Nourish the Soil and All Else Follows

Sage advice from our founder, J.I. Rodale.

December 20, 2011

What Is Organic Gardening?

Very briefly, organic gardening or soil is maintained by applying Nature's own law of replenishing it—that is, the addition and preservation of humus, the use of organic matter instead of chemical fertilizers, and, of course, the making of a compost pile and mulching.


Organiculture is a vigorous and growing movement, one that is destined to alter our concepts of the garden and the farm and to revolutionize our methods of operating them in order to secure for ourselves more abundant and more perfect food. The seed sown by Sir Albert Howard, the great pioneer in organic farming, is beginning to bloom lustily and with such vim that it is already thriving and propagating by its own strength. Composters by the thousands are telling their neighbors of the wonders of this new, yet in reality age-old, method, and they in turn are listening and beginning to follow. Compost heaps are becoming an integral part of the farm, the garden, and the landscape. Organiculture is here to stay. When it is possible to see astounding results obtained by one's own hand, a quick good-bye is said to artificial test-tube methods.

Lessons from Nature

Where any one item in Nature's cycle is disturbed, it will be found that others are automatically affected. Nature consists of a chain of interrelated and interlocking life cycles. Remove any one factor and you will find that she cannot do her work effectively. This back-to-the-land movement is one of the healthiest signs of a progressive people. Civilizations that get too far from the land are bound to decay.

Town and farm complement each other, need each other, and must understand each other's problems and ideals. If not, society and civilization decay through ignorance, antagonism, exploitation, and the artificiality that is their product.

Pure Food: A Basic Right

One newspaper states that a certain spray will save the nation's farmers millions of dollars' worth of crops a year. But, I might add, it could cause the people who eat those foods tens of millions of dollars in medical and hospital costs. Business is in the form of a monetary equation, and we must not fail to pay attention to both sides of that equation .... The public must speak out boldly and at once .... The public has an inalienable right to eat unpoisoned food, and industry must learn to make profits without infringing upon that right.

The Organic Creed

The genuine organiculturist is not merely an organic gardener or farmer; he lives his whole life in the organic manner. The organic principles must be felt deep in one's heart, and in everything one does....

The organiculturist must realize that in him is placed a sacred trust, the task of producing food that will impart health to the people who consume it. As a patriotic duty, he assumes an obligation to preserve the fertility of the soil, a precious heritage that he must pass on, undefiled and even enriched, to subsequent generations.

This essay was compiled from the archival writings of J. I. Rodale from the 1940s and '50s.