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August 7, 2023
Places like Boulder, Colorado, and Northern California are often championed as engines of innovation within the natural and organic products industry—and for good reason. Legions of brands have sprouted and spread roots in these spots. But an awful lot of organic pioneers call the Northeast home, from the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, to Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
With Natural Products Expo East taking place in Philadelphia, we are spotlighting six of the many businesses in and around the city that make it a destination for everything organic.
Arguably, the foundation for the entire domestic organic movement is near Allentown, Pennsylvania, a hamlet about 70 miles from Philadelphia’s Center City. It was in the Allentown area in 1940 where J.I. Rodale bought a farm and began growing his own food using natural methods in an effort to fortify his health. That patch of fields is often considered the first farm in the U.S. that identified as organic. Today, the nonprofit he started, Rodale Institute, is the global leader in research surrounding organic farming. In addition, J.I.’s son, Robert Rodale, coined the term “regenerative organic” to convey that the Rodale version of organic farming isn’t just about rejecting chemicals—it’s also about bolstering soil health.
The Rodale Institute supports regional organic resource centers around the country, which show farmers how to nurture land the organic way. It also advocates on behalf of the organic movement and co-founded the Regenerative Organic Alliance, the organization behind the increasingly buzzy Regenerative Organic certification.
Organic maitake mushroom toast
Hungry for dishes made with organic maitake mushrooms and cauliflower in an organic Alfredo sauce? Organic sweet potato and black-bean cakes over avocado tartar? How about organic tea or coffee, organic raw juices with botanicals (the Chill Pill, for example, contains butterfly pea flour, schisandra, ashwagandha and more) and a wealth of organic, gluten-free baked goods, including cinnamon rolls? Then P.S. & Co. in downtown Philadelphia is the place to go. Everything in this buzzing hive of culinary ambition is organic and gluten free. It’s popular for good reason.
Philly Food Works, started by a group of urban farmers, serves as an online market and CSA-style program for consumers, farmers and food artisans across the Philadelphia region. Offering napa cabbage, pioppino mushrooms, duck breast, kefir from grass-fed cows and much more, this bustling online marketplace offers delivery and pickup options every week. Nearly all partner farms are located within the 150 miles of Philadelphia, and many are certified organic or working toward certification. Either way, Philly Food Works hews to rigorous standards, first learning how its member farms treat their soil, plants and workers before carrying their products.
Looking to support a local, organic coffee roaster during your Philadelphia trip? Then look for the Philly Fair Trade Roasters brand at coffee shops, farmers markets and other spots around the area. This company sources most of its coffee from fair-trade and organic-certified cooperatives in Central and South America and the Pacific Islands, but also sources African coffees from an importer that helps farmers implement fair-trade practices. Plus, its facility is USDA Organic, which is uncommon.
First came Viva Leaf Tea, a Black-owned farm-to-cup tea brand. Then Christa Garfield launched FarmerJawn as an organic community greenhouse and CSA in Philadelphia. Last year, FarmerJawn leased 120 acres of land at Westtown School, a private Quaker K-12 school about 30 miles from Center City. Now this year, Garfield began turning what had been conventionally farmed fields into an organic farm.
FarmerJawn today includes FarmerJawn Greenery, a retail and garden learning center in Northwest Philadelphia, as well as a CSA and five acres of organic farmland in Elkins Park, just seven miles from the middle of Philly. The new project, called Westtown Farm, will raise vegetables for an existing farm market on the school’s premises and a CSA. Westtown Farm is also committed to becoming a food and farming incubator for Black farmers, offering education about organic regenerative farming, marketing and more. The incubator’s first cohort, in 2022, attracted 10 farmers.
This 380-acre Regenerative Organic Certified farm, about 90 minutes west of Philadelphia and one of the largest of its kind in North America, serves as a vibrant agritourism center for the regenerative agriculture movement.
With 38,000 square feet of 35-foot-tall greenhouses, Pocono Organics is the only Regenerative Organic Certified hemp grower in the world. The organization supports a boutique resort with in-suite kitchens and hosts cooking and education workshops, wellness retreats, seasonal festivals and a year-round organic farm market and café. Pocono Organics is hosting an event for ROC brands the day before Expo East kicks off.
Natural Products Expo East Logo
The Organic Center Organic Park at Natural Products Expo East is the go-to place for interactive displays of cutting-edge science, multiple-medium visual art, networking and more. It is open Thursday through Saturday during show hours on Level 200, Hall B. Additional activities include the Organic Center’s Science Benefit and Organic Park Scavenger Hunt, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Sept. 22 and the Organic Park Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. ET on Sept. 21.
In addition, Expo East offers these education session regarding regenerative agriculture and organic practices (all times are listed in Eastern time):
Introduction to regenerative: Decisions you’ll need to make for regenerative sourcing. This interactive workshop and panel will cover key questions brands will need to answer as they source ingredients from regenerative agriculture. Sept. 20 | 2 p.m. | Level 200, Room 204A.
Inside Organic: Elevating the benefits of organic from seed to shelf. This session will bring together industry experts to dive into the latest organic research, policies and initiatives shaping the organic marketplace and tackle the issues that can be barriers to elevating organic certification. Sept. 21 | 1 p.m. | Level 200, Room 201B.
Regenerative transformation: New old ways to innovate for the planet. Led by Regenified, this session will feature some of the regenerative movement’s brightest minds, who will share how the regenerative and tech worlds can align to create a truly sustainable future. Sept. 22 | 2:15 p.m. | Innovation Experience Stage, Level 200, Hall A.
All of these sessions are included with an Exhibit Hall Badge. For more information, visit ExpoEast.com.
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