Meet Alan Chadwick, The High Priest of Hippie Horticulture

August 17, 2015 - garden totes

Biodynamic colonize Alan Chadwick incited America on to radical flourishing methods—influencing everybody from Alice Waters to winemakers Fetzer and Frey. So how come you’ve never listened of him?

When Alan Chadwick descended on a campus of the fledgling University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1967,  it was as if a impression had stepped right out of a pages of English literature. A high and distinguished male with a shock of white hair and a royal temperament that bespoke his absolved upbringing, Chadwick was also a Shakespearean actor who had lerned in London underneath a same teacher as Laurence Olivier and Harold Pinter.

Chadwick came to Santa Cruz on a recommendation of Freya von Moltke, a widow of a personality in a German resistance opposite Hitler. Her husband, Count Helmuth von Moltke, was arrested, indicted of treason, and hanged. But before Helmuth was executed, he sent word to his wife requesting that she make a place where immature people could learn about origination in a universe of destruction. The countess, mostly described as Chadwick’s muse, competence have had that ask in mind when she mentioned his name to Paul Lee, a UCSC truth highbrow who had pitched a suspicion of building a training garden to a school’s chancellor.

Chadwick arrived on campus but so many as a salary or central position. He simply began digging—14 hours a day, 7 days a week—on a high and barren hillside of chaparral and poison oak. Within a year, he had transformed that bank into a colourful and abounding garden of flowers, vegetables, and fruit trees. Young organisation and women were shortly drawn to work with this temperamental perfectionist who cared about his garden above all else.

ucsc garden

Today, a mud during UCSC continues to furnish organic spices and vegetables. Gregory Haynes / Courtesy

One of them, Nancy Lingemann, recalls, “I’d mislaid all interest in school. The usually thing we wanted to do was garden.” Lingemann ditched many of her classes to follow Chadwick and went on to emanate a wedding-flower business, called Flower Ladies, in a hills above a university.

Chadwick used a energy and denunciation of museum to proselytize on interest of a biodiversity of plants and a eucharist of nature. He gave organisation lessons in mime, mien, and deportment, insisting his students mount adult straight, carry themselves with dignity, and enunciate clearly. They were approaching to memorize a Friar’s debate from Romeo and Juliet on a energy of medicinal herbs. Above all, they had to welcome a ethos of tough work.

“His garden had a presence—like Alan himself,” says Stephen Decater, who worked in a UCSC garden almost the whole time Chadwick was there and is now a owner, with his wife, Gloria, of Live Power Community Farm in Covelo, California. “It wasn’t only a collection of plants. It was a vital being that spoke by a plants.”

chadwicks new marketplace apprentices

Apprentices ready beds during Chadwick’s New Market, VA, garden in 1979. Courtesy of a Alan Chadwick archive

Chadwick’s mother, Elizabeth, was a supporter of Rudolf Steiner, a Austrian philosopher and amicable scientist responsible for Waldorf preparation and biodynamic agriculture. She hired him one summer to mentor Alan and his comparison brother, Seddon, on horticulture and a finer points of composting. Steiner’s teachings took root, as many decades after Chadwick told an apprentice, “I’ll be 70 years old. There are seeds still growing in me today from things he told me.”

Chief among them? Double-digging, a labor-intensive technique that’s one of a pivotal components of biodynamic agriculture. Chadwick was a stickler for this method, which involves stealing a topsoil down to a turn of the subsoil, that is afterwards damaged up, overlaid with fertiliser or compost, and churned in with topsoil. The process proved integral to returning a UCSC bank to fertility.

“The site had good prominence and object exposure, but there’d been a highway dug into it,” remembers Jim Nelson, whose father was unhappy when he forsaken out of college to work full time with Chadwick. “Sometimes you’d have to pick-axe by a crust.”

alan chadwick ronald reagan

Then-governor Ronald Reagan (right) visits Chadwick during a Covelo garden in 1974. Steve Baird

To Chadwick mud was alive and never to be confused with dirt. He once told a organisation of apprentices, “Everyone thinks that mud is dirt, is there forever, that we can tread on it, burst on it, punch it, flog it, eat it, chuck stones on it, do anything we like on it, and it is a same in a tumble as it is in a spring, and a same in a winter as it is in the summer. That is totally untrue.”

What Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters were to a unusual enlightenment of a 1960s, Chadwick and his rope of diggers were to food and gardening.

School administrators didn’t know what to make of him. Parents complained that he was a Pied Piper, stealing away earnest students like Nelson, currently a owners of Camp Joy, a tiny organic plantation in circuitously Boulder Creek. “I don’t cruise a university ever satisfied what they had in Alan,” Nelson says. “He had no credentials. He was an artist and a teacher, in a deepest clarity of a word, though he didn’t cruise himself a teacher. He forked in directions, and it was adult to we to find your place in the natural world.”

Chadwick also had a monster rage and could be his possess misfortune enemy. Paul Lee, his good champion during Santa Cruz, minute in his 2013 book, There Is a Garden in a Mind: A Memoir of Alan Chadwick and a Organic Movement in California, the kind of “psychic vomit” Chadwick was able of spewing. Lee described a kind of Dr. Doolittle, a male so peaceful and in balance with nature
that birds would land on his shoulder. But cranky him, and all hurt pennyless loose. “You possibly stood adult to him or were broken by him,” Lee wrote. Chadwick once feuded with the immature family vital in a unit above him. Lee recounts, “If they burning a toilet after six, a sound of a H2O coursing by a pipes gathering him nuts and set him off. He took to violation booze bottles in the backyard after pulsation on a roof and yelling his head off. They suspicion he was crazy.”

Deborah Madison, initial cook of a groundbreaking vegetarian grill Greens, in San Francisco, and a bestselling cookbook author, was a tyro during UCSC when Chadwick’s garden was in full splendor. During her first visit there, Chadwick screamed during her from transparent across the garden. He indicted her of stepping on a lifted bed—something that Madison, a plantation lady innate and raised, would never do. “I don’t know how he could even have seen me from that distance,” she says. “I never went back.”

Chadwicks cut-ting flowers during Covelo were cherished for their smell and color. Courtesy of a Alan Chadwick Archive

Chadwick’s cut-ting flowers during Covelo were cherished for their smell and color. Courtesy of a Alan Chadwick Archive

The Santa Cruz garden became a magnet for luminaries, drawing a composer John Cage, who finished a pilgrimage to accommodate Chadwick and fodder for furious mushrooms in the surrounding forest. Robert Rodale, a organic plantation and garden publisher, popped in to see what Chadwick was up to, as did a farmer-poet Wendell Berry. After furloughed the garden, Joseph Williamson, a then-editor of California’s influential Sunset magazine, was so influenced that he overnight became a voice for organic gardening.

Today, many cruise Chadwick one of a founders of a organic food movement. His garden during UCSC has evolved into a Center for Agroecology Sustainable Food Systems, a iota for investigate and preparation in the field. His acolytes have fanned out opposite a country, applying his methods and truth to a network of organic and tolerable farms. Even cook Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse, has cited him as a seminal influence. What Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters were to a unusual enlightenment of a 1960s, Chadwick and his band of diggers were to food and gardening.

Chadwick left Santa Cruz in early 1972, driven out in what Lee and others have portrayed as an epic onslaught for the heart of a university. It was a conflict between reductionist material scholarship and spiritual nature. Shortly after a UCSC chemist submitted that “the garden has finished some-more to hurt the cause of scholarship on this campus than anything else,” Chadwick was gone.

Within a few months, he’d been named conduct gardener of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, just north of San Francisco. He was again accompanied by a coterie of dedicated apprentices; his dramatic tendencies went with him, too. Wendy Johnson, who lived and complicated during Green Gulch from 1975 to 2000, described Chadwick’s antics in her 2008 book, Gardening during a Dragon’s Gate: “He wailed during tip volume each time a wooden sounding block was struck for meditation and true Zen students mindfully put down their collection and headed quietly for a meditation hall. ‘Look during this—look during this!’ Alan ranted and seethed. ‘Perfectly robust young men and women regulating to the atavistic sound of timber beating on wood. Running but shame, and withdrawal an aged male like me to work alone in a garden!’ ”


The owner of Chez Panisse (1) sourced furnish from Chadwick’s gardens during Green Gulch, north of San Francisco. Harrison Ford’s son (2) named his initial L.A. grill Chadwick. Johnson (3) worked during Green Gulch, that also granted Greens, a San Francisco vegetarian grill started by Madison (4). Lingemann (5), now a Santa Cruz flower farmer, apprenticed with Chadwick during UCSC, where truth highbrow Lee (6) championed Chadwick. UCSC apprentices Benjamin and Nelson (7) went on to found a organic plantation Camp Joy, north of Santa Cruz. Siska (8), who worked with Chadwick in Virginia, is now screw of a Chadwick harangue archives. California winemakers Fetzer (9) and a Freys (10) complicated with Chadwick during Covelo. The owner of Smith Hawken (11) was introduced to Chadwick’s favorite collection by Jeavons (12), who attended Chadwick’s lectures during UCSC and after wrote How to Grow More Vegetables. Illustration by Melinda Beck

Chadwick’s Green Gulch tenure valid even shorter than the one in Santa Cruz, largely because he lacked calm for those Buddhist apprentices. “He couldn’t fathom since we’d just go to imagining when there was work to be done,” recalls Deborah Madison, who had changed there to investigate Zen Buddhism after graduating from UCSC in 1968.
He was subsequent invited to conduct a Round Valley Garden Project, in Covelo, California. Widely regarded as Chadwick’s many entirely satisfied garden, a enchanted property boasted colourful poppies and his favorite heirloom roses.

Everything had to be done by hand. It was how he had cleared a 4 acres of Santa Cruz hillside, operative with nothing some-more mechanized than a British Bulldog spade and fork. One of his students, John Jeavons, who wrote the influential How to Grow More Vegetables, in 1979, introduced a collection to Paul Hawken, who would after popularize them with his association Smith Hawken.

Chadwick’s fervent antithesis to all forms of mechanized tillage never waned. In 1978, during what would be his final garden, in a devout village in New Market, Virginia, he saw a lady pleat a box sidestep with electric clippers. He strode over and yelled during her to quit—which she did, instantly, dropping a clippers and running away, a immorality device still writhing on a ground.

He experimented with many ways to emanate compost and, in any of his gardens, always had countless piles burning during any given time. One competence embody aged dairy-animal manure, while another subsequent from plants. On occasion, he used mixture enclosed in preparations learned from Steiner that are meant to renovate the soil and strengthen a earth’s life forces.

Steiner’s preparations, that distortion during a heart of biodynamic agriculture, famously embody a cow horn stuffed with fertiliser and buried in mud via the winter months. After a fertiliser ferments, it is dug out and a tiny volume influenced in water—first in one direction, then in another, before it’s sprayed onto a soil.

Craig Siska, who apprenticed to Chadwick in Virginia, pored over Steiner’s enigmatic 1924 lectures about the preparations and couldn’t make heads or tails of them. Finally, he asked a master gardener if he dictated to apply a preparations to a Virginia garden. Chadwick’s reply: a organisation no.

Siska recalls him saying, “When people come to this place and see a beauty and sorcery and robustiousness, I don’t wish them to charge it to potions. The garden comes out of a essence of a gardener and that person’s obedience and bend for a laws of nature.”

In fact, according to Siska, Chadwick was taken to task by biodynamic practitioners for his disaster to use the preparations. On one occasion, a organisation of Steiner devotees traveled to Virginia from their domicile in Spring Valley, New York, in hunt of a assembly with Chadwick. “He avoided them,” Siska says. “He believed they put Steiner in a box, that it was all dogma, that they do all by rote.”

Chadwick was in Virginia only over a year before the village disbanded and he returned to California. He was 70 and failing of prostate cancer when the Buddhists during Green Gulch welcomed him back. Though gaunt and weakened, it wasn’t prolonged before he agreed to broach weekly bedside talks to a tiny and select audience of destiny food and garden gurus: Alice Waters, Wendy Johnson, Deborah Madison.

green gulch farm

Green Gulch Farm, in Marin County, is where Chadwick spent his final months. © David Laws

By a time he died, in May 1980, Chadwick stood at the conduct of a lineage, his students carrying established some of a best organic farms and gardens in California and via a country. Even so, he voiced bewail that he wasn’t a clergyman he would have wished. “I have never been taught to be a teacher, and we know I’m impossible,” he confided to Siska.

Thirty-five-years later, Nancy Lingemann thinks of her teacher during slightest once a day. On a new morning, she was in her hothouse transplanting snapdragons when she heard his voice in her head: “Prick out a tiddlers,” it said, regulating an English tenure for a runt. “Don’t leave out the little ones only since they demeanour weak. Very mostly they’re the singular color; they only need some-more time to grow.”

Lingemann smiled during a memory. “I will treasure forever what he gave me. It was approach transmission. It was precious, and we knew it was precious.”

Chadwick walks between protégés Warren Pierce (left) and Richard Joos in Covelo, CA. Courtesy of a Alan Chadwick Archive

A 1948 head shot shows the Shakespearean actor in full costume. Courtesy of Paul Lee

Chadwick totes his Bulldog spade, later finished famous by Smith Hawken. Courtesy of CASFS; UC Santa Cruz

Chadwick, in a early ’70s, instructs UC Santa Cruz interns. Courtesy of CASFS; UC Santa Cruz


Sara Solovitch is a author of Playing Scared: A History and Memoir of Stage Fright (2015)

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