The Indian Creek Nature Center, shown at the opening of its new site in 2016, announced plans on Feb. 4, 2019, for the Midwest Organic Center at its Etzel Sugar Grove Farm with the Rodale Institute. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

The Indian Creek Nature Center this morning announced a collaboration with the Rodale Institute,  a nonprofit dedicated to research and outreach in organic farming.

Etzel Sugar Grove Farm, donated to the Nature Center, will transition to an organic operation and serve as the Midwest Organic Center, offering a training site, field days and other ways for growers to access research and training in organic practices.

Related: Nature Center, Frontier Co-op announce farming project

Learn more about today’s announcement from the Indian Creek Nature Center:

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — The global leader in regenerative organic agriculture is coming to the corn belt.

Rodale Institute, pioneer of the organic movement in America and site of North America’s longest-running trial comparing organic and conventional growing methods, will open the Midwest Organic Center at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm (part of the Indian Creek Nature Center) in Marion, near Cedar Rapids, Iowa this year.

In 2016 the USDA reported that Iowa—long considered the epicenter of agriculture—has 103,136 certified organic acres on 732 farms. This places Iowa fifth in the nation for number of certified organic farms, representative of a growing movement. Yet the region lacks truly progressive, widespread access to research and training in regenerative organic practices. The Midwest Organic Center will provide resources and support for Iowa’s organic farmers and enhance the growth of more organic farms throughout the entire region.

Goals of the center include:
– Research innovative, regenerative, organic farming methods and provide farmers with the
education and resources to implement those methods on their own farms
– Expand organic acreage in the Midwest
– Gather data on differences between conventional and organic farming methods in Iowa’s
unique climate and soil
– Expand public access to Rodale Institute’s research
– Create progressive opportunities in agriculture

“This is a real milestone,” said Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute executive director. “There are a lot of opportunities for Midwest farmers to transition to organic—whether it be in grains, livestock, or other specialty crops—and we want to be true partners to make that possible. We’re looking forward to having boots on the ground in the Midwest to address some of the greatest challenges for farmers in the region, and to provide training, demonstration plots, field days and more. We invite additional partners to join us in this initiative, and expect it to be a real collaborative effort.”

In 2019, researchers and farm staff will begin transitioning the land to organic, a process that requires three total years. They will designate areas for grain production, vegetable production and a long-term systems trial similar in design to Rodale Institute’s flagship Farming Systems Trial. The center plans to host an education day for farmers sometime this year.

“We are very excited to work with Rodale Institute to launch the Midwest Organic Center,” said John Myers, Indian Creek Nature Center executive director. “Rodale is a respected leader in the organic field and this partnership will allow us to expand the impact Etzel Sugar Grove Farm has on educating and supporting Midwest farmers.”

The Midwest Organic Center will be supported by initial funding from Frontier Co-Op.
“At Frontier Co-op, we’ve always believed that we have a responsibility to people and planet,” said Tony Bedard, Frontier Co-op chief executive officer. “The Midwest Organic Center represents a truly progressive approach to enhancing agriculture by demonstrating the benefit of not only organic but regenerative agricultural practices. These practices will restore topsoil, enhance soil health and grow better, more nutritious crops. We believe it is imperative that these progressive practices be exhibited and shared with producers in the Midwest, especially as topsoil levels continue to plummet in Iowa.”

About Rodale Institute: Rodale Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach. For seventy years, the Institute has been putting science behind best practices in organic agriculture, sharing its findings with farmers and scientists throughout the world, advocating for policies that support farmers, and educating consumers about how going organic is the healthiest option for people and the planet. Learn more at

About Indian Creek Nature Center & Etzel Sugar Grove Farm: Indian Creek Nature Center, located in Cedar Rapids, is Iowa’s first and only privately owned and operated non-profit nature center. Our mission is to promote a sustainable future through environmental education, leadership in land protection and restoration and responsible interaction with nature. One of the ways the Nature Center practices its mission is through Etzel Sugar Grove Farm — a 190-acre farm located in Marion, Iowa that represents the future of agriculture in Iowa. The farm will lead us toward greater sustainability in farming by implementing and educating the public about regenerative agriculture practices that restore the health of Iowa’s farms, watersheds and environment. Learn more at

About Frontier Co-op: Founded in 1976 and based in Norway, Iowa, Frontier Co-op offers a full line of products for natural living under the Frontier Co-op, Simply Organic® and Aura Cacia® brands. Products include culinary herbs, spices and baking flavors; bulk herbs and spices; and natural aromatherapy products. Frontier Co-op’s goal is to provide consumers with the highest-quality products while supporting and promoting social and environmental responsibility. For more information, visit Frontier Co-op’s website at