Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Alan Chadwick

E.F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, called Alan Chadwick "the greatest horticulturist of the 20th century." Using the Biodynamic French Intensive Method, which he developed, Alan led the movement that pioneered organic gardening and farming in North America. But Alan Chadwick was far more than an accomplished horticulturist. He taught, prodded, cajoled, and berated his many students until they became competent, authentic, and creative human beings; or at least that was his goal for them, as he would settle for nothing less. As Allen Kalpin, a long-time Chadwick apprentice, once said, "He was a gardener of souls."

Garden (1971) is Michael Stusser's 16mm film of Alan Chadwick's garden at the University of California. Words can't begin to describe the magic of the place, its profusion of colors, scents, sounds, healthy vegetables, and enthusiastic gardeners. But this film successfully evokes much of the garden's charm and is really the only comprehensive visual record of that enchanted time. Our profuse gratitude to Michael for his permission to reproduce the film here.

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buddha-shrine-green-gulch-zen-centerScenes from a Pilgrimage to Green Gulch Farm in October of 2014, including views of Muir Beach, located at the lower end of Green Gulch Valley. The sad state of affairs that sacrificed the original Alan Chadwick garden for a couple of shoddy living spaces. The well-kept garden, farm, and buildings erected by the San Francisco Zen Center near the Marin County coastline. How the people of Green Gulch are maintaining Alan Chadwick's tomb in a careful manner.

 

 

Trees in an Oak Forest

Alan Chadwick used an idiosyncratic vocabulary in many of his lectures that needs some explanation in order to clearly understand his meaning. He also employed a variety of rhetorical devices to engage the attention of his students, and these can sometimes be startling or even baffling to those who are new to his special style of delivery. Consequently, we offer this Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms to aid in the process of listening to the presentations that he made to his students.

 

Alan Chadwick in Santa Cruz

 

Why Did Alan Chadwick Leave Santa Cruz? After all the accolades and notoriety that Chadwick had received as a result of his fabulous horticultural creation at the University of California at Santa Cruz, why would he suddenly have walked away from it all? A major expansion was underfoot to further develop the garden into a fifteen-acre farm site that the university had recently approved. We here offer an investigation into the behind-the-scenes dynamics that saw Chadwick vilified and unfairly ousted from the position that he had held so successfully from 1967 to 1972.

 

 

Alan Chadwick leveled the charge of "piracy" at modern commercial agriculture. What did he mean by that term, and how did his own methods demonstrate a different approach? In this commentary on Alan's first lecture to a group of new apprentices at the Virginia garden project, we offer a few answers to these questions.

 

In the year 1971, Alan Chadwick made the decision to divide his salary at the University of California at Santa Cruz with four senior apprentices who would then be able to assist him in the maintenance of the now fully-cultivated four-acre garden. Gregory Hudson was one of those four lieutenants who Gregory Hudson speaks about Alan Chadwickthen helped to train newly arriving apprentices and take responsibility for special projects. Greg also worked at the garden project in Saratoga for a time, and then was one of the first group who went with Chadwick up to Round Valley to begin the Covelo garden there in 1973. In March of 2014, Gregory Hudson spoke to us about his memories of Alan Chadwick during those years.

 

After the Virginia garden project dissolved and Alan Chadwick had become terminPrasnaparamita, Mother of All Buddhasally ill, he returned to Green Gulch where he eventually died six months later. Elizabeth Sawyer was a Zen student there who helped look after Alan on one occasion when Acacia Downs was away. In a poignent moment of openness and vulnerability, largely brought about through Elizabeth's presence of mind, Alan confides a matter that had weighed heavily on him. In this video interview with Greg Haynes in Occidental, California, she describes that bedside moment with Alan at Green Gulch in 1980.

 

In 1979, Alan Chadwick delivered a series of Lectures to a newly arrived crop of apprentices who had come to work with him in Virginia at what became his last garden project. These talks are important because, unlikspring maple leavese his lectures in Santa Cruz and Saratoga, they were directed toward his active horticultural apprentices rather than to the general public. Despite Alan's advancing illness he is generally in good form and good humor. One could say that these talks sum up a lifetime of horticultural experience, delivered in a form that was refined over many years of teaching. They are funny, witty, profound, poetic, informative, and occasionally transcendent. A beautiful resource.

 

 

The Flower Ladies of Santa Cruz, California

Nancy Lingemann was not only an early student-apprentice of Alan's at Santa Cruz, but she also became a life-long friend. The training that she received at the Student Garden Project led her to the activity that ultimately became her life's work: In the late 1960's she and two partners started a business growing flowers in the Alan Chadwick manner that soon provided them with a joyful and artistic livelihood.

Nancy tells of her encounter with Chadwick just after that tragic episode when he was unjustly expelled from UCSC and how that event affected him emotionally. Later, when Alan became terminally ill and was living at Green Gulch, Nancy sent down a bouquet of her best flowers every week, which Alan treasured. In this five-part video interview, Nancy talks to Greg Haynes about the profound influence that Alan Chadwick has had on her life.

 

Alan Chadwick recites Friar Lawrence's soliloquy from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. This audio recording is from a lecture that Alan gave at New Market, Virginia, in 1979 to a group of new apprentices. DAlan Chadwick in Santa Cruz, 1967, photo by Eric Thiermannespite the marginal audio quality of the recording, Chadwick's theatrical delivery comes through loud and clear. He could recite this passage from memory so his apprentices would sometimes use it as an exercise in the elocution classes that Alan would conduct from time to time at Covelo and Virginia. Many thanks to Eric Thiermann for permission to post this beautiful photo of Alan that he took in the year 1967, just before Chadwick actually got started working on the garden project in Santa Cruz. See here for a larger version of this photograph.

 

Gregg Novotny played a key role in the transition of Alan Chadwick's garden project from Covelo, California, to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. It was he who drove a truck full of perennial plants Gregg Novotny and Alan Chadwick, New Market, Virginia, ca. 1978that Alan had selected from the Round Valley garden and transplanted them to the garden at New Market. He served as head gardener under Chadwick both in Covelo and later in Virginia, so he got to know Alan in a way that many others did not. On March 1, 2014, Gregg spoke with us at the "Mount Plesant Farm and Garden" where he currently operates an impressive and rapidly expanding CSA-based farming operation near Auburn, California.

 

Green Gulch Valley in 1972

Despite the initial enthusiasm with which Alan Chadwick began the horticultural project at Green Gulch, the project turned out to be a dismal failure. Numerous problems, taken together, proved insurmountable, even in the face of a fierce determination to succeed. The Challenges Faced by Alan Chadwick at Green Gulch are the subject of this detailed description of the adverse social dynamics that prevailed at the San Francisco Zen Center at that time.

 

The year 1972 was a low point in Alan Chadwick's biography. A number of his enemies, working together in concert, managed to oust him from his position as director of the Student Garden and Paul Lee at the University of California, 1967Farm Project on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz. Where, then, would he go to continue his mission to fight for the ecological form of agriculture that he had publicly advocated over the course of the last five years?

It happened that the San Francisco Zen Center was just then in the process of buying an 85 acre farm on the Marin County coastline and needed someone to direct the development of the organic gardens there. Alan had met Richard Baker, the abbot of Zen Center, a few years earlier at Tassajara, where Paul Lee had taken Alan for a weekend respite. Here we provide a description of how it was that Richard and Paul had become acquainted, and how that friendship led to Alan Chadwick's involvement at Green Gulch Farm.

 

 
 

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