The chalet in the Alan Chadwick Garden at UCSC. We would prepare lunches here with produce straight from the earth. Hansel and Gretel Eggplant (aubergine to us Brits!) went down a treat.

I'm back to blogging after a long spell away from my computer. I spent most of last year in California studying Ecological Horticulture at the University of Santa Cruz. For any aspiring farmers or gardeners I would highly recommend this 6 month programme. Check out some of the photos more to come. Students live in tent cabins on a picturesque farm at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. It's a pretty communal experience - living, working, eating alongside 40 other people may be a bit too much for more reclusive types, but it is possible to find quiet time away from the throng of the farm centre (a timber framed building which is the hub of the farm where meals are eaten on a terrace overlooking the ocean..not a bad life!) There are 3 sites in which all apprentices spend a number of weeks to gain different farming experiences. A 6 acre farm growing produce for a CSA, a urban style garden and the Alan Chadwick Garden with more apple trees than you can shake a stick at! This site is run by a wonderful, inspiring teacher and man - Orin Martin. He was one of Chadwick's apprentices back in the early 1970s when the idea for a garden was first born. Chadwick was a totally eccentric Englishman with a background in theatre and an innate understanding of the patterns and ways of organic gardening. He wound up in California and created a place of great beauty on a steep and barren hillside at the UCSC campus. It is strange to me that he is not a more celebrated gardener in the UK. His creation of the UCSC garden, and subsequent development of the apprenticeship programme really paved the way for the beginning of the organic farming movement in California. Perhaps it was because he made his life in America and was a proponent of biodynamic growing, which at the time in England would have perhaps been considered too whacky for people to take him seriously. How times change! But there will be more on Chadwick in the months to come. Orin Martin took up the reins when Chadwick left UCSC, and shaped the garden into a magical mix of hundreds of varieties of apples, and vegetables a plenty. Anyone with an interest in fruit trees should listen to Orin speak on the subject. His passion knows no bounds and he is a fantastic speaker sharing his knowledge of just about anything and everything, so that sometimes you forget that you were talking about apples altogether and are transfixed as he digresses to chatting about the Jazz greats! Check out the CASFS website for any work shops or talks he has coming up.
So, after a brief spell in England over the winter, I am back in California doing an internship at the Huntington Ranch near L.A. Check out their website and blog. I will be posting more about my farming and growing experiences in California in the months to come. I was keen to return here due to the diversity of plants that this climate has to offer. As well as the variety of fruit and produce that California boasts, there is also a plethora of native species that make this region of the world hugely important horticulturally. Over and out for now and thanks for bearing with me while I disappeared to farm in Santa Cruz!