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There Is a Garden in the Mind: A Memoir of Alan Chadwick and the Organic Movement in California


“In 1966, a conversation between visiting professor of history Donald Nicholl and his office-trailer mate, philosophy professor Paul Lee, sparked the idea of creating a garden to offset students’ feelings of displacement and disruption.”

By Paul A. Lee
North Atlantic Books (Mar 12 2013)
Paperback: 248 pages

There Is a Garden in the Mind presents an engaging look at the work and life of pioneering organic gardener Alan Chadwick and his profound influence on the organic farming movement. In this wide-ranging and philosophical memoir, author Paul Lee recounts his first serendipitous meeting with Chadwick in Santa Cruz, California, in 1967, and their subsequent founding of the Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz, the first organic and biointensive garden at a U.S. university.


Today, there are few who would dispute the ecological and health benefits of organically produced food, and the student garden project founded by Chadwick and Lee has evolved into a world-renowned research center that helps third-world farmers obtain high yields using organic gardening. But when Chadwick and Lee first broke ground in the 1960s, the term “organic” belonged to the university’s chemists, and the Chadwick Garden spurred a heated battle against the whole system of industrial existence. Lee’s memoir contextualizes this struggle by examining the centuries-old history of the conflict between industrial science and organic nature, the roots of the modern environmental movement and the slow food movement, and the origin of the term “organic.” His account of Chadwick’s work fills in a gap in the history of the sustainable agriculture movement and proposes that Chadwick’s groundwork continues to bear fruit in today’s burgeoning urban garden, locavore, and self-sufficiency movements.

Table of contents:

Chapter one The English Gardener Arrives
Chapter two The English Gardener Goes to Work
Chapter three The Garden Plot
Chapter four Goethe the Vitalist contra Newton the Physicalist
Chapter five Urea! I Found It!
Chapter six USA and Earth Day
Chapter seven The Method
Chapter eight Chadwick Departs
Chapter nine A Moral Equivalent of War
Chapter ten The Death of Chadwick
Chapter eleven California Cuisine and the Homeless Garden Project
Chapter twelve A Biodynamic Garden on Long Island
Chapter thirteen Chadwick’s Legacy

See Inside the book here.

See the Chadwick garden here.

1 comment

1 Greg { 07.10.13 at 8:50 am }

Before 1967, when Alan Chadwick first began teaching at the University of California, very few people had ever heard of organic gardening. His father had been an English Duke, and so Alan had had the opportunity to learn gardening from a group of twenty-three professionals who were employed full-time on his father’s estate. These men were trained in the classic systems of agriculture and horticulture that was developed into a high art during the time before chemical agriculture took hold in Europe. Alan, therefore, was able to learn this system, develop it further, and then pass it on to his students in the five teaching gardens he made in the US from 1967 to 1979. In addition to the book by Paul Lee reviewed here, more information about Alan Chadwick, his life, his mission, and his techniques, can be found at Click on TECHNIQUES in order to learn about the Biodynamic French Intensive System that Alan developed. Click on LECTURES to listen to a series of recorded lectures that Alan delivered in Saratoga in 1972.