The farm that changed the way we grow food

Half a century ago, a charismatic UC Santa
Cruz master gardener had a vision. It would change how we grow food. Alan Chadwick was a classically trained Shakespearean
actor turned horticulturist. He saw potential in four acres on the new
university’s campus. He began digging — 14 hours a day, 7 days
a week — and inspired some trailblazing students and locals to help transform the
rocky hillside. Together, they created a thriving organic
vegetable, fruit and flower garden. Here, Chadwick taught students to “garden
with nature,” and introduced the nation to the concept of French biodynamic agriculture,
which included raised bed cultivation and composting to create rich growing conditions,
all without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. By 1971, the student farm had grown to 17
acres. Chadwick’s organic farming techniques were
carried out on a larger scale and eventually helped seed, among other foodie movements,
“California Cuisine.” Today, Chadwick’s legacy lives on — and
not just in restaurants and cookbooks. The teaching garden evolved into the Center
for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. This was the first university-based apprentice
program in agroecology. Agroecology is a scientific approach to farming
that emphasizes ecology. In the past 50 years, more than 1,500 organic
farmers have been trained here. It revolutionized methods to grow strawberries
without pesticides. Agricultural policy, including social justice
and worker welfare, was broadened. So, here’s to the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden’s
“First Fifty” years of leadership, and to many more fruitful years in sustainable
agriculture ahead.

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