Almost two years ago, in March of 2021, Cornwall Manor, a non-profit active senior living community located in south-central Pennsylvania, announced a rather unique partnership with Rodale Institute—a nonprofit organization dedicated to growing the regenerative organic movement through research, training and consumer education—by becoming the first retirement community to partner with Rodale, which has been recognized as a global leader in organic agriculture for over 70 years.
The tangible product of the partnership was the establishment of the two-acre certified organic Trailside Organic Farm on Cornwall Manor’s Woods Campus that grows organic produce led by Rodale Institute’s team of industry experts. The produce is served in all campus dining areas, providing residents healthy, hyperlocal food choices and a thriving natural environment that supports their health, environment and overall well-being.
Now, the Trailside Farm project is expanding as Cornwall Manor has broken ground for a new 3,840-sq.ft. barn at the west-end of the farm that will consist of two levels—a lower level (first floor) encompassing a packhouse area, two walk-in coolers, storage, work area/office, equipment storage and restrooms, and a second floor featuring a multi-use space for workshops and events, storage, restrooms and tool storage for equipment residents use for their gardens. The barn was designed by Beers & Hoffman, Ltd. and the general contractor is Arthur Funk and Sons with an anticipated completion date of early spring this year.
“We are pleased to have this partnership with the Rodale Institute and fortunate to have Trailside Farm onsite at Cornwall Manor,” says Cornwall Manor President/CEO Harry McConnell. “Studies have shown that organic foods as well as healthy eating habits benefit the senior living population not only to prevent disease but also to improve overall health and longevity and this strongly supports Cornwall Manor’s wellness philosophy. We are already seeing the positive impact of having hyper-local produce from Trailside Farm available in our campus dining areas and look forward to expanding produce selections and educational sessions once the barn is completed.”
Trailside originally began on one acre utilizing organic practices. During its first year, site improvements were completed, and 2022 was its first year operating as a functioning farm with a variety of cold season, spring, summer and fall crops grown, harvested and used in dining areas on campus and also made available to residents and team members at Friday Farm Markets where they could purchase fresh, organic farm produce for personal use.
Having hyper-local produce (that is, items consumed where they are grown) is seen as a benefit to the Cornwall Manor senior living community, as is as the education component that the Rodale partnership offers, consisting of a variety of information sessions and workshops offered to residents to expand their knowledge and get involved in the benefits of organic produce for people and the planet.
Additional 2022 accomplishments at Trailside Organic Farm included the construction of a caterpillar tunnel (also known as a hoop house), which is beneficial to extend the growing season and create a controlled growing environment; the hiring of an assistant farm manager; the implementation of a volunteer program for Cornwall Manor residents; and the planting of flowers to add beauty to the site and attract pollinators. The flowers have also become part of bouquets sold at Friday Farm Markets.
“At the Rodale Institute, we see ourselves first and foremost as a human health organization,” says Rodale Institute Chief Impact Officer Jeff Tkach. “Regenerative organic agriculture is a critical tool to improve human health outcomes. That is why we are partnering with Cornwall Manor to create the Trailside Farm. We believe that providing our senior population access to fresh, certified organic, and nutrient-dense food is one of the great components to longevity. Through this innovative partnership with Cornwall Manor, we can create a new paradigm for continuing care by connecting soil health with human health.”
Goals for 2023 include the completion of the barn, incorporating irrigation lines, possibly constructing a second hoop house, continuing to build healthy soil structure and expanding the growing capacity to two acres, which will expand the quantity and offerings of items harvested.