By Thalia Douglass Hammond
Graduate Student, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
“We need to create the beauty and the quality first.
The quantity will follow”
Alan Chadwick was born and raised in England. Chadwick came to the United States in 1967 at the age of 58 to establish the Student Garden Project and training program at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). In 1993 the program’s name was changed to The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz (CASFS). Today, CASFS is a world renowned research center in helping third world farmers use organic gardening to obtain high yields of food in small spaces with a minimal use of chemicals.
Alan Chadwick was born on July 27, 1909 to a wealthy English family. The family estate was large and had many formal gardens of different themes and sizes. By all descriptions, Alan Chadwick was a renaissance man. He was an accomplished skier and skater; a professional painter using pale watercolors; a violinist and a trained Shakespearean actor (Ectopia).
Chadwick was heavily influenced by his mother. His mother was a follower of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Steiner was a proponent of anthroposophy, defining the term as the awareness of one’s humanity. Steiner founded schools based on his ideas and formed the Anthroposophical Society (Steiner College). 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. This creates an ecosystem on land that is farmed (Earth and Table). 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.
Chadwick developed his own gardening style by combining the method of gardening used by Rudolf Steiner with the French Intensive method of gardening. The French Intensive method was developed outside Paris. This method creates a microclimate around crops by sowing the plants very close together. This helps keep in moisture and reduce weed growth. As many as nine crops a year can be grown using this method (Earth and Table). Merging these two styles of gardening, Chadwick used raised beds, organic fertilizer and composting to increase healthy plant production.
Chadwick was a British naval officer in World War II, an experience that totally changed his life. Alan states, “I’d been an objector, but I was soon running a mine sweeper…and somehow I was made a commander and spent four years on the bridge.” He goes on to describe the experience, “It absolutely capsized my attitude to civilization. I had nothing left that I could play, no cards left to play with humanity.” (Ectopia)
Chadwick injured his back during the war, an injury that was to plague him for the rest of his life.
After the war, Chadwick went to South Africa to act in A Streetcar Named Desire and to start a theater company. While in South Africa, Chadwick designed a 26-acre display garden. It was here he also met his lifelong friend, Countess Freya von Moltke. The Countess was the widow of the famous German Helmuth von Moltke who acted against the Nazi human-rights abuses.
In 1967, Alan was asked to come to University of California, Santa Cruz, to help establish a student garden and an apprentice-training program. In combining the Steiner method and the French Intensive method of gardening, Alan had developed a unique, sought after style as a master gardener. His friend, von Moltke, had visited UCSC in 1966 and convinced Alan to accept the challenge.
He was described by Dr. Paul Lee, Founder of the UCSC garden project, as “tall and handsome, a huge shock of hair, theatrical in demeanor, balletic in bearing.” (Seeds of Change)
Alan Chadwick died on May 25, 1980.
Agroecology is the study of the problems that face mankind in our food production systems. The field incorporates the study of political policies, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and predator-prey relationships as to how food is produced and manufactured. (Gliessman 1990)
One of the most important contributions that Alan Chadwick has made to the field of Agroecology is his concept regarding apprenticeships in ecological agriculture. Chadwick was an accomplished teacher. The students of Alan Chadwick have had a profound effect on the agriculture movement. In the last 30 years 800 students have served in the apprenticeship program (Metroactive). These students serve in a work-study program for six months based on the structure that Alan Chadwick put in place for teaching.
Alan gave credibility to the organic gardening movement. He is described by former student Christina Waters as, “…impossibly articulate and on fire with a love for the daily miracles of nature.” (Metroactive)
CACFS students now train farmers in countries all over the world while tackling social issues. Alan Chadwick’s teachings now reach far beyond the United States into the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, Nepal and South Africa. CACFS provides an academic structure for research and education in sustainable agriculture (UCSC)
Through research, education and outreach, CASFS teaches farmers how to grow food not only productively, but also in a way that can be sustained without destroying the natural resources of the community.
Key Related Ideas
Agroecology is the study of the problems that face mankind in our food production systems. The field incorporates the study of political policies, nutrient cycling, biodiversity, and predator-prey relationships into how food is produced and manufactured. (Gliessman 1990)
An Apprentice is a person who works for another person or organization in turn for getting instruction.
Biodynamic Gardening takes into account organic methods, microorganisms and lunar cycles to grow and produce plants. This creates an ecosystem on land that is farmed (Earth and Table).
French Intensive Gardening method was developed outside Paris (Seeds of Change). This method creates a microclimate around crops by sowing the plants very close together. This helps keep in moisture and reduce weed growth. As many as nine crops a year can be grown using this method. (Earth and Table)
Organic gardening is a method of growing plants using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Philosophy is a viewpoint, a system of beliefs or motivating concepts.
Important People Related to the Topic
- Countess Freye von Moltke was a lifelong friend of Alan Chadwick. She was the widow of a famous German general, Helmuth von Moltke.
- Stephen R. Gliessman founded the Agroecology Program at UCSC.
- John Jeavons is a former student of Alan Chadwick’s. He is the director of Ecology Action.
- Dr. Paul Lee is the founder of the UCSC student garden project, which later became the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.
- Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925): Steiner was an Austrian philosopher who developed the theory of biodynamic agriculture.
Alan Chadwich: A Gardener of Souls http://alan-chadwick.org/ A resource about Alan Chadwick, his gardens, and his mission.
The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (http://zzyx.ucsc.edu/casfs/) website contains information about the history of the center at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Alan Chadwick.
Earth and Table (http://www.earthandtable.com/glossary/gardening/methods.html) website contains a glossary of agricultural and gardening terms.
Ecology Action (http://www.growbiointensive.org/) website contains information about this nonprofit organization and its mission to help third world countries maximize a small amount of space to grow a maximum amount of food.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Davy, John. “Rudolf Steiner: A Sketch of His Life and Work.” http://www.steinercollege.org/rs_davy.html
“Ecology Hall of Fame.” June 25, 1999. http://www.ecotopia.org/ehof/chadwick/bio.html
Gliessman, Stephen R. Agroecology: Researching the Ecological Basis for Sustainable Agriculture. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1990. ISBN: 387970282
“Seeds of Change: Certified Organic.” 1999.
Waters, Christine. “Fire in the Garden.”
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