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It's a matter of health and taste for publisher and 'Organic Manifesto' author

Maria Rodale is the third generation to lead Rodale Inc., the independent publisher of health and environmental books and magazines in Pennsylvania. Her grandfather started Organic Gardening Magazine, and she is a longtime organic advocate but says she drinks coffee and wouldn't describe herself as a "purist." She has three daughters, ages 7, 16 and 32, and these days is focused on the e-commerce site Rodales.com.

You've written a whole book on organics ("Organic Manifesto"), so this may not be easy. But for the uninitiated, why, in a few sentences, should people buy organic?

It's important for people to buy organic because it's healthier for them and for the environment. It's not just about the chemicals that are on the food when you eat, but it's about the chemicals that … get into our water table and destroy the carbon in the soil and contribute to global warming. It's a whole systemic view. … And as my kids will tell you, it tastes better too.

Is it tough for the average American?

I think it's more mentally hard than financially hard. If you are willing to cook, it's easy and cheap. If you are willing to garden, it's even easier and cheaper. Farmers markets are a boon. For a lot of people who don't eat organic, it's more about the fear. The fear of the cost. But it's amazing when you eat that way how many health problems go away. Little health problems, big health problems. That's one of my goals, to make organic food available for everyone.

You do yoga. Tell me about your practice.

I've been doing Iyengar yoga for 15 years. But like everything, I am not a fanatic. I started doing yoga when I was pregnant with my second child because I was concerned about being fit. ... Iyengar is very much aligned with my personality. It's disciplined and alignment-oriented. I don't do it every day. I have a private teacher, and she lives in California, so I try to do it on my own. I'm not rigid about it, but it informs a lot of what I do. Before I did yoga I got knee pain when I ran, and now I don't. The goal and the pleasure is just to be in your body and feel it. I'm 52, and it's use it or lose it.

Earth Day is next week. Did you take part in the first one, in 1970?

I don't think I did. Every day is Earth Day for us, so I'm not joining a big event. What I like to do on Earth Day is take a big trash bag and go for a walk, and pick up trash, do something private. ... I will make a point of just going out in nature and giving thanks. Not with any real rituals.

Do you find time to cook? Or, like so many families, do you rely on frozen food or takeout?

I'm one of those CEOs who is home by 5:30 and dinner is on the table by 6. Except now, my middle child is doing lacrosse, so she's not home at 6. ... I am a huge believer in the family meal.

I grew up with a more traditional mother — a protein, two vegetables, a starch and salad. Now it's a plate of pasta and a salad. Or cut-up red peppers and carrots and dressing. I do make dinner, and my kids will tell you I'm pretty good at it. … It gets me out of my brain and into a more sensual, emotional frame of mind.


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