Richard Wilson describes Alan Chadwick at Covelo
This is an excerpt from a much longer series of interviews between Richard Wilson and Ann Lage during the period of 2001 to 2009. Those interviews are published in their entirety at: http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/roho/ucb/text/wilson_richard.pdf, and are titled:
Richard A. Wilson, "Rancher, Conservationist, Director of the Department of Forestry: Toward a Working Landscape for California, from Round Valley to the Redwood Forests," conducted by Ann Lage, 2001-2009, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2012.
Reprinted here by permission.
Interview date of this sequence: September 1, 2001
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...
Lage: What is that?
Wilson: [Baron Justus von] Leibig was, I guess, the father of commercial fertilizer. He’d discovered how you can make it out of nitrogen. Coal, I guess he started with, and through an extraction process. Then there was this school that Alan and—these were sort of the purists. This was the von Moltkes—Helmuth, the son, and Freya, the mother, and [Rudolf] Steiner. They were more of the Waldorf School type thinking. But they had [Louis] Lorette, who was French and did a certain kind of pruning with trees that created a vase for trees, making it sort of pyramid so the sun came in. It was a whole group of these people who supported biodynamics.
When the war came, Alan went back to England and was in the Navy for a period. Freya von Moltke -- her husband was part of that Hitler-bomb plot, and was executed for that by the Gestapo. She had fled Germany and gotten to Africa, South Africa, with her two boys. She had put out the call for Alan to come to South Africa and restore the Admiralty Gardens that were in disrepair, because this was kind of what he knew how to do: British ornamental-horticultural-artistic kind of a layout. He knew how to do these things. He was an actor. He taught theater to these students, how to breathe, and how to speak. All of this is on tapes I have, relating to the classes and lectures.
Lage: In schools here?
Wilson: He had known the actors, [George Bernard] Shaw, and others. He had acted in Europe. He knew all of the fables, Aesop’s kind of fables. He did lectures in fables, used references. I have some of those tapes that just blow your mind out of those lectures. He had gone to Africa. Freya, in the meantime, had moved on and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, where Rosenstock-Huessey was getting older. She had known him in Europe, and had come over to care for him. They all knew each other: Page and Paul Lee, Freya van Moltke, Rosenstock-Huessey. When Page and Paul went to Santa Cruz, Alan was in Africa, and Freya was out in Hanover. After they started this new college, Page Smith thought, “Well, it would be wonderful to have a garden as part of the curriculum.” So he put out the call through Freya to Alan to bring him over. He brought Alan over, and was eventually the sponsor for the Garden Project, which is there today if you go to Santa Cruz.
Of course, then he went to work. As I say, it was famously successful and caused nothing but utter chaos and turmoil on the campus with the traditionalists and the people that practiced agriculture in the way that we’ve all been taught, and then Alan down there. Through that, and through Huey, I wound up with Alan in Covelo and his whole entourage.
Lage: And he brought a lot of his—?
Wilson: Oh yeah, they all came. And of course, this was future shock for Covelo, because this was red-neck-logger-type-cowboy country. Yet, I thought, my own self thought, things were so nasty after My Ranch that people were just not talking. This was just a miserable—
Lage: It must have divided families and everything.
Wilson: Divided families and made them mad, just everybody. I though, you know, what would be a better antidote, or something, than Alan Chadwick and a bunch of kids gardening? I thought, it’s just going to unsettle them so that maybe it will get their mind off of all this stuff and go somewhere else for a while instead of this negative—if you don’t live in it, you don’t realize how bad it gets. It’s just ugly and it’s just awful. Well, the kids, they came in, and this had to be a Renaissance period for Covelo, because there was—well, these were all the hippies, and these were all the druggies, and what the hell has Richard Wilson brought to us? It got so bad. I had taken over—
Lage: That doesn’t sound like a Renaissance period, what you just described. [laughing]
Wilson: Well, just give me a little bit here. I had bought the old hardware store that the Corps had used for their headquarters from Jan Stewart after his bankruptcy, and we made it into the Round Valley Inn, which is a restaurant. I had some of these hippies in there doing the work. That got the town pretty upset. My wife helped a lot with that, and actually there were Indians engaged in this, and that—
Lage: Rebuilding it?
Wilson: Well, more in the running, and actually the help of it. The rebuilding was done by some people that were certainly hippies in the camp and the creek, and oh God. And then it was so bad that the old-timers walked this side of the street and the hippies over here. It was just that bad; couldn’t stand each other.
Lage: What did the hippies look like?
Wilson: Long-haired and disheveled, and just like their clothes, and their kids were all running around sort of ragged, just like they did. They were just hippies.
Lage: This didn’t upset you.
Wilson: No, I mean they got the work done. We got through it all, and the place looked quite nice. We were able to get it staffed up and running. Then Alan was over there on the garden and had these kids all downtown in the hotel and scattered around town. They rode bikes. They worked from sunup to sundown. Of course the thing that had the town all in a tizzy was that the bar is right next door, and the loggers came in to have their beer, and these kids are all out there in the middle of the sun, working like hell. It was this thing about, “What do we got? Nothing but hippies working for a mad Englishman.”
The problem was that they worked harder than the loggers, and this really made them mad, because hippies were supposed to smoke pot and lay around, and they worked. Not only did they work, but they were creating a rather gorgeous kind of a landscape with all the flowers and plants, and they were producing food. It was getting into town a little bit; people were buying some of it.
Lage: Did they have a stand?
Wilson: They had a little stand for a while. It’s just that the whole presence of work, and the result that that work brought out, because Alan said, “You can’t own five acres until you learn how to run one acre.” His whole thesis is companion planting, and certain plants are compatible with other plants, and some plants tend to cover certain kinds of pests and protect them against others. He taught all this stuff in his lectures, and he rented a hall and they all did their mime, deportment, and speech and breathing.
Fred Marshall and Raymond Chavez were two of the principle leaders of it. They were wonderful people. Fred right now is down in Annadel, which is down on Hearst. It’s a camp that is run for kids. They’re great. It was a real change of attitude; you don’t cut all the trees, and you don’t let the cows run through everything. It was intensive horticulture, creating a lot of productivity using natural systems, companion-planting, mulches, working fertilizers, beds. And he had girls out there, and those girls worked like hell. Adrian, and the different ones; and they worked right along with everyone else. So it was just something so different, and it attracted people that came in to look, and they were interested.
Lage: People from out of the area?
Wilson: Well, Ruth Wells, from the East, was a very wealthy woman that Lew Butler had known, and she took to this as a sponsor. She put quite a bit of money into it.
Ruth Wells. I think that they were Bausch Lomb, or something, in Massachusetts. I think Lew Butler has worked with them for a long time. Ruth was a great lady, and she really helped sponsor Alan. They have a village in Massachusetts, Old Sturbridge Village—It’s kind of how the early days were, you know.
Lage: Like a living history—?
Wilson: Yes, like Williamsburg. She wanted for their annual meeting to have Alan come back and give a talk to the gathering. I said to Ruth, I said, “I don’t know when we can get him to travel. I mean this guy is just really hard to move, or do anything but just—“Well,” she said, “Try.” So Fred, Raymond, and I, we talked about getting Alan on a plane and going back to Sturbridge to do this presentation.
Well, we got Alan back there, and the evening of this presentation was in one of these old churches in New England where the hall is big, and wooden, and creaky, and they have an upstairs situation where people sit and come in, and every time you move your foot, you squack. With Alan Chadwick, you’re never quite sure what his mood is, or how he’s going to feel, or how his sort of theatrical presence is going to be. He obviously was prepared to give this lecture. Everybody assembled and Alan, of course, was being difficult and late, but he was there. So everybody had assembled. I was just holding my breath because I didn’t know what was going to happen. Alan gets up in the pulpit, if you will, to deliver this thing. Somebody upstairs gets up or down and starts squeaking that wood. He left.
Lage: Just walked out?
Wilson: Walked out. I looked at Ruth, I said, “Ruth,” I said, “Wait.” We wait.
[laughs], wait, pray.
Lage: The audience is quiet?
Wilson: Everybody is sort of stunned. He came back. It was all right for him. He came back and he delivered this thing. It was all very eloquent, and everything was fine, and that was the end of that. The equivalent to this story is when Ruth had come out to visit Covelo and to visit Alan at the garden. I, again, had forewarned Ruth; I said, “Now look, when you get to the garden just come with me and we’ll look around.” Alan knew Ruth. He knew that she was a prime sponsor. He was in the garden. So Ruth and I walked in, and Alan Chadwick just ignored us completely. Everybody was busy and we just walked around for fifteen to twenty minutes, and everything was just going along, and all of a sudden Alan appears and says, “Oh Ruth! So good to see you.” [laughs] He goes through this whole thing. This was what you’re dealing with: his entry, on his terms, and he presented himself the way he wanted to do it. Other than that, just wait and make the best of it.
Lage: You must have figured him out quickly, or else you must have had some run-ins with him.
Wilson: Yes, that was my role, was to try to keep some sanity in the thing, and sort of keep the thing going as much as I could. And he’d come down to my house, and sometimes he would correspond; he’d have these beautiful handwritten letters that he would put under my door, like that.
Wilson: About somebody in the project wasn’t doing something, or they were having problems. At this time, Lew Butler had decided that one of the great things to do was apprenticing, and he thought about having some young men that were out of college coming and apprenticing around these kinds of things, after Dos Rios. He had been doing some similar things in California Tomorrow. What happened was my apprentice was Steve Bundy. Steve was McGeorge Bundy’s son. Steve came for two years and lived with me and was prominent in the garden. He’s a professor at Boalt Hall now. He was very active with all the people in the project and was a great help. He was around a little of the My Ranch stuff, I don’t remember exactly, but the project, and the watershed things. He had a friend named Andy Taylor also that was involved a little bit, that helped.
Lage: So he was your apprentice?
Wilson: He came and worked for me to learn just about these things we’re talking about. He came from Harvard. He was going to go to law school, but he just thought it was necessary to learn something about the West.
Lage: Sounds like a wonderful program.
Wilson: Oh, he was great. He was a huge help to me.
Lage: Did he have creative ideas?
Wilson: Steve’s smart, smart as a whip, and rolled with the punches, and sort of—he’s just a fine—he and Marianne, and they have two kids, are just two of the best people you’d ever hope to meet. They live in Berkeley, not probably far from where you are. You’d ever meet him you’d love him. He was in the middle of it. We had Steven Decater and Gloria were in the project. Steven was one of the first people Alan had in his project. He worked at the garden for years and now has a piece of land that I had had that we arranged to get over to them and now they have the Covelo farm. What is it called? The Live Power Farm.
Lage: Does that mean no mechanized power?
Wilson: Well, they’ve got labor. It is a Chadwick-Steiner-type of program with a lot of kids. They bring people in and train them to be biodynamic-type of gardeners. They use horses and they use manpower—people, women.
Wilson: They don’t use mechanized—no, not really. They do most of this—
Lage: People power.
Wilson: People power, yes.
Lage: So he’s still at it?
Wilson: So Steve is here, and Steve speaks to the continuity of that idea, which is brought up quite a number of places in different forms, but behind Alan, and what he really set out to establish as a way of living on the land, growing, and nutrition, and a lot of things. It was very spiritual, and aesthetic, and he knew a lot about his business too, but presented in a way that a university could just drive him crazy; they couldn’t stand this.
Lage: It seems like a whole lifestyle and a personal style.
Wilson: It is. It was a personal style and the kids of the sixties loved it. They really were people that looked for a change, and were willing to take his abuse. He was terrible to women. He just was a son-of-a-bitch.
Lage: You mean the way he spoke to them?
Wilson: He was just kind of mean to them. I don’t know, it’s just his personality was quixotic, and he was rude. He didn’t use bad language, or anything. His demeanor could be so negative if he wanted to be. He could press you down if you did something wrong: “Why did you do that?! Why haven’t you done what I told you to do?!” And that kind of stuff.
Lage: How did he deal with the locals?
Wilson: He was too much for the locals. They couldn’t take him on, and they didn’t know what to make of him, and he was never going to be bothered by them.
Lage: Did he treat them respectfully?
Wilson: He treated them all right, but he ignored them.
Lage: Did he try to bring any in as—?
Wilson: I think I mentioned this to you, I tried to get some Indians interested. Nothing doing. No way.
Lage: That would have been quite a cultural mix.
Wilson: Well, at least I thought just the idea of growing, and land, and—some of the older women would come through and he’d let them pick flowers, and they liked to do that. They were interested, but they wanted to keep a little bit of distance between themselves. People watched that garden as if they just knew it was a pot-smoking—and they didn’t. They didn’t smoke pot. They really behaved themselves very well.
Lage: They didn’t grow pot there.
Wilson: No, they did not grow pot there. But it was hippies, and to the red necks that’s just all there is; it’s just hippies. But they were pretty well disciplined and hard-working hippies. Later, the opportunity came to buy the McCombs ranch, which was a little better site. We were able to buy that—which is Jim McCombs’ dad—and move Alan up there where they had a house and a barn. It was a little more of a set-up and some room for the people. He, again, developed another sort of magical place with the garden. He had a little house separate from the big house. The big house offered a place for them to eat and something to live in. There was a little cabin on the other side that he could live in. He liked to live alone. I don’t know, health wise, he—
[End Tape 6, Side A]
[Begin Tape 6, Side B]
Wilson: I think Alan was here about five years. He was impatient, restless, always wanted something better. He was always being—people were coming, wanting him to go to Napa, and do this, and do that, and build a garden in Sonoma, and he had a certain following from Santa Cruz. Paul and Page would come up and visit with him, because they had loved him dearly. He sometimes would curse and act terrible, but they knew that. So they came up and kept their contact with him. He’s just restless and always looking for something else. Nothing was ever quite right. The students—we always seemed to keep a corps of students. We had, I think, up to fifteen at sometimes.
Lage: Did they leave—?
Wilson: Some left, and others came in, and yes, they did, but they always seemed to be available. They wanted to come into the garden. There’s people out there that have done a lot of what Alan’s taught them, and they do it in their own lives; they’ve got gardens, and they’ve done things in Santa Cruz. John Jeavons in Willits has written books on this stuff, and Steve and Gloria [Decater]. They’re around. I was kind of running out of gas, just the time it took.
Lage: The time it took to troubleshoot?
Wilson: Yes, to try to keep them all going.
Lage: Did you have an official position?
Wilson: Well, I started something called the Institute for Man and Nature with Al Wilkins. Al was the lawyer and kept the papers straight for that. That was the vehicle we raised money for the Garden, the Institute for Man and Nature.
Lage: You were raising the money, so you had some responsibility.
Wilson: Some responsibility, and I had Steve Bundy to help. I had to deal with a lot because he’d [Chadwick] always wind up on my doorstep when things weren’t right or something was wrong. He eventually just—this whole thing about leaving—he eventually went to Sonoma County for a while. Then they kind of floundered around down there; nothing really gelled. He had some women that were trying to get him underway with Napa, or something. Yes, I think it was Napa, Sonoma, it was close in there somewhere.
Then he went back to Virginia to this nuthouse. There was some God mystic or something that just was bad news and had gotten a hold of him in Virginia in that kind of pretty country. It didn’t sound good to me, but nevertheless there he’d gone. Steve and Gloria had gotten hold of this other place and were on their way [with Live Power Farm]. The thing was kind of unwinding and unwound, I guess you’d have to say. I’d heard some not-good things about what was going on back there. I had to go to Washington on some business, and so I went back and I got a car, and I went down to Virginia to where he was. This was one of those old, I don’t know, these very wealthy eastern horse establishments that had gone through a lot of transition and not in great repair, and in one day was quite—it was probably one of the big families, the Vanderbilts or somebody. But it had lost its luster. This guy, this guru, had got a hold of it and his group was falling apart.
I tried to find Alan, and nobody was around. I finally got a hold of somebody and I said, “Is Alan Chadwick here” And he said, “Yeah, over there.” So I went over to this building, and I found him. He was in terrible—I surmised he was dying. I just felt that.
Lage: What kind of symptoms?
Wilson: Just nutritionally, and I think probably cancer. It’s hard to say what all the things were wrong. He was glad to see me, and he was very low. He had been at the Zen farm in Marin County [Green Gulch] for a period, Baker and that. They were always loyal to him. So there were a couple of his old friends that I knew. I, after seeing this, I said, “Look, we’ve got to get him back to the Zen farm for whatever comes of it, because he’s just not going to make it there, and maybe not make it much longer anywhere.” We did manage that. We got him back there, and they got him comfortably into one of their little places. Eventually he died there, and his ashes were put there. The ending went down much better than it could of in just a lonely room. He had all his friends around him, and it was a nice way to wind it up. But it was a trip.
Lage: I’ll say. This is quite an episode in your life.
Wilson: Oy yoy yoy yoy. Everybody associated—
Lage: You haven’t told me everything, because I can tell from your expressions. You didn’t begin to tell all the anecdotes.
Wilson: It just goes on and on. I don’t know, it just is one of those things, that the man was an inspiration. He was like having a millstone around your neck. He was something that was pretty good, and I think brought a lot of energy to the—he just electrified. He just really put electricity into the air, and energy into young people. With the back-to-the-land thing kind of waning down too, he had a message. I think probably for Santa Cruz, and for Covelo, and for other places, these things pass, and they go by, but they always—if they’re any good, they usually leave something behind. Steve and Gloria are there on their farm as—
Lage: What about the other—aren’t there two other organic farms?
Wilson: There are. Tom Palley was working there, and he knew Alan, and worked with Alan. The other one I don’t know so much for sure. They’re all rooted in that whole system.
Lage: There are probably a lot of other organic farms that he inspired.
Wilson: Well, I think there are a lot of people in Santa Cruz and other places that have certainly built off Alan’s personality, and his teaching, and the whole approach to nature and plants. It was like being in theater in some ways.
Lage: Did it change some of your thinking about—and Susan’s?
Wilson: She loved the garden; she had a hard time with him as a person. He was just— I think her father wasn’t the easiest man to live with, and I think Alan brought back memories of Bill. [laughs] I think there was a lot of that.
Lage: So she didn’t—?
Wilson: She didn’t participate. She did follow the work, and some of the people in it she really liked, the kids. But Alan was, no, he was too much.
Lage: Did he change any of your thinking about the land, or the value of the livepower, biointensive method?
Wilson: Yes, I think he really raised my—I was conscious of a lot of things happening, what came on with Carter. We’ll get into all that. I think he raised this ability to make everything change by using so much energy and mechanization. You see, the thing is, if you go back into the Greek period, or something, that in some way or another every civilization and culture has managed to have some kind of a—I hate to use it—but slave labor to make things happen. The Industrial Revolution basically—well, however we approach slavery, or whatever it is. This gets back to the issue of the Civil War and lifestyle. Those people needed slaves to maintain it. Without slavery, they could not maintain their lifestyle of the South.
Industrialization came in, which was the tractor and all of the commercializations, and all of the things were high-energy outputs that fundamentally meant that you can’t get labor—when I say slavery, cheap labor. As I told you before, my guys were older, and they were terrific. But when I lost them, there were no replacements. The replacements had to be either a lot of mechanization and machinery—we did that for a while, but I’ll bring that to closure with the Carter years, and I’ll show you why when we get there.
What Alan really was teaching is what—he used to talk about E-day [ idée ] and natural systems. I had a young Frenchman I’d brought over and helped him get his papers, with the name Jean Francois. Watching Jean and Alan was a scream, because Jean had been trained partially by the Franciscans. He’d had some upbringing by this order, and then he’d come over to learn the language and eventually went to Davis and got a master’s. I taught him a lot about farming, and he was here with Alan. He knew some of this from France; he’d seen some of this. Between him and Bundy, those two guys, [laughs] that was a real pair, kind of interfacing with Alan, because they’re both very smart, and they both could take it for what it was. Jean was a very good fellow, and a wonderful—he works in—in fact Oakland. He lives in Oakland right now.
Lage: What did he go into?
Wilson: He works for Clorox down there, one of the companies. His mother and father were doctors in France. They got out of that. They bought this place here, and Natalie, the sister, actually she took a degree, and her husband, and they taught. I think they’re now—they may have gone back to France. They were teaching in Washington maybe for a while, DC, I’m not sure, but they went through an academic background.
Lage: How did Jean Francois end up with you?
Wilson: I had some people that were working with me on some project, who had a friend of the family, who had Jean, this boy. They wanted to send him to America to learn English, and he was willing to work. So one thing led to the other, and I said, “Well, yeah, if he’ll help me, I’ll help him get his English.” He came over and sort of like Bundy became an apprentice.
Lage: Did he help you with physical labor?
Wilson: Labor, oh yeah, farming. He did a lot of farming. I taught him to drive tractors and to do everything, cows. He’s a French cowboy; he’s kind of a wiry guy, had his hat, and all this stuff.
Lage: You were willing to try a lot of different things. That’s a real quality.
Wilson: I’ll try anything, give it a try.
Lage: Very open. Do you think that’s—
Wilson: I think we’ve probably—there might be some more, but we probably exhausted this one for about—
Lage: Okay, well, it’s an interesting story. And you brought in the Round Valley Inn.
Wilson: It’s still there today. I lease it out. I still own it. I don’t run it, but I lease it out to a couple…
Lage: It’s discouraging, after that incredible amount of work.
Wilson: Well, it is. It is discouraging, because again, you are caught up—like gambling. You never know. You might get it; you might not. But, I mean, same thing with Alan [Chadwick]. That project had a lot in it, and it was worth working with him, in spite of his behavior, and yet, when he was gone, that was it. There was no way to sustain it without him and his personality.
The younger people, even though Steven Decater and others are doing it in their own way, doing quite well, but just as a focus on the issue and having help, it was like having a prophet out of the Old Testament, just raging up and down, raising hell, and pissing everybody off and doing what he did, but he did certainly cause some waves, which is what you need to do. And he did.
And if he was on the loose today, I don’t know. I think this whole organic movement and better food and healthier living is a testament to what Alan always used to talk about, that you start in the garden and you grow your food and know something about taste, I mean, all of this. I mean, he did it in a poetic and a very vituperative, very—. Well, sometimes he just got out of hand because he used a lot of mythology, which is fun to listen to do but—.
We had a meeting in Covelo one time, and a bunch of oil guys came up, and I think they were under the chair by about the first fifteen minutes of the meeting. He was too much for them.
Lage: Oil guys?
Wilson: Yes, from Standard Oil.
Lage: How did they know to come to see Alan Chadwick?
Wilson: They were chemical guys. Sprays.
Lage: They tried to sell sprays?
Wilson: They wanted to know what the hell was going on with this guy and his biological controls.
Lage: I see. They were investigating. Oh, that must have been a funny encounter.
Wilson: Oh, it was a funny one.