Jesse manages Rodale Institute’s Agriculture Supported Communities farm share and other community-facing food programs. Jesse has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from William Paterson University of New Jersey. Soon after college, Jesse spent over ten years in corporate restaurants, including as a manager in a farm-to-table, fine-dining restaurant where he established relationships with local farmers. His experiences led him to the realization that there were major flaws in how our food system operates and the need for a regenerative food system.
Robert Rodale on regenerative v. sustainable 1989 (video)
We Need Many Different Models To Move the Food System Forward
Our programs are successful because we strive to meet the community where it's at. It's important to be able to adapt quickly as situations change.--Jesse Barrett
We're talking about catalyzing a farm to food system vision for regenerating community health, wealth, resilience and well-being.
In this interview I talk with Jesse Barrett, Food Production Specialist at the Rodale Institute. For over 50 years, the Rodale Institute has been a leader in organic agriculture systems, training farmers and experimenting to make farming systems healthier. In fact, Robert Rodale coined the term "regenerative organic" to describe a holistic approach to farming that encourages continuous innovation and improvement of environmental, social, and economic measures.
Jesse developed Rodale Institute's Agriculture Supported Communities farm share program that brings organic food grown on Rodale's farm to nearby communities, where there are high levels of food insecurity and dietary related chronic illness. Jesse has been experimenting with strategies to bring more fresh foods into community food systems. He has developed partnerships with institutions, including an area hospital. A Rodale farmer has developed a 12 acre farm on the hospital campus and is bringing fresh food into hospital dining service to patients and other clients.
Jesse takes his inspiration from everyone around him. He began the Agriculture Supported Communities Program when an intern asked if she could bring excess vegetables grown on the farm to her church. This sparked the farm share program.
To get more fresh vegetables into communities where they are needed, Jesse has now adapted the program into a mobile farmers market. He's constantly looking for ways to adapt the program to reach more people.
Jesse tells us that the biggest lesson he's learned from this work is that healthy soil equals healthy food equals healthy people. Soil health is intrinsically linked to the total health of our food system. Soil health affects everything from plant health to human wellbeing and the future of our planet. In 2018 the Rodale Institute introduced a new, holistic, high-bar standard for agriculture certification. Regenerative Organic Certification, or ROC, is overseen by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, a non-profit made up of experts in farming, ranching, soil health, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness.
Now to teach farmers how to grow organic crops in a regenerative system, Rodale Institute is establishing a new research and teaching farm in Iowa and heavily expanding their online content to help Midwest farmers more quickly adopt regenerative soil restoring practices. Jesse and the passionate staff at the Rodale Institute encourage farmers and anyone who wants to get a close up look at regenerative organic farming to go on a learning journey to the Institute's farms or to check out their online resources and follow them on social media
What does wild success look like to Jesse? He underscores that Rodale’s initiatives are meant to be replicated. Seeing communities and farmers learn from and implement his and other Rodale Institute programs is Jesse's big win.
Please enjoy my conversation with Jesse to learn how we can catalyze and support a regenerative farming and food system that works for everyone.
Don't forget, I’ve created a special Our Food Is Our Future Facebook Group where you can join the conversation and share your reflections, questions and ideas about creating a healthier farming and food system.
Here's to a healthier farming and food system for us all,