A unique collaboration between Cornwall Manor and Kutztown’s Rodale Institute, a well-known leader in regenerative organic agriculture for decades, will bring healthy, homegrown produce to the retirement community’s 500-plus residents.

Trailside Organic Farm, coming later this year, will start as a two-acre certified organic farm on Cornwall Manor’s Woods Campus, next to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail.

Once the farm is fully operational, meals in Cornwall Manor’s dining areas will boast fresh farm-to-table offerings, while residents and visitors get the added benefits of Trailside’s beauty and educational opportunities.

Development of Trailside and organic management practices will be led by Rodale’s team of industry experts. Cornwall Manor is the first retirement community to partner with the institute.

Both are hoping this wellness project becomes a model for other continuing care communities.

Cornwall Manor, which currently has 540 residents, was the initiator.

“They had a vision for an on-site organic farm to enhance their health and well-being offerings for residents, and approached Rodale Institute to partner based on our knowledge … and decades of expertise in Pennsylvania specifically,” Margaret Wilson, Rodale’s content and public relations manager, wrote in an email to LebTown.

“Cornwall Manor is really leading the way in providing these kind(s) of benefits for older adults.”

Jennifer Margut, the retirement community’s vice president of marketing and public relations, said in an email that Cornwall Manor “has and always will be on the cutting edge of the senior living industry and we continuously look for ways to benefit our residents. 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.

“Cornwall Manor was introduced to Rodale by one of our senior management team members and the partnership developed from there. Rodale and Cornwall Manor are leaders in both of their industries so this collaboration is a perfect fit.”

Margut wrote that it’s undecided what kinds of crops will be planted. “In the upcoming months, Rodale’s farm manager will work closely with our chef to determine the type of produce to be grown.”

Plans this year include site preparations, hiring a farm manager and planting crops on one of the two acres.

By 2022, an unheated greenhouse will be installed to extend the growing season, and crops will be planted on 0.75 additional acres. Seasonal produce from Trailside is expected to be seen in Cornwall Manor’s dining rooms by fall 2022.

Eventually, as the organic farm’s output increases, residents and employees of the retirement community will be able to buy produce for personal use.

The response to the Trailside project from current and future residents has been overwhelmingly positive, Cornwall Manor president and CEO Lee Stickler said in a statement to LebTown.

“Clearly this is an area of keen interest and focus for those who would like to be proactively engaged in their personal health and wellness. We anticipate that the excitement will continue to grow as the farm develops over the next year,” he said.

“We are also delighted to have the Rodale Institute as our partner to guide the process of creating and developing the Trailside Organic Farm.”

In a release, Rodale CEO Jeff Moyer added: “At our core, Rodale Institute really is a human health organization, and this partnership with Cornwall Manor helps us realize that mission. Our society’s older adults and other vulnerable populations deserve healthy, organic food. Building a farm right on Cornwall Manor’s campus ensures that residents will not only reap the nutritional benefits of organic food, but they will benefit from the biodiversity, clean air and connection to nature that organic farms foster as well.”

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Paula Wolf worked for 31 years as a general assignment reporter, sports columnist, and editorial writer for LNP Media. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, she is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County.