The experiment in organic gardening that began at UC Santa Cruz in 1967 is now the oldest university-based organic research and education facility in the country.
“What began as a student- and faculty-initiated idea to create a garden as a place for repose, renewal, and connection is, today, an incredibly well-rounded resource that exists to serve and inspire people,” says Daniel Press, professor of environmental studies and executive director of the internationally acclaimed, hands-on learning and research programs housed at UC Santa Cruz.
“If you meet an organic farmer in California, we probably trained them or someone who trained them,” says Press, only half in jest.
It all began 50 years ago when faculty and students appealed to Chancellor Dean McHenry, proposing a garden project that would serve as a central gathering spot on the remote, forested campus. As legend has it, Alan Chadwick, a charismatic, somewhat cantankerous master gardener from England, chose a steep, rocky, sun-scorched slope covered with poison oak to prove a point: If students could create a garden there, they could create one anywhere. And create they did.
With no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, Chadwick and his crew used only natural fertility, hand tools, and love to create a lush 4-acre plot that soon overflowed with vibrant vegetables and fragrant flowers. Chadwick introduced the French intensive, raised-bed method of gardening that features double digging, compost-enriched soil, dense plantings, and diverse crops.
Read more about the farm’s history here at the UC Santa Cruz website.