Can Organic Agriculture Really Reverse Climate Change?


by guest blogger “Coach” Mark Smallwood, Rodale Institute executive director

Over the past 14 days, I have been on a walk—a walk that, I hope, will change the way that we look at climate change.

Each day I walk 10 miles on a journey from the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, to Washington, DC. Along the way, I have had the honor of meeting with farmers, local public officials, community members, students, and activists. Every person I meet has been affected by the impacts of climate change, from the disastrous hailstorm that occurred in Reading, PA, in May to the local fisherman concerned that atrazine was found in spawning beds of smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River. Climate change affects us all, and the impacts and destruction caused by catastrophic weather events are more noticeable with each passing year.


Along the way, I continue to tell people that climate change is a gift. This is Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that she is sick. We have broken our ecological systems, and only we can fix them. I have data that proves that a global transition to regenerative organic agriculture can reverse climate change.

The process is actually quite simple: We work with nature to use photosynthesis and healthy soil biology to draw down greenhouse gases.

There are four steps in the process:

1. Photosynthesis. The process plants use to change carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into oxygen and carbon-based sugars.

2. Nutrient exchange. Carbon-based sugars ooze out of the plant’s roots to feed microorganisms, mostly bacteria and fungi, living in the soil nearby. Microorganisms transform organic matter and soil minerals into plant-available nutrients.

3. Carbon capture. Temporary root sugars and dead organic materials (e.g. plant debris and compost) are eaten by microorganisms and converted into more stable materials to store carbon in the soil for decades to centuries.

4. Restoration of balance, reversal of climate change. More photosynthesis means more sugars, which means microorganisms will thrive. Healthy microorganisms create abundant nutrients for plants. Building healthy soil and eliminating the use of toxic agricultural chemicals and practices brings carbon levels back into balance, reversing climate change.

On Thursday, October 16th—two days from now—I will arrive in Washington, DC, and hand-deliver this research to our elected officials.

We must bring awareness to this research and encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress to create legislation that supports organic farmers. Only organic farming can stop the chaos that we have created—chaos that is deeply impacting our environment on so many levels.

I need your help to make sure that our voices are heard when we arrive in DC. Please, get involved. Make sure this message about the powerful, positive impact of regenerative organic agriculture is known.

  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter,  and Instagram for daily updates on the walk.  Share these updates with your network of friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Join our “Organic Planet” Twitter chat with Only Organic tonight, October 14th, at 8:00 p.m. EST, using the hashtag, #organicplanet
  • Go to and make a donation to support our work with organic farmers. Donations of every amount are welcome and appreciated.

I know that, together, we can make sure that our voices are heard. We can encourage Congress to create legislation that supports organic farmers and incentivizes conventional farmers to make the transition from conventional to organic. Together, we can truly regenerate our planet, creating a better environment for our children and grandchildren to grow, live, and thrive.

Along the route, I spoke to a reporter who said, “Reversing climate change through organic agriculture? This just sounds too good to be true.”

Well, I’m happy to say that is good and it is true.

Coach“Coach” Mark Smallwood has been dedicated to environmental sustainability, efficiency, and conservation for decades. Since joining Rodale Institute in December 2010, he has brought heritage livestock back to the institute’s 333-acre farm; expanded and enhanced its research efforts; and launched Your 2 Cents, a national campaign to support and promote new organic farmers. In recognition of his sustainability efforts, Coach was chosen as a messenger for Al Gore’s Climate Project, presenting to more than 15,000 people on the effects of global warming. Last, but certainly not least, as a longtime organic farmer and biodynamic gardener, Coach has raised chickens, goats, sheep, and pigs and driven a team of oxen.




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2 Responses to Can Organic Agriculture Really Reverse Climate Change?

  1. Alice Green October 14, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Reading your words gives me hope for our future. I wish you could get front page coverage of your walk, your words of wisdom and that everyone would join in to get this done. If you can get our elected officials to listen, learn and act on what you are educating them on regarding organic farming and reversing climate change….then I would want you to be the next President of our country….. except I wouldn’t want to take you away from the work that you so obviously love!! Thank you so much for all that you are doing and thank you for working so hard to help all of us and our world!!

  2. Jackie Marie Beyer October 22, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Love this attitude. I believe the solutions are out there and together we can find them:~)

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