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Jerome Irving Rodale
Born August 16, 1898(1898-08-16)
New York City
Died June 8, 1971 (aged 72)
The Dick Cavett Show
New York City
Cause of death Heart attack
Known for Organic gardening
Children Robert David Rodale (1930-1990)

Jerome Irving Rodale (surname accented on second syllable) (August 16, 1898 – June 8, 1971), was a playwright, editor, author and publisher. [1][2]

He was one of the first advocates of a return to sustainable agriculture and organic farming in the United States. He founded a publishing empire, founded several magazines, and published many books, his own and those of others, on health. He also published works, including The Synonym Finder, on a wide variety of other topics. Rodale popularized the term "organic" to mean grown without pesticides. [3]



Rodale was born in New York City, the son of a grocer, and he grew up on the Lower East Side. His birth name was Cohen, but he changed it to a non-Jewish one after thinking it would be a handicap in business. He married Anna Andrews in 1927, and had three children: Robert David Rodale (1930-1990), Nina Rodale who married Robert Hale Horstman, and then Arthur Houghton [4], and Ruth Rodale. [3]

Rodale had an interest in promoting a healthy and active lifestyle that emphasized organically grown foods, inspired by his encounter with the ideas of Albert Howard.

He founded Rodale, Inc. in 1930 in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. [5] He was the was founder of Rodale Press and publisher of Organic Farming and Gardening magazine starting in 1942. Organic Farming and Gardening promoted organic horticulture; later retitled Organic Gardening, it is the most-read gardening periodical worldwide[citation needed]. To Rodale, agriculture and health were inseparable. Healthy soil required compost and eschewing poisonous pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Eating plants grown in such soil would then help humans stay healthier, he expounded.

One of Rodale's most successful projects was Prevention Magazine, founded in 1950, which promotes preventing disease rather than trying to cure it later. [5] For decades it has been a leading source of information for those in North America interested in alternative health, including before the natural foods movement became popular in the late 1960s. It pioneered the return to whole grains, unrefined sweets, using little fat in food preparation, seldom eating animal products, folk cures, herbal medicines, and breastfeeding. It also promoted consuming more than typical amounts of nutritional supplements, and forgoing nicotine and caffeine.


Rodale died of a heart attack at the age of 72 while participating as a guest on The Dick Cavett Show. He was still on stage, having finished his interview, and was seated next to the active interviewee, New York Post columnist Pete Hamill. According to Cavett, Hamill noticed something was wrong with Rodale, leaned over to Cavett and said, "This looks bad." According to others, Cavett asked, "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?", which Cavett "emphatically" doesn't recall. The episode was never broadcast, although Cavett has described the story in public appearances and on his blog. [6]

Ironically, Rodale had bragged during his just-completed interview on the show that "I’m in such good health that I fell down a long flight of stairs yesterday and I laughed all the way", "I’ve decided to live to be a hundred", as well as "I never felt better in my life!" [6] He had also previously bragged that "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver." [2][7]


After Rodale's death, his son Robert David Rodale (1930-1990) ran the publishing firm until his own death by car accident.[5] That work included editing the high-circulation Prevention Magazine. Robert Rodale had competed in the Olympics in rifle shooting and was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1991.[8]


  1. ^ "Rodale Will Open Intimate Theatre. Playwright Buys Building Also Plans Acting School.". New York Times. January 13, 1962, Saturday. "J.I. Rodale, playwright, editor, author and publisher, has bought the three-story structure at 62 East Fourth Street to convert it into an intimate playhouse, theatre workshop and acting school." 
  2. ^ a b "Guru of the Organic Food Cult". New York Times Magazine. June 6, 1971, Sunday. "'I'm going to live to be 100,' says the author of Natural Health, Sugar and the Criminal Mind, 'unless I'm run down by a sugar-crazed taxi driver.' ..." 
  3. ^ a b "J. I. Rodale Dead. Organic Farmer. Espoused the Avoidance of Chemical Fertilizers.". New York Times. June 8, 1971, Tuesday. 
  4. ^ "Nina Rodale Engaged. She Will Be Wed in April to Robert Hale Horstman". New York Times. January 6, 1957, Sunday. 
  5. ^ a b c "Rodale: Brief History". Rodale Press.,6597,1-101,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-26. "On September 20, 1990, Bob Rodale was killed in a traffic accident in Russia. He was there to develop plans for a long-term joint venture agreement. The first project completed was Novii Fermer, a Russian magazine devoted to sustainable agriculture. Upon Bob's death, his wife Ardath became Chief Executive Officer/Chairman of the Board." 
  6. ^ a b "When That Guy Died on My Show". New York Times. May 3, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "I brought out the next guest, Pete Hamill, whose column ran in The New York Post. Rodale moved "down one" to the couch. As Pete and I began to chat, Mr. Rodale suddenly made a snoring sound, which got a laugh. Comics would sometimes do that for a laugh while another comic was talking, pretending boredom. His head tilted to the side as Pete, in close-up as it happened, whispered audibly, “This looks bad.” The audience laughed at that. I didn’t, because I knew Rodale was dead. To this day, I don’t know how I knew. I thought, “Good God, I’m in charge here. What do I do?” Next thing I knew I was holding his wrist, thinking, I don’t know anything about what a wrist is supposed to feel like." 
  7. ^ "Lights Off, Pounds Off ...". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 2003. "Organic-food crusader Jerome Rodale once boasted, "I will live to be 100 unless I'm run down by a sugar-crazed taxi driver." ..." 
  8. ^ "Robert Rodale, 60, Dies in Crash. Publisher Backed Organic Farms.". New York Times. September 21, 1990. Retrieved 2008-04-26. "Robert Rodale, an exponent of organic farming and the head of a publishing empire whose magazines dealt with subjects like garening, health and fitness, died yesterday in an automobile accident in Moscow. He was 60 years old and lived in Emmaus, Pa." 

Further reading

  • Jackson, Carlton. J.I. Rodale: Apostle of Nonconformity. (New York: Pyramid Books, 1973). This biography details most of the material in the article above.
  • Perényi, Eleanor. "Apostle of the Compost Heap". Saturday Evening Post, 16 July 1966: 30-33.

Books by J.I. Rodale

  • The Synonym Finder.
  • How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method.
  • The Word Finder.
  • The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.
  • Stone Mulching in the Garden.
  • Vegetables.
  • The Healthy Hunzas.
  • Are We Really Living Longer?
  • Arthritis, Rheumatism, and Your Aching Back.
  • Cancer, Facts & Fallacies.
  • The Complete Book of Composting.
  • The Hairy Falsetto: A One-Act Farcical Social Satire.
  • Happy People Rarely Get Cancer.

External links



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