The most obvious quality that separates “organic” farmers and gardeners from chemical farmers and gardeners is an innate respect for the Wisdom of Nature, which is generally arises from a strong sense of the spiritual nature of working with the land and with plants.
Two teachers of note who arose on these topics in the Seventies were Peter Tomkins and Alan Chadwick.
Tompkins, and co-author Christopher Byrd, with the publication of The Secret Life of Plants, made Americans aware for the first time that plants were sentient, that if a human being pays attention to them (or plays music to them!), they will respond in positive ways.
Chadwick was already working with these insights and had a unique ability as a teacher to open other people to these new awarenesses in such a way that, in a time when people thought food could only be grown with artificial fertilizers and a lot of pesticide application, individuals were empowered to create gardens without chemicals of such astounding fertility that they out produced conventional farmers by many fold.
There’s more information about Craig and Alan on the next page, but you can download the podcast from iTunes or here (on a Mac, use your cntl- key to download, on a PC right click. If you simply click, the podcast will play in a new window).
Alan Chadwick never wrote a book but, fortunately, he lectured to his students constantly and many of those lectures were recorded. In the early Eighties, our guest for this podcast, Craig Sika, gave me cassettes of the first Chadwick lectures that I would hear. Hearing Alan was an astounding experience (one many people find repugnant), but really listening to him shaped my life as a biodynamic farmer. I guess I’d have to say “There are two types of gardeners: ones that find Alan Chadwick’s voice to be repugnant and the rest of us.”
I’ll be eternally grateful to Craig for persevering in his efforts to preserve and make available as much of Alan Chadwick’s teachings as possible. It’s taken a long time to get this far, but with the publication of Performance in the Garden and now the Alan Chadwick Archive his work is bearing real fruit.
Craig Siska apprenticed with Alan Chadwick at the Carmel Garden Project near Woodstock, Virginia 1978-79. Since 1981 Craig has practiced landscape architecture and environmental site planning & biodynamic farming and gardening consulting.
Craig, who carries Native in spirit and blood, walked alone on The Cherokee Trail of Tears, from GA to OKLA in 1999. At times, he gives presentations on working with land and Nature. Craig now lives with his wife in Montreat, NC and is presently working with others, creating the Alan Chadwick Archive.
Alan Chadwick was a brilliant master gardener, a visionary, and an extraordinary source of inspiration for many horticulture students and professional gardeners, past and present. Through those who worked with him, and the constant stream of luminaries, writers, practitioners, and students who visited his magical gardens, Chadwick influenced an entire generation of American gardeners, whether directly or indirectly. In his fertile, productive gardens, Chadwick proved that by following his methods, yields of four to six times the U.S. commercial average for fruits, vegetables, and grains could be achieved, using one-eighth of the water, a quarter of the fertilizer, and one-hundredth of the energy per pound of food produced.
To Chadwick, gardening was in part a spiritual endeavor: an element in the quest for the inner sense of man, a means of shedding light on a vision of creation and nature. He was fascinated by the mystery of nature and the power of its cycles; he saw nature essentially as a giver and forgiver, and he battled constantly to defend it against man’s predilection for dominating it. Chadwick saw the garden as our true home and as the ultimate teacher of human culture, and he strove to make his gardens as beautiful, functional, and sustainable as possible. (from www.seedsofchange.com/cutting_edge/alan_chadwick.aspx)
But Alan Chadwick was far more than an accomplished horticulturist. He taught, prodded, cajoled, and berated his many students until they became competent, authentic, and creative human beings; or at least that was his goal for them, as he would settle for nothing less. As Allen Kalpin, a long-time Chadwick apprentice, once said, “He was a gardener of souls.”
Biodynamic viticulture consultant Alan York, a student of Chadwick’s, said this about him, “”Alan Chadwick’s gift, I believe, was not so much as a gardener as a storyteller. His storytelling was so skillful that he could create magic with words. This magic allowed those who worked with him to experience things that were still in the future, such as the building of a garden. Weaving his spell, Chadwick created vivid pictures that empowered us to visualize just what a garden could be. He always told us that it is the garden that makes the gardener, and not the other way around. It should be a place of reflection, he would say, where we can once again know that feeling of Paradise and recreate a modern Garden of Eden.”
“For those who were fortunate enough to know him,” concludes York, “his legacy will always live on because he captured our imaginations and gave us practical skills to turn our dreams into the reality of our lives.” <from Seeds of Change article>
Alan Chadwick lectured to his students frequently. Hundreds of tapes of his presentations exist but no one was making a serious effort to organize and preserve these priceless recording for posterity until landscape architecht Craig Siska stepped forward to do it.
Craig is our special guest for this episode of The Biodynamics Now! Podcast.
Craig apprenticed with Alan Chadwick in Virginia in 1978-79, and is now working very closely with Stephen Crimi (“Performance in the Garden”) and others, in the Asheville, NC area – 32 years after Alan’s passing – to create the Alan Chadwick Archive on-line.
Craig’s immediate goal is to contact as many former apprentices and those interested in the work, vision & legacy of Alan Chadwick, to gather any and all materials regarding Alan and his work that might still be available.