Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

A Guide to Information on the Internet about Alan Chadwick

(Unless otherwise attributed, commentary is by Greg Haynes. The ideas expressed here are the personal opinions of the author. To view the site in question copy and paste any of the following web addresses into a new tab in your browser window.)





This is a well-made video from UCSC describing the history of the Farm and Garden program from its founding by Alan Chadwick in 1967 up to the present.

At long last, Craig Siska and Steve Crimi have released some of the audio recordings of Alan Chadwick's lectures that they have been keeping out of public view for over thirty years. Although these represent a small fraction of the recordings in their possession, they claim that more will be forthcoming. If so, that will be a great relief for those who have been waiting decades for access to the lectures. Alan had intended that they should be made available immediately after his death, as documented in the founding papers of the Alan Chadwick Society in 1980. Many of the lectures that Siska and Crimi have recently released have been available for years on this website (, so the amount of new material is limited. But it is certainly a step in the right direction, and one that we whole-heartedly applaud. We will also let our readers know if more material is posted to that website, as Craig Siska promises it will be.

Aside from the rather bizarre title of this article, it is a fairly well-written synopsis of Chadwick's history in the United States, though one might take exception to a few of the statements that the author, Sara Solovich, makes. She writes, for example,

"Chadwick’s Green Gulch tenure proved even shorter than the one in Santa Cruz, largely because he lacked patience for those Buddhist apprentices. “He couldn’t fathom why we’d just go to meditation when there was work to be done,” recalls Deborah Madison, who had moved there to study Zen Buddhism after graduating from UCSC in 1968."

A much more thorough discussion of the dynamics that led Chadwick to leave Green Gulch can be found in an article on this website entitled, "The Challenges Faced by Alan Chadwick at Green Gulch." Chadwick had been promised far more assistance from the residents of Green Gulch than ever materialized for the construction of the gardens there. This misrepresentation was a sore point for Alan, and was one of the reasons for his impatience with the Zen regime. But there were other major factors that contributed to the breakdown between Chadwick and Zen Center, most notably perhaps, the Zen antagonism against his growing of flowers. It turned out that they really only wanted him to grow vegetables for consumption by the Zen community and for outside sale to raise cash. If this had been made clear in advance, Alan would never have set foot on the Zen property at Green Gulch, since for him, beauty was an uplifting spiritual force that carried within it the ability to heal human souls that had become estranged from nature. Chadwick was no mere farmer; he was an artist of the highest order who used plants as his medium of expression. Fortunately, the Zen Center later changed its attitudes about flowers, but by that time Alan was long gone.

This is a relatively modest attempt at a biographical treatment of Alan Chadwick's life created by Dot Brovarney, a historian who did not know Chadwick personally, but who has done interviews with a number of Alan's former students and colleagues. Fred Marshall also seems to be involved in the project as an advisor. And since Fred's experience with Alan was primarily at Covelo, the website does tend to be somewhat specifically oriented toward the history of the Covelo project, although brief treatments of Alan's other projects are included as well.
By Beth Marie Benjamin, October 17, 2012

Beth Benjamin was an early apprentice to Alan Chadwick in the garden at Santa Cruz. She later went on to create, with her husband, Jim Nelson, and several associates, the gardens at Camp Joy in Boulder Creek. Beth originally wrote this piece as her "Introduction to The Chadwick Garden Anthology of Poets," edited by Robin Somers, and published by the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden, 2009. The following is a brief excerpt; the complete article can be found in Beth Benjamin's memory page within this website.

I learned that Alan had come to Santa Cruz at the request of an old friend of his, Freya von Moltke, who was the companion of a visiting professor of Humanities. Several of the professors realized eventual development was going to change the beautiful Cowell Ranch property drastically, and decided to build a garden at its center. Freya told the professors that she knew just the person to build a garden. Alan Chadwick. She and her first husband Count von Moltke had been involved in the resistance movement and planning the reconstruction of Germany at the inevitable end of the Second World War. Before the Count was executed, he had entrusted Freya to establish a place where people could learn of beauty and creation to counter the forces of so much destruction in the world. Here was the opportunity to create such a memorial: Alan, born into a wealthy eccentric family in England, had studied horticulture as a youth, been a painter, a violinist and a Shakespearean actor, and had managed the British Embassy gardens in South Africa.

He came grudgingly. The fog in Santa Cruz caused great discomfort to his back which had been injured in the war. But he accepted the task, and began to dig. Reaction to Alan was mixed. There were those in authority who worried about allowing the students to be influenced by this mad magic man. “Of course there are Undines and Fairies and Elves!” he once began a lecture. Every now and again some issue would generate a whirlwind that would catch us all up in it – for instance when the university decided to take part of the nursery garden and the woods next to it to build the provost’s house. For weeks, we hatched plans at lunch of leaving once and for all to sail off to the Seychelles Islands, on the other side of the globe, which Alan described with great enthusiasm as a place we could build a better garden in a much more felicitous climate. It was exciting and unsettling – and in the end, we moved the fence and the perennials, and carried on.

We felt total allegiance to Alan in his working out of the sacred task laid upon him by his friend Freya. He talked of “sensitivity, observation, and obedience to the laws of nature” – what a concept for California kids in the late 60’s! We knew this was about something larger than vegetables. The Vietnam War was still raging, and for all of us it was a defining issue of our time. It was such a relief to be shown a role for humankind of nurturing the earth as stewards of this growing garden on this particular piece of land. His unbending insistence on proper techniques and the acquisition of a discipline based on authority beyond human rules and regulations was novel."

A History of Green Gulch Farm by Mick Sopko - written in 2002. This includes a collection of memories of the early days at Green Gulch Farm by Zen students who were involved in the first years after the property was acquired by the San Francisco Zen Center. A few excerpts:

Katharine Cook remembered her early days at Green Gulch:

"Back in San Francisco from Tassajara, I attended an Alan Chadwick work day at Green Gulch. I was astonished at how much energy this charismatic figure brought to his vision and how quickly the horse corral we now call Spring Valley became double-dug raised beds. All of us college-educated middle-class city folk were enchanted to be asked to roam the hillsides with burlap sacks collecting cow dung for the compost heap. It was a terribly exciting time, full of new ideas and a new aesthetic, a new approach to understanding what Nature might be and how to respect and work with natural forces.  We felt as if we were being shown some ways into the invisible world, connecting with realities we could infer, but could not see or hear, as well as their expression through seed, soil, plants and food in ways we had not hitherto been exposed to.

Alan was offering us a kind of school in relating with life forces, in spirit training."


See here for more from Katharine Cook

The Herb Circle at Green Gulch Farm -- (From the Spring 2004 Issue of The Herb Quarterly).

This is an interview with Wendy Johnson, author of Gardening at the Dragon's Gate, reviewed elsewhere on this website. Wendy was the head gardener at Green Gulch where she lived for some twenty-five years. She seems to have been inspired to some extent by Alan Chadwick, whom she met briefly (one day) in 1975, but also spent considerable time with after his return to Green Gulch when terminally ill in 1979.

Some of her off-hand comments strike an offensive tone in the ears of people who actually knew Alan Chadwick well and worked with him intensively over the years. She calls him, "a judgmental son of a bitch," and says, "He was abusive in ways. He didn’t have to treat people like that, but he did."

One wonders what she bases these glib judgments upon. Is she characterizing the Alan Chadwick whom she actually knew: that broken remnant of a man, constantly wracked with illness and pain who could hardly leave his bed? If so, this is hardly a fair basis of experience for her summation of a life spent, for the most part, in selfless service to humanity. Or is she merely repeating more of the same driveling hearsay that is bantered about by weak and lily-livered non-entities who try to make themselves taller by belittling Alan Chadwick? If that's the case, then she chooses her own bedfellows and can lie with them as her own personal legacy.

A few excerpts of her comments on Alan Chadwick follow:

“Yes, “ says Wendy Johnson, a Zen monk who was instrumental in starting the garden and who served as its first head gardener, “I met Alan Chadwick, that’s why my hair is white. . . .” And that’s why they buried him the way they did. “We deliberately had his gravestone face the ocean so he wouldn’t be overlooking the garden. Alan was a judgmental son of a bitch. He was an impossible, wonderful person. . . . He was abusive in ways. He didn’t have to treat people like that, but he did. And he was a brilliant gardener.

“This entire garden, as far as I’m concerned, is dedicated to Alan Chadwick.”

. . .  After Chadwick died in 1980, work on the garden started in earnest. Given its unofficial dedication to him, it’s natural to wonder how the garden embodies its inspiration. “It’s formal and wild at the same time,” says Johnson. “The layout is formal, the design is formal, and the plantings are very voluptuous and wild. And that’s how I think of him.”

. . . The labor-intensive gardening at Green Gulch calls for the prodigious effort of many hands, and after two decades of such work, Wendy Johnson wonders whether that’s appropriate. “I think if the Zen Center were to do a garden now, we’d probably do something more like permaculture. It would be much more sensible for who we are, how we practice, what we do. Instead, we don’t leave anything alone because we were trained that way by a mad Englishman.”

Somehow the conversation keeps coming back to Alan Chadwick, whose students and disciples have had a tremendous impact on organic gardening throughout America and the rest of the world. But perhaps horticulture was only part of his legacy. “The best thing I learned from him was how important it is to disobey your teachers,” says Johnson. “Otherwise you just end up mimicking them, and just try to do what they want you to do or what you think they want you to do, which ultimately they probably don’t want you to do.

“So I delight in disobeying Alan Chadwick now. But where I feel very much unified with him is in an absolute love of plants and in the fierce conviction of the garden as a place for transformation.”

A video of Paul Lee talking about Alan Chadwick and the important role he played in the development of sustainable agriculture in the USA. Paul is introduced by Huey Johnson, the founder of the Nature Conservancy, a highly sucessful Land Trust organization that was actively involved in Alan Chadwick's work. The Zen Center property at Green Gulch, for example, was one of their projects, and it was also Huey who introduced Richard Wilson to Alan Chadwick, thus leading to the invitation for Alan to begin his project at Covelo.

Huey Johnson mentions some of the dynamics involved in Alan's expulsion from the gardens at Santa Cruz, which, he claims, were rooted in the dissatisfaction of influential academics from UC Davis. These individuals, as Johnson tells it, were largely controlled by the agricultural chemical industry, and they were intensely opposed to Alan's organic approach to farming.

Chadwick’s Favorite Roses, by Sue Tarjan

An article included in the, "News & Notes of the UCSC Farm & Garden," Issue 112, Winter 2007, that includes an interview with Jim Nelson of Camp Joy in Boulder Creek, California. Jim describes a dozen or so different roses that were favorites of Alan Chadwick, all grown by him at the Garden Project at Santa Cruz. Alan prefered old-fashioned, free-form, climbing roses over the fussy hybrid teas that are so commonly seen today. Wild, rambling, and intensely scented were the characteristics he prized. Jim provides a good overview here of the varieties that Alan treasured.

This is a website from which one can buy or rent a copy of the video, "Garden Song," which features Alan Chadwick speaking about his approach to gardening, set against the backdrop of several gardens that he either built or inspired. The advertizing copy says, in part:

"A beautiful portrait of a dynamic human being, it was photographed at Chadwick's gardens in Virginia, Boulder Creek and Bolinas, California. It also features John Jeavons and Dr. Paul Lee, who discuss Chadwick's vitally important contribution to small-scale agriculture in a hungry world."

Produced by Jim Mulligan & John deGraaf shortly before Alan's death in 1980, it runs 28 minutes and provides a fascinating glimpse of Alan's poetic and theatrical personality.

This is a Facebook page of the Library at the University of California at Santa Cruz devoted to Alan Chadwick. On this page they provide a link to a collection of photographs of Alan and of the old Garden Project on campus, now called The Alan Chadwick Garden. Should we take it as a compliment or as an infringement that they refer to Alan Chadwick as "Gardener of Souls" with no attribution or link to this website? Perhaps it was just an oversight, as one of their Twitter pages does link us and recommends our site as a worthy resource for information about Alan Chadwick.

An interesting article on some of the successful work being done at the University of California at Santa Cruz Farm Project, specifically on the cultivation of organic strawberries and blueberries in strawberries at the UCSC Agroecology farmCalifornia. The article mentions Alan Chadwick as the founder of what ultimately became the Agroecology Program there. It cites a few statistics that illustrate the impact that Alan had on the demand for organic produce:

In symposium remarks, graduate Brian McElroy, organic business manager at Driscoll's Strawberry Associates, quoted a recent survey by the Perishables Group (fresh-food industry consultants) noting that 75% of Americans are now buying organic produce, at least on occasion. “The movement is still gaining momentum,” he said. “A quarter of Americans have started buying organic just in the last 12 months.”

This is a quote from the publication, "California Agriculture," an industry journal from the University of California system. Who would have thought, back in the day, that Alan Chadwick's influence would have finally penetrated so far into both the widespread preferences of the general public and into the practices of mainstream agriculture? The photo above shows a strawberry trial at the Agroecology Farm taken by Greg Haynes in July of 2012.

This is a brief but well-written article on the evolution of the Agroecology Program at the University of California from its inception by Alan Chadwick in 1967. Because of its leading role on the forefront of the organic farming movement, UCSC has been dubbed, "The Harvard of Organic Farming."

"Alan Chadwick, a master gardener, introduced an earth-friendly method of gardening that took hold on campus as surely as the roots of the heirloom vegetables, fruits, and flowers he planted. Since those pioneering days in 1967, UCSC has emerged as the 'Harvard of organic farming.'”

"... Considered by many the birthplace of organic farming, UCSC has transformed the way food is grown and helped make “sustainability” a household word. This year marks the campus’s 40th year at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. The hillside where it all began is now the Alan Chadwick Garden, an outdoor classroom that–with the 25-acre certified-organic UCSC Farm near the base of campus–comprises the key research and instructional facilities for the UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS).

A final compelling measure of UCSC’s impact is the development of sustainable agriculture programs at major universities across the country. “Sustainability is at the core of the curriculum now, and even the most established ag schools are building programs,” says Allen. “It’s pretty gratifying, because they’re quick to acknowledge that a lot of what they’re doing now began at UCSC.”

This is an audio clip of Alan Chadwick reading a portion of The Life of the Ant, by Maurice Maetterlinck. The video component includes a large number of still photos of Alan in various of his gardens. This is a promo for the January, 2013 release of the book, Reverence, Obedience and the Invisible in the Garden by Logosophia Press.

Dr. Rodney Blackhirst lectures on philosophy, religion, and alchemy at Latrobe University in Australia. He recently launched a website that he calls, The Australian Alan Chadwick Society, whose mission it is to promote the organic horticulture of Alan Chadwick as adapted to Australian conditions. The site features a brief biographical outline of Alan's life and offers a rather succinct list of the characteristics of his horticultural system. Included is an interesting discussion about what Alan's system should be called. Dr. Blackhirst basically rejects "Biodynamic/French Intensive" as verbose and easily confounded with the anthroposophical version of biodynamics. Likewise, "Biointensive," coined by John Jeavons, better describes Jeavons' own particular style, which is heavy on the utilitarian approach and light on artistry and beauty. "Classical Method" is apparently too general, while "Arcadian System" seems to be a bit too obscure. Dr. Blackhirst prefers to call Alan's style of gardening, "Chadwick Horticulture."

These are all valid points, and the discussion is a reasonable one. I propose that we open the subject up for input from our readers. So: Anyone with an opinion on the most appropriate name for Alan's system of gardening is invited to submit an alternative proposal (with a short justification) to this website, and it will be posted on the "Forum" page.Or, if you simply wish to vote for one already proposed, go ahead, and the votes will be tallied up from time to time.

To get the ball rolling, I hearby suggest that the formal, official, and ceremonial name for Alan's system should be retained as "The Biodynamic French Intensive System." And I further propose that the informal, casual, and day-to-day name should be The Alan Chadwick Method. The reason for the first suggestion is that this was Alan's personal choice, and out of respect for him, we should keep it. As for the second, even though the word "method" does not do justice to the vast philosophical and metaphysical aspects of Alan's approach, still it is simple, clear, and unambiguous.

Please let us know what you think.

This is a lengthy but fascinating memoir by Dr. Paul Lee describing his relationship to Alan Chadwick, and Alan's place in the succession of historical personalities who, in Paul's opinion, propounded the philosophical doctrine known as Vitalism. Paul was instrumental in the establishment of the Garden Project at the University of California at Santa Cruz, at least on an administrative level, and therefore speaks from personal experience. Be prepared to wade through a jungle of philosophical and historical commentary, itself of no little interest for those who want to gain an overview of the cultural perspective which has resisted the tendency to view nature as purely mechanical and material. Whether or not one accepts all of Paul Lee's conclusions, his devotion and heartfelt respect for Alan Chadwick are unmistakable. A new edition of Paul's book, There is a Garden in the Mind: Alan Chadwick and the Origins of the Organic Movement in California, is now available from See here for more information on the book, and for additional commentary that also applies to this online memoir.

As part of the promotional effort related to the new (2013) edition of Paul's book, he has been actively presenting a series of talks about the relevance of Alan Chadwick's work. A few video-taped recordings of these presentations can be found here:
Paul Lee at Bookshop Santa Cruz
Promo on There Is a Garden in the Mind
Radio interview about There is a Garden in the Mind

See for a more up-to-date listing of Paul's videos available on the internet. Chadwick

A very brief mention of Alan Chadwick (stub article) which needs major work.

Waters, Christina. Fire in the Garden. From the Oct. 2-8, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

This is the kind of slick media hype typically found in the Sunday Supplement of the newspaper. It describes Alan Chadwick and the early days at Santa Cruz, including interviews with some apprentices from the first years of the Garden Project.

The article also quotes Jim Nelson:

"Alan used to say that you first set the table and put out the meal. And then you invite people to come and eat. If you build it well enough, they will come."

What Alan actually meant here was that the vast majority of people are takers, not givers. You can't count on them to build anything up, to work out of any kind of vision for the future. What you can count on, however, is that if you buy the food, cook it, and set it on the table, they will most certainly come and sit down to eat it. Another way to say this is: If you do all the work, you can always count on them to help eat up the harvest, but if you expect any more than that from most people you will be sorely disappointed.

But what Jim is alluding to is that Alan frequently expressed his view that it was useless to talk on and on about an alternative approach to living. The most eloquent advocate for an authentic relationship to all that is essential in life is the garden itself. Don't expect people to understand ahead of time the mysteries and magic which we will unleash on them as time unfolds. Forget about enlisting their support until they can experience first-hand the abundance and exuberance of nature when she is espoused by human beings who accept her on her own terms, who obey her laws, who court her with an attitude of approach of respect and humility. It is the garden itself that is the teacher, he would say. We are not teachers. Nature herself is the great teacher and she will speak intimately to all who are prepared to listen. We, as gardeners, merely prepare the way for her.

When Alan left Santa Cruz, all this was lost. Yes, organic gardening was practiced and taught to new apprentices who then went out into the world to share what they knew. But the spirit of the secret died there in Santa Cruz. The essence of the project wasn't really about gardening at all, not really, not with Alan.

At a morning meeting one day, he asked us all, "What is the purpose of our work here?" After several people said that it was about feeding the masses with sustainably raised food, about protecting the earth from harmful chemicals, about teaching self-sufficiency, he slowly shook his head. Finally he answered that, while all those things were fine and necessary in their own way, they were not essential to our mission here. He said that the garden project was a religio-philosophical endeavor that had as its task the creation of a place where any human being could enter through the garden gate and discover, within himself, the affinity between his own soul and the soul of creation. He said that the soul of creation had many names; some called it God, some Nature, others had different names for it. But when a person forged a connection to this entity, it was a transformative event, an awakening. And so, fostering the potential for that crucial moment to occur was the real purpose of our work.

As the writing on the wall became clearer that the university no longer wanted this new-world prophet on its doorstep and was doing its level best to drive Alan and his rag-tag group of disciples out of the ivory tower, Alan said to us on another day: It appears that our work here in Santa Cruz is coming to an end. We now have to look forward to the future and decide on our next task. He said that he had been thinking that perhaps the time had come to set gardening aside for the present, and explore other avenues of personal development. He told us that a group of people in Saratoga had offered a place called Villa Montalvo to him in order to form a Shakespearean Theater Company there, and that he had been considering this offer with some seriousness. He was wondering if any of us would be interested in taking up the life of the stage, and accompany him to Saratoga to help with this new project. He explained to us then that, while the garden afforded one avenue toward an encounter with the spirit, there were others as well. He asked us to make our decision right then, if we were with him or not. With his foot, he drew a line in the soil in front of the chalet, and bade each one of us to step over the line if we were ready to follow him in this new direction. Everyone, without exception dutifully stepped over the line, with utter confidence that wherever Alan led us, it would be full of adventure and inner discovery.

UCSC Oral History Project: Interview with Paul Lee in Santa Cruz, California, 2003

This is a very charming interview with Paul Lee about Alan Chadwick and the beginning of the Garden Project. Paul gets most of it right here, and it's a lovely piece because he speaks right out of the heart.

UCSC Oral History Project: Interview with Jim Nelson in Boulder Creek, California, August 20, 2008

This is an interesting interview with an early apprentice at the Garden Project. Jim went on to found his own little garden project in Boulder Creek, called Camp Joy, which has had a considerable success of its own. An extensive Video Interview with Jim Nelson can be found on this website.

Two excerpts:

"Rabkin: People have said that it was often difficult for women to be mentored by Alan, that he wasn’t as accepting of as many women as of men. Was that your experience?

Nelson: Well— Not really, in terms of my firsthand experience. I mean, there was one woman who came to Camp Joy, when we first started Camp Joy, Molly, who was a very strong woman with a feminist consciousness. She went up there [to the Garden] because she was interested in it, and she couldn’t handle the authority. Yes. What you’re saying was probably true for her. But then she came here and learned from Beth and me. Beth gave a talk in the morning at the fortieth reunion last year. I remember because in the parking lot Nancy was smiling and telling Beth, “What you said today, it was just like that for me. We were trying to work really hard and push our own wheelbarrows and take care of things because we were trying to prove to Alan that women could do it too.” So I think Alan was a little bit— He had some false assumptions about women. But there were women who didn’t get repelled or turned off by whatever that was. And the fact that he was kind of authoritarian and kind of heavy-handed with the way that he directed everything, they were willing to not be distracted by that, or to take that on, because there was so much to be gained by it. And then I think that Alan gained respect for—that women were fully capable. Because there were other women later. Some of his closest allies and friends in those years were women who became his cohorts, or were mentored by him and helped him, and back and forth. So it’s an over simplification to say that. But I think there’s some truth in it.

Alan scared people out of the Garden sometimes. He would scream at people because they were walking in the wrong place, and they would run out the other way because he seemed like he was a madman. So they never saw this playful, charming, storytelling part of Alan.

The other thing [was that] Joe Williamson, who was the editor of Sunset Garden Magazine, he came to the twenty-fifth reunion of the Chadwick Garden and gave a talk. Two things I remember him saying. One was that it was only because of seeing Alan Chadwick’s Garden— He got taken there by Dean McHenry. Joe had come to cover some gathering of the Camellia Society, or something like that, which was meeting in one of the university buildings. And Joe said he couldn’t even remember anything about that, but at lunch time McHenry said, “Come with me. I want to show you my garden,” and took him over and showed him and introduced him to Alan. Then they came back and did their photo essay about it, and saw beautiful flowers and beautiful vegetables, and it was done organically without pesticides and all without chemical fertilizers. And shortly thereafter they came out with an editorial saying, “DDT should be banned. We can’t use this anymore.” Rachel Carson had been campaigning for that for sometime, quite a few years. But Joe said, and I’m sure it’s on the tape from the twenty-fifth [anniversary], that if they hadn’t seen Alan Chadwick’s garden, they wouldn’t have had the courage. It gave them the courage to make that editorial stance, because they saw a manifestation that yes, you can— Because organic gardening at that point was really anecdotal. Nobody took it much seriously.Everybody assumed that it meant you’d have scabby, funky-looking apples and bug-eaten flowers, which is not true at all."

An Obituary published by Mother Earth News in December of 1980, the year of Alan's death. An overview and recapitulation of material that has appeared elsewhere, but a nice tribute to Alan. A short excerpt follows:

"Alan Chadwick was a brilliant master gardener, a visionary, and an extraordinary source of inspiration for many horticulture students and professional gardeners, past and present. Through those who worked with him, and the constant stream of luminaries, writers, practitioners, and students who visited his magical gardens, Chadwick influenced an entire generation of American gardeners, whether directly or indirectly. In his fertile, productive gardens, Chadwick proved that by following his methods, yields of four to six times the U.S. commercial average for fruits, vegetables, and grains could be achieved, using one-eighth of the water, a quarter of the fertilizer, and one-hundredth of the energy per pound of food produced."

Chadwick, Alan. By Thalia Douglass Hammond. Student project.

A grad student at Indiana State University does some cursory internet research, mostly a cut and paste affair, for a class project. It contains some serious factual errors, for example:

"Most importantly to Alan Chadwick, Steiner developed the theory of biodynamic agriculture.   Biodynamic gardening takes into account organic methods, microorganisms and lunar cycles to grow and produce plants . . .  Steiner became young Alan’s tutor.  Subsequently, Alan was a devout advocate of the philosophies, theories and teachings of Rudolf Steiner for his entire life."

As I have explained in my commentary on Paul Lee's book, see here, Alan had only a very brief exposure to Steiner in his youth, and he rarely mentioned any aspect of Steiner's philosophy during the period of his work in the United States. Least of all was he interested in the so called biodynamic preparations which are used widely by those who follow Rudolf Steiner's indications for agriculture. In my experience, way too much has been made of this connection.

Another example:

"Saratoga Community Gardens are in Covelo, California. The gardens were designed and founded by Alan Chadwick."

Saratoga in most definitely not in Covelo; it lies on the outskirts of San Jose. While Alan did work briefly in Saratoga, he did not found or design the gardens there. See my audio clips on the Saratoga Garden Project here and here, and the series of newpaper articles from Saratoga here.

From the Seeds of Change seed catalogue.

A brief biographical sketch and overview of the influence Alan Chadwick has had on the development and acceptance of organic gardening and farming in the U.S. Well written and, for the most part, factual. An excerpt follows:

Alan Chadwick was a brilliant master gardener, a visionary, and an extraordinary source of inspiration for many horticulture students and professional gardeners, past and present. Through those who worked with him, and the constant stream of luminaries, writers, practitioners, and students who visited his magical gardens, Chadwick influenced an entire generation of American gardeners, whether directly or indirectly. In his fertile, productive gardens, Chadwick proved that by following his methods, yields of four to six times the U.S. commercial average for fruits, vegetables, and grains could be achieved, using one-eighth of the water, a quarter of the fertilizer, and one-hundredth of the energy per pound of food produced.

To Chadwick, gardening was in part a spiritual endeavor: an element in the quest for the inner sense of man, a means of shedding light on a vision of creation and nature. He was fascinated by the mystery of nature and the power of its cycles; he saw nature essentially as a giver and forgiver, and he battled constantly to defend it against man's predilection for dominating it. Chadwick saw the garden as our true home and as the ultimate teacher of human culture, and he strove to make his gardens as beautiful, functional, and sustainable as possible.

Alan Chadwick's lecture on the culture of the Anemone, given September 12, 1979, transcribed by Craig Siska.

An amusing and quite thorough discussion on how to grow the anemone flower. You can almost hear Alan's voice as he plays with the audience.

A few notes:

When he says that he raised 28,000 anemone plants in Santa Cruz, that means we raised a lot of them; he was often given to hyperbole.

Then he drops baffling terms like revolutionibus and ahrimanic. These are ancient words with specific meanings, but Alan uses them to represent other concepts in his own, personal, technical-philosophical vocabulary. Ahrimanic is an anthroposophical term, originally from Persian, and it referrs to an overly materialistic or strongly earth-bound attitude or condition. Revolutionibus was a late innovation in Alan's vocabulary; he never used it in Santa Cruz, Green Gulch, Saratoga, or in the early days at Covelo. He sprung it on me one day when I went over to visit him in Sonoma, where he was living after the project in Covelo finally wound down. He had been invited to make a garden project on a truly lovely piece of land in the Napa Valley where ancient natural effervescent mineral springs bubbled to the surface and one hundred-year-old olive orchards still produced in abundance. He cornered me and said, very knowingly and mysteriously, that the entire issue rested squarely on the Revolutionibus, and looking piercingly into my eyes, he asked me if I understood.

Now this is a trap for a first-year apprentice. So as not to appear ignorant to Alan, there was always a strong temptation to nod in agreement, hoping that Alan would not press the issue. But this was a very naive move, because Alan always pressed the issue, and you would end up looking very stupid and very much the liar. Paul Lee fell into this trap when Alan visited him in Santa Cruz one time, you can read about it in his "memoir" at But having been around the track once or twice with Alan before, I knew that pretending to understand was the moral equivalent of checkmate in one move. Equally unacceptable was to tell the blind truth and admit that you had no idea what he was talking about, because then he would launch into a diatribe, asking how many times must he explain these profundities to an unthinking and uneducated bunch of imbeciles? . . . No. The only way out of the trap was to look him squarely in the eye and confess that you didn't quite grasp the whole concept in its entirety. Then he would smile and hint that maybe sometime soon we could have a little conversation on the topic and clear up whatever doubts still remained. Afterward, there would be no more mention of Revolutionibus, as you had passed the test. You were neither a complete dunce nor a liar; just an actor like himself, having some fun.

It was part of Alan's methodology to maneuver you into a false position if he could, and then expose you for the poser that you were. The embarrassment and shame at being unmasked evoked unpleasant feelings, to say the least, and this was an incentive to avoid similar pretentions in the future. You were forced, little by little, to drop the false persona and become more and more honest and authentic, which was Alan's long term goal for you. The method to his madness was to help you along on your path to authenticity by making you uncomfortable with being a liar, to yourself and to the world.

Some people made the mistake of being angry at Alan for the invaluable service he provided in this way. Rather than face the prospect of looking at themselves through his eyes, which was not flattering, they preferred to shoot the messenger so as to maintain their puffed-up self-conceit. Such people, in general, either left the garden early and did not return, or they ended up conspiring against Alan in some way, wasting a great opportunity to transform themselves in a positive direction.

An audio recording of this lecture

A Tribute to Alan Chadwick, Master Gardener, by Hilmar Moore

Reprinted from  STELLA NATURA Inspiration and Practical Advice for Home Gardeners and Professional Growers in Working with Cosmic Rhythms - (The 1993 Kimberton Hills Agricultural Calendar available from the Biodynamic Association, Kimberton, PA)

Hilmar Moore writes in a style almost poetic in its cadence and alliteration. His description of the pervasive influence Alan's work has had on modern gardening is right on base. Perhaps he overstates a bit the "tortured" nature of Alan's soul, and the "areas in which Alan's vision was inadequate." I read this as code for the fact that Alan was not an anthroposophist like Hilmar. All in all, a fitting tribute to Alan Chadwick, except as noted. A brief excerpt follows:

" He taught that the garden is both the epitome and the mother of all true culture. He foresaw a society that would become ever more decentralized and diverse, with its foundation an agriculture that would unite art, science, and religion. What religion? That service to the spirit of the earth without which we have no real inner life; that devotion which allows us to become creative collaborators in the future of earthly evolution. He showed how horticulture can bring about artistic creation in each household, religious devotion in the soul toward one's environment; and how by understanding the requirements of building a living soil community, one receives the bounty of a renewed and enlivened earth."


Zinnia, variety: Cut and Come Again

Guide to the Alan Chadwick Papers, UC Santa Cruz; Special Collections and Archives

A description of various writings and memorabilia held by the library at the University of California at Santa Cruz, including a brief biography of Alan. The archives themselves, housed in the Special Collections Department of the McHenry Library, do not amount to much. There is a folder of various poems and stories that Alan wrote over the years. These were merely first drafts of projects, never published or meant for publication, probably, and would have been better burned after his death. I shudder to think if someone should rummage through my papers and files after my demise, and preserve my juvenalia for posterity. A sad state of affairs, really.

Then there is a file of theatrical reviews which Alan had saved from the time of his career as an actor. These are often undated, but encompass his work both in England and in South Africa. The reviews are good, praising Alan's acting abilities, but one doubts that he would have saved the bad ones, if any exist. A few examples have been reproduced here. The box also includes a folder of photographs from Alan's acting days in South Africa which were collected by Jim Mulligan and appear in his video documentary of Alan Chadwick entitled, Garden Song, available for rental or sale from Bullfrog Publications.

A separate box of documents, called the "Round Valley Archives," contains a thick file of the Covelo garden log, detailing the activities of that garden on a day-by-day basis. This material is informative and would be of interest to our readers here, but library officials were unwilling to allow us to copy the contents of the file.

The story of how these papers came to be archived at UCSC is a bit unclear, but here is a rough idea of the history. When Alan's health was declining seriously in Virginia, he apparently said to his caregiver, Acacia Downs, that she should get rid of all his things, as he did not want anyone chasing the name of Alan Chadwick after his death. She must have done as he asked, since these papers eventually fell into the hands of Steve Crimi, probably by way of Craig Siska, who had been an apprentice and companion to Alan during the Virginia period, and who was a friend of Acacia. The UCSC records state that the documents in the box of archives were donated by Steve Crimi and Bernard Taper sometime in the early 1980's. Bernard Taper is a well-respected author and biographer who worked on a biography of Alan (never published) shortly after Alan's death. If any one of these individuals (or any well-informed others) wish to clarify these matters, we at would love to hear from you.

This is the official University of California at Santa Cruz website representing the "Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems" program, as the old Garden Project is now called. That name change is almost a metaphor for the difference between what Alan offered in the original garden (the real deal without hype), and the trumped up, pseudo-scientific verbosity which is daily fare at these "centers of higher learning." The history presented in this official organ of the university is highly sanitized. As they say, "History is written by the victors." The truth is quite another matter. Here is one glaring example from the website:

"The Garden’s success spurred interest in an expanded undertaking. In the spring of 1970, students approved the use of registration fees to help develop a campus Farm, where Chadwick’s techniques could be tested on a larger scale. Chancellor McHenry added support from his discretionary funds, and in the spring of 1971 the campus planning committee designated 14 acres of rolling meadow near the campus’s west entrance for the new venture (the Farm has since been expanded to 25 acres). Steve Kaffka, a former student and "lieutenant" of Chadwick’s, was put in charge of the enterprise. Disagreements with University officials over the Farm’s design and management were in part responsible for Chadwick’s leaving UCSC in 1973, when he moved on to start new gardens in Marin County (at the Green Gulch Zen Center), Saratoga and Covelo, California, and New Market, Virginia."

The truth is that Alan was milked of all that he had, and then thrown out into the street by disloyal opportunists. He had arrived in Santa Cruz to visit his dear friend, the Countess Freya von Moltke, who had earlier heard about the plans to attempt a garden project at the university. She mentioned to Paul Lee that her friend Alan Chadwick would soon arrive, and that he would be perfect for the job. Alan was less than enamored with the idea, but Freya argued persuasively that his knowledge was sorely needed here, and that he might consider it a sort of moral imperative to share what he had with the modern world that had lost its compass. Alan, out of respect for Freya's judgment and his own personal idealism agreed to take up the task. He didn't ask for a salary, a budget for tools and supplies, or anything at all. He merely went downtown and bought a spade from the hardware store with his own money and began cultivating the soil on a neglected hillside at the entrance to the campus.

The project was a formidable one. He himself worked from dawn to dusk every day, seven days a week. Little by little, students would wander by to see what he was doing, and before long he had attracted a band of cohorts as helpers. He had a way of inspiring people to believe in the impossible, and then the impossible became manifest. The garden he created there was beyond the wildest imaginations of anyone involved, teeming with flowers and vegetables, secret places, exquisite fruits, truly a magic spot that grabbed you like Jacob's angel and wrestled you to the ground, demanding that you fundamentally alter your world view, accepting that the human spirit could collaborate with the spirit of nature to unleash a cornucopia of abundance. It all depended on your attitude of approach, as Alan would often say.

For five years Alan poured his soul into this magic creation. Every year the soil became more fertile, the perennial plants became more established and the abundance increased. He gave everything he had to the effort. Despite the triple spinal fracture that he had sustained during World War II, and despite his sixty years of age, he could out-work any twenty-year-old any day of the week, and this is no exaggeration. He was eventually given a small stipend of a few hundred dollars per month, but he lived like a monk, using the money for garden supplies and to pay some regular helpers. No one but Alan would ever have attempted what he succeeded in achieving on that barren hillside, and when he successfully accomplished the work, they began to try to take it away from him. At first it was very stealthy. The head of the environmental studies department offered us apprentices a certificate of graduation from the garden program that we could use to prove our competence to the world. Of course, this would mean that the garden would be subsumed by the academic department he led, and that he would begin to call the shots. When Alan was understandably not very keen on the idea, we apprentices declined the invitation.

So then the power grab became more blatant. A former apprentice of Alan's lobbied for and was granted the job as director of the new farm project that Alan had begun as an extension of the garden project. This was a slap in the face, since this was already Alan's position, and what this person knew about gardening and farming would fit inside Alan's little finger. The upstart was given all the titles, authority, and funding while Alan was left with nothing, and he began to sleep on the floor of the chalet, as he had nowhere else to go. He was repaid with indignity for all the dignity that he had conferred on the university through the years of his incredibly hard work and accomplishments. Now that they had recruited someone who they could control to replace Alan, they no longer needed him, he who had created paradise out of nothing. They literally threw him out and kept what he had created for themselves.

Afterward, the memory of Alan Chadwick at Santa Cruz was desecrated. The new regime characterized Alan as an eccentric crank, and newly arriving students knew no better. I attended an event there back in the early nineties and they had set up a kind of scarecrow, stuffed with straw, dressed up like Alan Chadwick and made to look like his physical characteristics. This is the respect they show to the miracle worker who sowed what they now reap in ignorance.

Biography of Alan Chadwick

From the introduction to Performance in the Garden
Stephen J. Crimi

Performance in the Garden is a collection of transcripts of some of Alan Chadwick's lectures, here published in book form. Edited by Stephen Crimi, it includes a biography of Alan. The website includes three or four lectures not transcribed in the book, and these very much capture the flavor of Alan's talks. The reader should understand, however, that Alan was an actor, and that his public lectures were examples of his showmanship not of his regular, human, down-to-earth manner. Hyperbole, mystification, erudition, a lofty and somewhat obscure diction: these are characteristics of his public talks. His more informal and personal communications, although also delivered in an elevated, aristocratic style (except when cursing) were far less theatrical. He had an almost uncanny ability to see right into the soul of people, and he always spoke to that innermost part of you. That's a big part of what made him so formidable, as there was no hiding anything from him, and he did not suffer fools lightly. Paul Lee suggests that Alan's lectures capture the essence of the man, but I would argue otherwise. He was far more than the showman that comes across in these public talks. They are amusing, uplifting, informative, erudite, and sometimes inspired. But they are also purely monologues, lacking the intensely personal touch that was Alan's forte.

Testimonials from two former apprentices of Alan Chadwick, Stephen Decater and Bob Niederman. These do capture some of the flavor of working with Alan. Brief, but pithy. Stephen Decater was an early apprentice of Alan's in Santa Cruz. After Alan left, Stephen worked with horses in Palo Alto, but afterwards moved up to Covelo to help Alan on that project. When Alan left Covelo, Stephen remained, having received permission from Richard Wilson to occupy a house and small farm there in exchange for actively farming the land. That humble beginning led to what is now a highly respected training program for organic gardeners. Each year, many school children visit the place for an introduction to farm life where they observe horses plowing the land, solar energy in action, organic food production, and a whole host of other activities. It's called Live Power Community Farm. For more information, see: . For a fuller picture of Stephen Decater's experience working with Alan Chadwick, see his interview here.

Transcript of a lecture given at Covelo, May 18, 1977, by Alan Chadwick.

Alan pontificates on some of the imponderable mysteries of life and of the garden. In particular, he talks about the color and scent of flowers, and of other subjects which, as he notes, are all somewhat abstruse. This could easily be taken as an understatement, as his presentation reflects most of all his own personal sense of intoxication in the presence of the exuberance of nature rather than any particular concrete information about these characteristics of flowers. This is pure flair and theatrics built over an authentic sense of revelry that he always experienced inside himself in contact with natural beauty. He was not this vague in daily life, not by a long shot. This is his response to being expected to deliver a lecture on a regular basis and which he took as an opportunity to indulge himself in a little bit of extemporaneous poetizing. Not unusual with him. In a talk like this, which may last for a half hour or so, one often can glean two or three jewels hidden there among the histrionics. He mentions here, for example, several herbal coffee substitutes, which as he claims, have the same stimulative effects. He also explains why gardeners need to soak peas and beans before sowing in the garden, whereas other plants do not respond well to this treatment. Occasionally Alan comes up with an unusually elegant turn of phrase that is worth the price of admission in itself. One example from this talk strikes me as particularly felicitous: In speaking of plant classifications and families, he says,

"We all put things in little families, because they very obviously belong in a family. They can actually marry and have children, whereas others can’t. So there is a variation, again, that’s a stigmata of words in our brain box, you understand, very largely. We don’t realize that there is intermarriage in everything, of course. I mean, when we don’t, we do, but we don’t."

He is referring here to the tendency of people to create abstractions and definitions, rather than just experience the world, and how this process actually cuts us off from an authentic, direct, and intimate relation with nature. Yes, he acknowledges, this is sometimes necessary, but we also pay a high price for separating ourselves from the natural world in this way. The expression, "a stigmata of words in our brain box," to me is absolutely delicious. Classic Alan Chadwick.



Climbing Rose, variety: Cecil Brunner, in a northern California garden

Climbing Rose, variety: Cecil Brunner

The Garden as a Mirror of Man , a lecture by Alan Chadwick given October 20, 1976 in  Covelo, CA

There is much to love in this lecture, as Alan is quite coherent and full of astute observations. A few examples:

"So that when one says that this change is perpetual, you will suddenly see that breathing in as we do, and breathing out is a mystery. It’s a complete mystery. We take it absolutely for granted. We take everything in the whole world, that is absolutely magic, that is complete mystery, we take it completely for granted, and put it down the drain and pull the plug. Utter disinterest in the most incredibly magical things that are happening to us every minute of every day. How do we pass it over? Because we are incomparable bores. Therefore, breathing in and breathing out is coming to life and dying. It’s a whole regular procedure, and you do it more or less, according to your breathing all the time. Perhaps you will see, some of you, how very important then is breathing. How you breathe. How it affects the whole circulation of your approach to living, even to moving. Quite apart from the silliness of speaking."

As a trained Shakespearean actor, Alan had had to bring much of what is unconscious in life under his conscious control: his posture, his gestures, general deportment, inflections of the voice, right down to his manner of breathing. All these things express who and what we are, and manipulating such expressions is the craft of the actor. But as most of us are not conscious of these processes, we slip into rather slovenly habits of holding ourselves, expressing ourselves, both verbally and nonverbally, and this is sheer idiocy to Alan. We make ourselves into such bores, such clods devoid of animation, devoid of vitality, when we could be so much more.

Next, he turns his attention to pruning hedges:

"And if you only prune it or clip it in the dormancy period, you are doing maledictions because it can’t respond. It has to respond in a season, making that response a violence, not a gentle interplay.
For instance, if an animal chewed the shoots, it would immediately start to re-enact. But if you chop half a hedge off in the winter, it is only in the spring when the sap rises that it’s going to say, “Oh my God! My head’s gone!” and start to put out some new heads- but the whole thing out of a timed balance with what was happening. Therefore, that change that you bring about either way, and you see that one is good and the other is bad, is also affecting the roots and the root procedures in the soils. That those root procedures are perfectly happy saying, “Munch, munch” to the gasses and growing them up the stem. All of a sudden the bush says, “Don’t be silly. That business of two courses for dinner- I’ve got twice the size up here. I’m playing twice the game of tennis and I need much more energy.” And the root says, “Well, I’m very sorry somebody’s been mucking about with you. They haven’t mucked about with me.”

Here Alan is describing the right time to prune hedge-row plants, a subject that could be rather uninspiring if it were treated in the traditional way. But Alan makes it unforgettable through his hilarious acting out of an imagined conversation between the leaves and roots of a plant. His gestures and facial expressions would have been theatrical in the highest degree, and we all would have been sitting on the edge of our benches, mouths gaping in wonderment at this impromptu performance of a wild imagination. No one lives like this, so alive, so full of surprises, so articulate, so generous with the sharing of their spirit trove.

In the following example, Alan shares an insight that is actually quite profound. He is talking about beets (Latin, beta) and how, by mistiming the sowing, these biennials can be reverted to the development of an annual plant, and so ruined as a crop.

"This matter concerning the flower and to seed: now it is well known that when you sow certain plants which are known as biennials too early, you will ruin your crown. And this applies very much to the beta, shall we say. You sow it too early, by all rights the beta should grow for one year, and having grown for that one year, that so-called thing that we idiotically call the ‘root’, and become so established in differentiation of the root and the top as two totally different items, because you eat one and don’t the other or some such idiocy; that root, by all rights should go into dormancy and then change completely, which it does. It changes all the textures, its whole life forces go into another realm altogether and it turns into different materials, and produces a long stalk and a huge radiation of flowers which all develop into seeds. Now if you sow that beta too early in the year, it starts to do that at the end of the year. And so you have ruined your root, and you have also ruined your blooming for the next year as a seed, because its thrown out of ratio. You have begun to turn it back into an annual."

Finally he arrives at the idea that inspired the title of the lecture. In answer to a question someone put to him about the Maya people (in Guatemala), he misunderstands and responds as if India was referred to, but this has no bearing on his answer. The dynamics he refers to are universal, as he states. A political philosophy of militarism, of rapine, of subjugation and exploitation has dominated world history since the time of Alexander the Great, and we have all been stamped with this cultural attitude from the cradle. For that reason, it's no wonder that our modern agricultural methods are entirely exploitative in their effects. The reliance on chemical fertilizers robs the soil of all real fertility, leaving a desert of sand without a trace of organic material. The virulent pesticides that are commonly used on commercial farms is virtual war and genocide on the insects, birds, fish, and ultimately on the earth. Agriculture (the garden) is a reflection of the cultural norms, the monsters we have become.

"It is impossible to look at the people of India, as you suggested, they are absolutely wrapped up in the environment of the way in which the whole western world and the whole world is leading- eastern world as well- has been occupied in this attitude of, the word I use here is 'conquest'-theft, piracy, anything you like. You see, it's in the whole of agriculture! Isn't it piracy? Doesn't it come out in everything? If that is your inward radiation, that is what it is."

So, what should we do in the face of these intractable and utterly enormous oppositional forces in the world? Alan replies,

"The only, the only possible, the only real, tangible, vital matter to proceed with true living, is in conjunction with the true force: not taking into account the environmental muddle."

Here Alan suggests that the only course to take is to align yourself with what is true, beautiful, and good in the world, and through that alignment, redeem your own square yard of earth, create a life that is worthy of the dignity of a human being, purify yourself of these cultural malignancies. If you attempt to fight directly against these monstrosities, first of all, you will fail. And second of all, you will be unable to transform your own life "in conjunction with the true force." But by living as an example, you will have an affect indirectly on the world, and that's about all you can hope for.

These are philosophical pearls cast before a rag-tag group of rather swinish apprentices, but since Alan believed in us, that there was hope for us, we were motivated to persevere in the journey, a journey that was, at the same time, cultural and personal. We were out to change the world, which was itself a pretty ambitious undertaking, but we could also observe that through Alan's influence, we were ourselves changing. Because he would not tolerate slovenly speech or mumbled platitudes, we became more articulate. Because he prized fresh, healthy, nutritious foods, we became healthy and discriminating in our diet. Because he would not suffer pretentions and evasions, we became authentic. Because he would not accept shoddy work, we became competent. He was a teacher in the highest sense of that word, though he would never accept that title. We were the lost souls of a lost culture gone completely into the abyss, but Alan thought he could do something with us, so we let him, and it did indeed help. The "inward radiation" became a bit more refined, cleaner, truer, under the influence of this "gardener of souls" as Allen Kalpin called him.

Epoch/Obedience, a lecture by Alan Chadwick given in Covelo, 1976 (?)

This is Alan at his finest. He touches on a theme that was central to his worldview: pulsation, tension and relaxation, and he wastes no words. This is all straight from the heart, nothing theatrical. Well . . . to Alan, everything was theatrical, but here there is nothing extraneous.

"Now perhaps you see, in regarding it this way, that certain containments of self fall away, like leaves that fall. And the subtleness of this change, if you try to put it into words, is a complete stop, and the whole thing is utterly and totally impossible. So I bring this up merely as a view to surveying how this change comes about, and the use of the verb there is much more articulate than the problem appears. One says, “comes about.” It is very vague, I’m afraid. But I don’t know if it is possible to allude something to you:

Do you by chance yet find that in listening to voices, in watching expressions, in the movement of a hand, you are gathering a whole prophesy? The mathematics of an entire procedure of something that is obviously placing about ten years time? If you listen, for instance, not to the words which were voiced, which were asking a question, which took place, for instance, yesterday. You see idée is there. You get it at once.

Somewhere in this particular project, I think that on a personal level for each of us, there has to be some intrinsic understanding into our own natures, and into the natures of each of us. This whole respect for epochs, which are essential, and particularly the autumn epoch of surveyal, which is just prerequisite to the refocusing to idée and realignment. I just say that because there is one element of the project that is leading us since we’ve been here. It has been growing actually in a fertile strata. You see, what we are referring to is in timing. You see I brought up timing several times, but failed amongst the students because you won’t study this matter. You can’t find that there is anything in it. That the timing in which you speak has all the inference of what is behind, what is secret, and it is not done out of an assertion, it is a flowing. That is connected with the whole thing that is music. That is the revolutionibus and is connected in pulsation. It is the interval between two tensions with the relaxation between them."



It will be instructive to dissect these three short paragraphs in order to learn how to understand Alan in other contexts. Everything he says here is coherent; it only lacks a bit of experience with his technical-philosophical vocabulary to make sense out of it.

By this Alan refers to the limited view that an individual can be understood, or even exist, in isolation. His point is that there are subtle, sometimes intangible, factors that influence both the physical form as well as the development and behavior of any individual. These can take the form of environmental factors, or of the more subtle and mysterious destiny-connections that do sometimes manifest themselves in our lives. So a containment of self is a view that the self can be contained or defined without reference to such factors.

It is inexpressible; one can only allude to it indirectly.

Here he means, "more easily articulated."

By this he means gaining a glimpse into the future.

One could paraphrase this by saying: The orderliness of a complex process that will ultimately play out in about ten years.

Idea (French idée) was an important concept in Alan's world view. Its complimentary counterpart was metamorphosis. He saw all of nature in constant movement from one of these two polarities to the other, as a kind of oscillation. So, whereas in the seed stage, all of a plant's essence, its form, its future manifestations in all its glory of leaf, of flower, in a potentially immense dimensional physical space (as with a redwood tree, for example), all of this was encapsulated and concentrated in a tiny seed. So here, all is idea, all is potential. On the other side, however, is the condition of the plant as fully developed and manifested, in its full metamorphosis. This cyclical movement from one state to the other is governed by a fundamental law of life, and it is in obedience to this law that all living beings exist. We all obey this inner imperative in our transitions from the epoch of idea to the epoch of metamorphosis, or otherwise stated, from the epoch of tension to the epoch of relaxation.

Alan's term for this oscillating movement in the early days (Santa Cruz, Green Gulch, Saratoga, and early Covelo) was pulsation. Later, at Covelo, he rephrased the concept as revolutionibus. He would explain how these same forces could be seen at work in intermediate stages in a plant's development. The concentration of the seed would give way to the exuberance of unfolding in the leaves. The relaxation of the leaf stage would tighten into the concentration embodied in the buds. Then the tense concentration of the buds would relax outward in the exfoliation of the flowers. And from the relaxation of the flowers came, once again, a tightening of the plant's forces back into the concentration of the seed, where all was idea, nothing manifest or metamorphosed. Since the process was infallibly cyclical, Alan had associated it with the cyclical movements of the celestial spheres, the movement of the sun from the inclination to the declination, for example, as summer gave way to winter, and back again, or as the moon moved from waxing to waning and back again in eternal cycles of revolutions of planetary bodies. Hence revolutionibus.

In the yearly cycle of plant growth, the tender shoots appear in the spring, arising out of a winter dormancy period. They flower in the summer and make their seeds in the fall before entering again into a period of rest, dormancy, in the winter. But the process is not mechanical. The plant of the following year is, by no means, an exact repetition of the previous year's plant. There is a crucial moment, as the seed just begins to form in the fall, when all of the environmental factors that have come to bear on the growth of that plant imprint themselves on the developing seed, leaving their legacy, so to speak, on the future. It is almost as if the plant looks back and takes stock, surveys the history of the previous growing season, before crystallizing the genetic code which it will implant into its seed-formation process.

By this Alan refers to the process, which occurs in the autumn, whereby the plant gathers up all the life forces that have manifested themselves (metamorphosed) during that summer, and reconcentrates (refocuses) them as seed (pure idea). All the genetic information that the plant received from its predecessors is then, through cross pollination, imprinted with the environmental factors experienced in that particular growing season, and then realigned for the future in the genetic code that is reformulated and then passed on to future generations.

There is an important anthroposophical (originally theosophical?) concept that parallels this process, but that occurs in the sphere of human development, and Alan may be alluding to that here. The idea is that each year in the autumn the human soul, mostly on an unconscious level, takes stock of all that has transpired during the previous spring and summer, and refocuses its energies, its inner intentions, for the following year. The tradition of the new year's resolution grows out of this process, so that on a yearly basis we realign our intentions for the future based upon what has occurred in our lives in the previous year.

But there are cycles within cycles. Just as surely as the plant of one year bears the imprint of what has occurred during the growth cycle of the year before, or that the soul of the human being, as it manifests itself in each yearly cycle, bears within it all that has transpired in the previous year, so also there are larger cycles in which the events of today, received as a subtle influence (pure idea) will also go through a gestation process and finally result in a metamorphosis, a manifestation that will only unfold completely in the future.

How many people, for example, have not had an experience similar to the following: On a particularly clear, starry night a child is walking with his grandfather on the way back home from some event. Along the way, the grandfather casually points up to a group of stars and explains to the child that it is known as the constellation of Orion. They finally arrive home and the child falls asleep as usual. Then, ten or fourteen years later, the child graduates from the university with a degree in astrophysics. He has forgotten entirely the incident with his grandfather so long ago, but at the moment of receiving his diploma a flash occurs in his mind, and he realizes that, subconsciously, his destiny had, all these years, been unfolding under the subtle influence of that early experience as a child.

Occasionally, especially if we are sensitive, we can experience a presentiment, a slight shiver or a subtle inner feeling similar to the feeling of déjà vu, which may occur simultaneously with one of those moments of being influenced in some gentle but profound way. We will not know exactly how that influence will manifest itself in the future, or how long the gestation period will take before it finally manifests in our lives, but we can say to ourselves that somehow a process has been set in motion. A moment of pure idée has entered into us and enkindled an epoch of metamorphosis which will have important consequences for our life as it unfolds in time. But this will not be a conscious, deliberate, process (an assertion) but will unfold in an unconscious way harmonious with our personal destiny in a natural process similar to the unfolding of a rose flower from its bud (a flowing).

So Alan is alluding here, as he speaks to this group of apprentices, that they all have arrived at this place and time together not by accident; but that an unfolding is occurring in the destiny of each one that had its beginning long ago, and that is just now coming to fruition. He is suggesting that the subtle process that brings this about is ineffable, but can be compared to the timing and harmony of music, as a way of thinking about it. And further, that if one begins to be consciously aware of this subtle cyclical process of the transformation of idée into metamorphosis, then one may enter somewhat into the deeper mysteries of life. That this is important. That it is part of the awakening process that each one of us has as a potential, and that the garden, as a catalyst, can help to achieve. And that, finally, all this subtle, unconscious unfolding, leading, as it sometimes does to an inner awakening, is all ordained in obedience to a higher design that guides our lives, and that manifests itself in the physical world through the oscillations of the cycles: the epoch of idée into the epoch of metamorphosis and back again into the epoch of idée. Epoch/Obedience.

An interview with Steve Kaffka on August 31, 2007, as part of the oral history project at UC Santa Cruz, published 2010.


This is an attempt by Steve Kaffka to spin the role he played in the ouster of Alan Chadwick from Santa Cruz as naïveté and ignorance. Methinks Dr. Kaffka is being a bit too generous with himself in retrospect.

Throughout this interview he blames Alan's temper for all the problems. Well, yes, there was a lot of tension and quite a few outbursts during that period, but 95 percent of those outbursts were directed at Stephen. What? Did he imagine that Alan didn't know of those secret meetings Steve was having with the university administrators about the future of the garden and farm to which Alan was not invited? I would argue that Kaffka's duplicitous behavior provoked those very rages which he then uses to justify his actions.

There used to be a virtue in the world called loyalty. It went something like this: When you accept a gift from someone, that put you under an obligation to that person to deal fairly with them, to reciprocate their gift with respect and fidelity toward them. The bigger the gift, the stronger the obligation. That kind of loyalty as a virtue has gone all out of fashion in this modern world.

Stephen then asserts:

"I was still a Chadwick disciple . . . I was very much a product of my experience with Alan Chadwick, and I was very clear about wanting to be true to what I had learned from him and how I learned it."

Not really. The day he took over Alan's job so that Kenneth Thimann and others of his materialistic point of view could finally realize their goal of ridding the University of Alan Chadwick, he lost his position as Alan's "disciple." Thimann, whose research led to the development of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant dumped extensively on the Vietnamese to destroy their forests, had a long-standing grudge against Alan because he, Alan, respected nature and worked within its laws, whereas Thimann perverted nature and turned her against herself, reeking havoc on the environment. No, the masters that Kaffka served never took kindly to Alan Chadwick. He did them a great service by taking Alan's place, as if he ever really could. Regretably, "be true" is the opposite of what he was.

Yes, some apprentices stayed and worked with Steve, but that doesn't prove him right or justified. It only proves that not many people know to show respect where respect is due, or can recognize a truly great human being when they see one.


See here for more on the conflict between Kaffka and Alan Chadwick.

A very literary eulogy of Alan Chadwick by Page Smith, first provost of Cowell College at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and long time friend and supporter of Alan and his work, written in 1980, the year of Alan's death. The following is an excerpt; the full text, along with a photo of Page Smith, can also be found on this website here:

"More than an inspired horticulturalist, Alan was like a furious Old Testament prophet, warning of the wages of our sinful treatment of the land. . . . In an age of “collective leadership,” Alan Chadwick was as imperious as a king. In a day of carefully modulated tempers and self-conscious “interpersonal relations,” he stormed and raged not just at abstractions like laziness or indifference or inattention but at the poor frail flesh of those who were the destined instruments of his terrible, unflinching will. And then suddenly, being the consummate actor for whom all the world was a stage, he would be as sunny, as playful, as irresistible as the prince of a fairy tale. An exotic past lay dimly behind him–British naval officer, Shakespearean actor, painter of pale watercolors, the remnants of Puddleston china and silver brought out for state occasions, reassuring evidence that he had not, after all, come from outer space as one was sometimes inclined to suspect . . .Everything about him was remarkable and distinctive. His physique, his height and angularity, his face, his hair, his walk. Those who fell under his spell had generally to put up with a good deal. That so many were willing to do so is the best possible testimony to the power of what he had to teach, which was inseparable from the way he taught it and the person he was. Mystic, seer, creator, lover of fine wines, coffees, caviar, and champagne, man of prodigious energy and prodigious fury–his life taught us that 'nothing great is accomplished without passion.'”

Elsewhere I have argued that genius, wherever it appears, is invariably accompanied by eccentricity on some level. The one is the opposite side of the coin of the other; they are inseparable. To wish away the eccentricities is to wish away the genius, a truly foolish attitude, because we need genius in the world and should cherish it whenever it appears. Alan Chadwick almost singlehandedly introduced organic gardening to the United States. His attitudes about our responsibility toward the earth were ahead of their time, and have inspired a practical ecology whose influence is now widespread. To deny the world the benefits of such a man simply because some individuals found it inconvenient to live with the man's passion, is sheer folly. A better course of action is to simply tolerate those inevitable eccentricities; they are a small price to pay for the gifts that genius brings. And if one cannot be tolerant, then why not go elsewhere and initiate another project more in keeping with one's own preferences, rather than impede the work of a true visionary.

I think Page Smith understood this.




A zuccini bush in flower

A partial transcript of a lecture by Alan Chadwick on the subject of fertility, given at New Market, Virginia, ca. 1979

This time Alan speaks in a fairly prosaic style. His subject concerns the cultivation and method of planting of a vegetable bed according to the French Intensive Biodynamic system, which he developed. One can almost feel the fatigue in his voice as he sticks to the details, avoiding the high-flying poetic style that he preferred. True to form, he begins this talk with a quote by Robert Graves, as he often would; the sentiment of it captured his own feelings exactly. Sometimes he would paraphrase the idea, as I have encountered it in various forms and permutations in other talks, and in my own memory.

"The decline of true taste for food is the beginning of a decline in a national culture as a whole. When people have lost their authentic personal taste, they lose their personality and become the instruments of other people's wills."

This statement, in my humble opinion, is profoundly true. The problem with it is that those who still have their authentic personal taste already know the truth of it. But those who have lost their authentic personal taste (the vast majority of people, as of this writing), are not aware of that fact, and therefore do not realize that they have become the instruments of other people's wills. Witness American politics in the early 21st century. It is pure manipulation by the bankers and moneyed class of a population that has ceased to know its own interests. And look around. How many millions of people are eating junk food as the main component of their diet. And when they are not eating junk food, they are eating the insipid, lifeless, highly processed crap that comes from the factory farms. No wonder we are falling under the yoke of an exploitative oligarchy.

But I digress . . .

In the discussion about the preparation of a standard vegetable bed he uses a few of his personal technical terms, the meanings of which are not immediately obvious. The first is conservatoire, a French word meaning "greenhouse," as in conservatory, a place where heat is conserved. Alan applies the concept of a greenhouse to his method of sowing and planting in the raised beds of the French Intensive Biodynamic system. The plants are spaced in the beds such that when they approach maturity in their growth, their leaves just touch each other so that the entire surface of the soil is covered in a canopy of leaves. This creates a temperate zone between the surface of the soil and the leaf canopy that is protected from the drying rays of the sun so moisture and coolness is conserved. Likewise, when the wind blows, the cold, drying effects of the wind do not penetrate to the delicate crowns of the plants. This zone of thermal control is always maintained, and this causes an amazing acceleration in the growth of the plants. Not only does the growth-rate accelerate, but because the plants experience a continuous, uninterrupted growth, they remain tender and succulent until the moment they are harvested. The bitterness and toughness which one often encounters in vegetables is largely the result of a series of starts and stops in growth due to variations in the moisture content of the soil.

Another concept central to Alan's philosophy was the observation that life, in all its forms, occurs in greatest abundance in areas of discontinuity. Where the great continuous expanse of the sea meets the great continuous expanse of the land, you have a narrow band of discontinuity which are the coastal regions of the continents, and it is along these coastal bands that the greatest concentrations of life are found. On a smaller scale, one finds the greatest diversity of plants and animals in the riparian zones along the banks of the rivers.

Likewise, where the depths of the earth meet the heights of the air, there is a narrow region along the surface of the earth where the majority of life congregates. Sure, there is life below the earth's surface, just as there is life in the regions of the clouds: birds and bats, and butterflies and bees, for example, but these are nothing compared to the millions of species that inhabit the area of discontinuity at the earth's surface where earth and air meet each other.

Alan applied this same concept to the psychological realm of human life as well as to outer nature. He observed that people get into habits of living and habits of thinking that don't change much. But when some event occurs that shakes us out of our sleepy habit life, that causes us to wake up for a moment and reorient our outlook, then at that moment there is a far greater opportunity for inspiration and creativity to enter our soul-life. In moments of discontinuity we are especially receptive to the ineffable whisperings of a higher intelligence.

New apprentices were often startled by Alan's revelation, uttered with the utmost gravity, that, contrary to popular opinion, two plus two does not equal four. It was confusing because here was this man who, in other respects, seemed to be wiser than most people, denying the most basic tenant of mathematics that every five-year-old child knows by heart. But not only did he assert this "fact;" he also acted out the gestures and facial characteristics of the arrogant fools who went about in their idiotic complacency, believing, in error, that they understood mathematics. He made them ridiculous, and we who, up to this moment, had never questioned the truth-value of 2+2=4, had to somehow wonder if, indeed, we were just as misled and misguided as the people in Alan's caricatures.

But little by little we divined his meaning. With respect to the preparation and application of compost, as in this lecture for example, he would say,

"And now that compost heap will go through the dormancy of winter, and when you place it in the beds next year, the approaches are the same. Your thoughts are from above. Your thoughts are to fertility, not fertility for your use, not fertility towards a crop of 1,000 pounds of tomatoes or 500 baskets of strawberries. That calculation would get you nowhere now, or if you want to turn 1,000 pounds of beans into $1,000 to put it in the bank as a cash deposit! It didn't come out of that kind of thought. It came out of a thought that was not given you in words, an order to which you were obedient."

He means here that there are two options: The first is the cold, heartless calculation of a businessman who merely wants to extract the greatest profit from his farming activities. He really cares nothing for the long term fertility, for the beauty of his fields, for the health of the earth under his care; it is only the profit motive that is of concern. For him, yes, 2+2 will equal 4 every time.

But there is an alternative. Another person whose primary motive is the long term health and fertility of his land, the beauty and diversity of his farm, the respect for all of life . . . insects, birds, worms, wild plants, butterflies . . . not just his cash crop, this person, out of obedience to a higher order, will simply do whatever is necessary to care for his land. And the result, according to Alan, is an abundance that was incalculable at the outset. Two plus two will easily yield five or more, depending on your attitude of approach.

Many people will never understand this. He gives an example in this lecture that is priceless in its imagery.

"All of the things that you can't comprehend. So many people at lectures, like at Villa Montalvo, where three dear old ladies got up and said, Yes! Yes! Yes! But what do we do about the ants? But, you see, there is always this inclination to rush to a store for a powder because something's happening that's got up your petticoat."


An audio recording of this lecture


vegetables for soup

Vegetables and herbs harvested for soup. Zuccini, parsley, aubergine (egg plant), thyme, rosemary, sage, carrot, string beans, tomato, swiss chard, Thai-style chile pepper.

UCSC Oral History Project: Interview with Kenneth Thimann in Santa Cruz, California, October, 1986

Kenneth Thimann was the well-known Harvard botanist and biochemist who came to UC Santa Cruz to design the science curriculum, hire science faculty, and act as provost of Crown College. His enormous prestige brought immediate credibility to the fledgling scientific departments at UCSC, and so Thimann had considerable power in the university politics of the day. Early on, he adopted a very negative attitude toward the Student Garden Project in general, and to the person of Alan Chadwick in particular. He felt that Alan's ideas were preposterous, and that he was leading the students into grave error with all his talk about planting with the cycles of the moon, rejection of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and belief that the attitude of the gardener had subtle effects on crop production.

He had done major research on substances that acted as herbicides and defoliants, and this work was taken further by others to produce the notorious defoliant known as Agent Orange, used to kill off the forests of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. That was the proper direction to encourage students, he thought, not to be filling their heads with ridiculous concepts like respecting the earth, protecting the diversity of life, and considering the larger ecological effects of our actions. Thimann, therefore, constantly advocated the termination of the Student Garden Project and the dismissal of Alan Chadwick. He felt that their presence on campus was an insult to the scientific community that he had established there.

He eventually got his way.

This interview makes no mention of Alan Chadwick directly, though it does touch on the firing of Paul Lee. Paul suggests that this was largely a result of his having initiated the idea for a garden project at the university and for having brought Alan Chadwick into the picture. This link will only be of interest to those interested in the details of Alan Chadwick's history.

As an interesting side-note, the Bancroft Library Oral History Project interview with Richard Wilson (see below) includes a reference to Kenneth Thimann. Wilson states that Thimann's wife had involved herself in the Chadwick garden at Santa Cruz, also implying that she had accepted something of Alan's point of view, and that this had caused no end of trouble in the Thimann household: Kenneth embodying the ultimate scientific-reductionist point of view as opposed to the vitalist, organic, ecological point of view embodied by Alan Chadwick. Wilson suggests that this family schism fueled the fires that Thimann was igniting in opposition to Alan at the university. Where Richard Wilson could have picked up this information is an interesting question. One can only speculate that it very likely came to him via Page Smith.


Alan Chadwick's assessment of Thimann's work can be found here.

UCSC Oral History Project: Interview with Dennis Tamura in Santa Cruz, California, ca. 2001

Dennis Tamura was an apprentice with Alan Chadwick in Covelo for three years, from 1974 to 1977. He likens working with Alan as what it might be to work with a master in martial arts, or a very exacting music teacher. A strict discipline and a very demanding teacher, but you rapidly expand your capacities through the experience. It's not for everybody, because you have to let go of some of your egocentricities in the process, but for that very reason you rise to a higher level of being. Yes, Alan was sometimes volatile, but

"He didn't scar people . . . well, I wouldn't say he didn't scar people, but it wasn't a permanent thing. He singed people, which, maybe people need to be singed at certain times. They just don't know that their ego's too big or their ego needs some modifying, or they need to change their perspective a little."

The attitude Dennis expresses here is very healthy, and it was the attitude that the majority of Alan's students lived by. The small minority who made it their business to try to discredit Alan Chadwick by carping on his eccentricities usually had ulterior motives. As Page Smith points out: If Alan was so terrible, why were so many people eager to work with him?

One error that his students sometimes made was, as I call it: FAILURE TO GRADUATE. After two or three years of working with Alan, you basically had learned what you could from him. It was then time to move on; He didn't offer a graduate program, so to speak. But if, out of inertia or fear, you were reluctant to spread your wings and fly on your own, Alan would kick you out of the nest. Usually you didn't have to wonder very long about whether that day had arrived, Alan would let you know. He began to criticize, and eventually you got the message: "Time to go out into the world and make your own garden project, not to stick around here second-guessing and dissenting." Usually this transition happened gracefully and everyone parted friends. Sometimes it took a little prodding, which resulted in some temporary hard feelings, but in time those would pass. Once in a while, a student would fight for control, as happened in Santa Cruz, when a former student allied himself with those materialistically-minded science faculty members who wanted Alan out, and together they succeeded. That, in the humble opinion of the present writer, was a grave loss to the more holistic view of man and nature working together that Alan Chadwick stood for.

Alan knew that his personality was difficult for some people. He expressed this occaisionally in astrological terms: Those were the cards he was dealt, and it just wasn't for everybody to interact with him. In 1979 he spoke about how potatoes left in the sun can be tolerated by certain people, whereas for others they are toxic.

"And to some people it is a diabolical poison. Here you see this thing of leadership becoming unmanageable. I wish people could understand this in the horoscope connected with us, with what rulerships we’re under. Why do you turn your head so sideways? I’m pointing to the fact of the danger of a person such as myself, and I don’t want to get personal. But I am under the Sun in Leo, and I am impossible. I mean in adamant drive and strength, I’m impossible, especially to certain other horoscopes. And this must be surveyed, you can’t escape it."

From the lecture on Angelica Archangelica, 12 October, 1979, Carmel-in-the-Valley, Virginia.

The irony is that most people are incapable of creating or pioneering new initiatives themselves. They rely on the coleric, leonine types to fight the battles necessary to get anything new off the ground, and then they complain about their personalities once the thing is established. They are eager to take over, and have no compunction about displacing the founders once the hard work is done. Alan experienced this dynamic more than once in his life.

Regional Oral History Office University of California
The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California

Interviews with Richard A. Wilson
Interviews conducted by Ann Lage during 2001-2009

Richard Wilson is one of the unsung heroes of modern conservation history. He is best known to students of Alan Chadwick as the sponsor of the garden project that Alan made in Covelo, California, between 1973 and 1978, but he has many other credits to his name. He led the battle against the Army Corps of Engineers to dam the Eel River at Dos Rios, as Director of the California Department of Forestry (and later as a private citizen) he fought the lumber barons who wanted to clear-cut the Headwaters redwood forest, he was a member of the original California Coastal Commission that worked successfully to protect public access to the California coastline, and he led the battle to enact the Wild Rivers legislation that protected the remaining undamed rivers from exploitation from water-hungry, Los Angeles-based, political interests.

The interviews archived by the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley run to some 368 pages and represent Wilson's view of his many projects and battles. He has worked closely with both Republican and Democratic administrations in California, which is unusual in politics, and this reflects his fundamental non-partisan advocacy for the environment. Although he speaks at length about his collaboration with Alan Chadwick at Covelo, this collection of interviews is well worth reading in its entirety.

The two things that emerge most strongly from Wilson's descriptions of his work with Alan are, first of all, his abiding admiration and respect for Alan as a person and for what he accomplished in Covelo (and in his other projects); and second, how difficult it was playing the role he did in supporting Alan's efforts despite Alan's eccentricities and unpredictable behavior. One is left with a feeling of great appreciation for what he put up with and what he thereby accomplished during that time with Alan in Covelo. Overall, this is a fabulous resource. We quote one excerpt here:

Wilson: ... it was at that point that through California Tomorrow, and some things that I had seen, that I got to know the Chadwick Project at Santa Cruz. That was really interesting; I was really interested in that effort. And I was on a plane going somewhere, probably from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or something, with Huey Johnson.

Lage: Were you there on a mission with Huey?

Wilson: No, I was going for business, something else, Connell Foundation work or something. I had mentioned Alan, because he knew Alan Chadwick. He said, “Well, Alan is in bad shape.” He said he just more or less hardened the professional staff, the professors at the university, against him because of his teaching. The guy, the [Kenneth] Thimann who was their Nobel man [a botanist], was furious with Alan talking about plants and no pesticides, and solutions. Thimann’s wife was in Alan’s garden and that had caused a big uproar in his family. The thing with Alan is Alan had been sponsored by Page Smith and Paul Lee. Page Smith was a very good historian, was the provost or vice chancellor under [founding chancellor Dean] McHenry at UC [Santa Cruz] when they started. Paul Lee was also a character by way of the East, Harvard I think. But they both had been to Dartmouth. They both had known [Oegain] Rosenstock-Huessey at Dartmouth, who was a philosophy professor who I also knew vaguely, not well, but was more or less the father of the idea of the Peace Corps. Page and Paul were very much enamored of those kinds of programs.

Lage: And did you know Page and Paul?

Wilson: Oh yes. Well, I got to know them quite well. Anyway, with Alan down there and sort of being evicted from the university—public relations had reached a point where I think they no longer could have him on the campus doing this garden with the students and keeping peace with the professorial corps, and the things would go on.

Lage: How had you heard of Alan Chadwick?

Wilson: Through the California Tomorrow. They had done a number of articles on the garden. There had been quite a bit of writing, and Page and Paul were people I had run across and talked about the program. I don’t know, it was just one of those things at that time, if you were interested in something like biodynamics that he taught, and the things that went with it, it was something that you just kind of read about and kept track of. So Huey had told me, he said, “Well, Alan’s in trouble. He’s living in an apartment. He’s all discouraged. He’s going to go to New Zealand, or he doesn’t know what to do.” I asked him, I said, “What does he need, Huey?” He said, “Well, he needs land. He needs a piece of land to set up his program.” I said, “Well, Round Valley has got some land. I don’t know whether it works, but maybe we ought to just get ahold of him, or you get him and I’ll arrange to meet him and take him up there.” So Huey did call, and I did reach Alan, and Alan had said yes, he would like to come. He was living with a bedroll and a very minimum amount of personal gear. I took him up and he came to Round Valley. I thought I’d delivered him to the Vale of Kashmir. He just sort of, there he was. He’d found heaven.

Lage: He was happy.

Wilson: Oh, he was just ecstatic before we hardly even got to the valley floor. I had a piece of land right next to town and the opportunity to rent a house nearby. There was no garden there; it was just plain. It had a well.

Lage: Was the land in use for anything?

Wilson: No, it was just pasture. There we were. So Alan immediately set up shop and started building a garden, and sending out the call for his students who would follow him; many did. We had the problems of finding some places for them to live. They even rented the old hotel, which was a riot to see that, next to the bar.

Lage: The hotel on the main street there?

Wilson: Next to the bar. So the first site was right there, right in town.

Lage: Did you have to fund all of this?

Wilson: I got some grants from some foundations to help. I helped as I could. In other words, I helped with some stuff they needed for getting their ground organized. Fundamentally, I was able to raise some of this money elsewhere and to get them going. Alan dug in, and there he was, right visible—

Lage: Tell me more about him.

Wilson: Alan was a raging prophet out of the Old Testament; just one of these genius types that was just a totally impossible human being to live with: outrageous, spoiled, dogmatic, but totally creative. Alan had been in England. Alan had kind of become part of the Rudolf Steiner School in England before World War II...



[The full text of Richard Wilson's comments about Alan Chadwick during this Bancroft Library interview can be found here. For the rest of the story on Wilson's life work, follow the link to the Bancroft Oral History project above.]


All that remains of Alan Chadwick's first garden site in Covelo (photo gh 2012)

All that remains of Alan Chadwick's first garden-site in Covelo. (photo gh 2012)




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