternative. He praised the virtues of simple, unprocessed foods which arise from healthy, productive soils combined with a clean atmosphere and water supply.

Category: Family, Lifestyle


Learn holistic techniques that nurture the soil and bring your garden back to life.

  1. Growing organic vegetables in container garden

    Growing vegetables in containers

    Growing vegetables in containers is becoming an increasingly popular hobby. ...more

  2. Growing organic broccoli

    Growing broccoli

    Virtually unheard of in American gardens 50 years ago, broccoli is now a cool-weather ...more

  3. Growing organic carrots

    Growing carrots

    Home-grown organic carrots are simply fantastic. They taste far superior to ...more

Grow your own fruit and vegetables »


  1. Michael Dimock from Roots of Change

    Michael Dimock from Roots of Change

    Michael Dimock is the President of Roots of Change (ROC), a collaborative network ...more

  2. Alain Gracianette - Chair of Marylhurst University's MBA Department

    Alain Gracianette from Marylhurst University

    Alain Gracianette is the Chair of Marylhurst University’s MBA Department. ...more

  3. Greg Christian from The Organic School Project

    Greg Christian from The Organic School Project

    Greg Christian is a successful chef, educator, and director. More importantly, ...more


  1. Salmon and rice packets filed with organic fennel lemon and raisins

    Salmon and rice packets with fennel, lemon, and raisins

    This recipe, featuring salmon and utilizing brown rice, could have been designed ...more

  2. organic chicken breasts

    Organic chicken and vegetable rice bowl

    The fragrant aromas of ginger and orange in this recipe bring out something ...more

  3. organic rice field

    How is organic rice produced?

    Organic rice production starts with the use of high quality non-GMO seed. This ...more