“If you do just one thing—make one conscious choice—that can change the world, go organic.”
So begins Maria Rodale's unflinching, 200-page Organic Manifesto, a pain-stakingly researched indictment of chemical farming and its impact on human health. The book is a wake-up call for consumers, who Rodale believes have been lulled into believing that “natural” and “locally grown” products are just as good for us.
“Organic has gotten beaten back a bit by the recession, the locavore movement, and the fact that people are responding to ‘natural’ more than ‘organic’ in the supermarket,” says Rodale, CEO of Rodale Inc., the multimedia giant responsible for Men's Health, Women's Health, Prevention, and media properties that reach 70 million consumers across 50 different countries. “But I think organic is ready for a resurgence. For the first time, we are making a strong connection between organic and health. I believe that will turn the tide.”
Rodale's passion for the organic movement was instilled as a child, growing up on what is now considered the nation's first organic farm. Her grandfather, J.I. Rodale, bought the 65-acre farm in 1940. Two years later, he founded Organic Farming and Gardening magazine, sparking the birth of the organic movement. His son, Robert, carried the torch forward, establishing the Farming Systems Trial—the longest-running scientific study comparing synthetic agriculture to organic—before his untimely death in a 1990 car accident.
By seventh grade, a young Maria—one of five Rodale children—had secured her first job in the family business. “I started in the mail room at age 13,” she recalls. Since then, the mother of three has climbed from positions in circulation and direct marketing to editor-in-chief of Organic Gardenings—and, since 2009, the role of chairman and CEO.