SANTA CRUZ — Orin Martin says his favorite thing about the Alan Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz is its diversity.
“On one side of the plot we have a Canadian Spruce tree, and on the other there’s a palm tree,” said Martin, garden manager and teacher at UCSC. And then, with a laugh: “They’re not exactly thriving per say, but the point is, we’re able to grow both.”
The mild, Mediterranean climate of California’s Central Coast is rare. Less than 3 percent of the world is covered in such ecosystems. That makes a place like Santa Cruz ideal to experiment and grow a variety of things.
UCSC’s Farm & Garden was established in 1967, only two years following the opening of the school. Alan Chadwick came to the university and started the Student Garden Project, a volunteer-led venture that aimed to turn an overgrown hillside on campus into a fruitful organic garden.
Chadwick was a pioneer in organic farming, developing his own version of the Biodynamic French Intensive Method, which was only before used in land outside Paris, France.
Today the UCSC Farm & Garden is part of the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS). They have three facilities: the Alan Chadwick Garden, the UCSC Farm and the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn. CASFS aims to research, develop and advance environmentally sound agriculture practices.
“It continues to boggle my mind with what’s been accomplished here,” Martin said.
Martin began his journey at UCSC not long after it began. Though he did not have a background in gardening, he was inspired after seeing what Chadwick and his students were doing.
Since 1977 Martin has been acting as garden manager, mentoring students, interns and apprentices.
“I feel like I’m serving a life-sentence in this garden,” Martin joked, “but in a good way, of course.”
The UCSC Farm & Garden has had a big impact on agriculture and horticulture worldwide. The highly selective Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at the garden has garnered attention internationally in recent years.
Martin says the program seems to naturally attract students of a high caliber, who are both passionate and creative.
“I’ve been so impressed by the people I’ve met here,” Martin said. “They dare to succeed at things I never dreamed.”
Throughout 2017, Martin and his colleagues, students and many graduates have come together to celebrate the past 50 years by offering a number of special events and hands-on activities.
The official First 50 Celebration will be July 28-30, with three full days of speakers, workshops, music, food and tours.
“I think this will be a wonderful retrospective,” Martin said. “To look back on our history and see what we’ve done, and what might come next.”
For information and to register for the First 50 Celebration, visit casfs.ucsc.edu.