Often times, it is not until someone of note in your life passes away that you take time to contemplate how that person might have influenced what you became. The recent passing of eco-pioneer and publisher Jerry Goldstein prompted me to have one such reflection.
Jerry Goldstein is not a household name here in Central Pennsylvania. He was, in fact, a Pennsylvanian of some note when it came to the topics of soil science, composting, organic agriculture and sustainable business practices. How he came to touch my life will require a bit of background.
I started my college days as an aspiring journalist and writer but would waiver into the environmental sciences during my sophomore year. What began as a love of being outdoors, evolved into a scientific curiosity of how the natural world all fit together.
It wasn’t just about the science, though. It was also about protecting those resources and finding a way to walk on the planet with the smallest footprint possible.
Sometimes it was time-consuming and a great inconvenience, but I tried hard to minimize my use of the automobile. Serendipitously, I also came to realize that my bicycle was more than a mode of transportation; it was a window to the world that was unlike any other. I planted a massive fruit and vegetable garden and did it all without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Not every gardening venture was successful, but my successes far outweighed my failures and I came to follow a healthier diet in the process. Following a much less traditional path than most of my classmates, I wanted to learn as much as I could about the environment in general and bicycling and gardening in particular. My major course of study, Geography, was an academic path that allowed me to further explore those interests. I read as much as I could outside the classroom, too.
I belonged to Rodale Press’ book club, from the publishing house run by Bob Rodale and Jerry Goldstein. I recall subscribing to four magazines and two of them, Bicycling and Organic Gardening and Farming, were also published by Rodale Press and the latter was edited by Goldstein. If the story ended there, it would not be so inspiring, but the rest of the tale is what makes it interesting.
After teaching high school Earth and Environmental Science for thirteen years, I came to work in the recycling and composting world. As I tried to bring myself up to speed on my new career, two excellent monthly journals became part of my regular reading. Not surprisingly, one of them, BioCycle, was published by Goldstein’s publishing house.
Becoming active at the national level, I had a chance to finally meet Jerry at one of his conferences in Philadelphia in the nineties. Though Jerry’s formal career was winding down by that time, he was still impassioned about composting, sustainable business practices and a host of related topics. Though my conversations with him were fairly brief, I felt blessed to have a chance to talk with him one on one. Jerry Goldstein has inspired me for nearly four decades and I trust that his writings will continue to do so even after his passing.