History of the Apprenticeship

The Apprenticeship’s history dates to 1967, when English master gardener Alan Chadwick was hired to create a

Alan Chadwick

Alan Chadwick with students at UC Santa Cruz.

student garden at the University of California, Santa Cruz, then the newest campus in the University of California system.

Chadwick chose three acres in the heart of the new campus for the garden. There, using only hand tools, he set to work on a steep, south-facing hillside covered with chaparral. Says author Robert Howard, “For the next two years, without taking a day off, this fifty-eight-year-old man worked from dawn to dusk every day of the week. Those who were there say he worked more heroically than they had ever seen anyone work before.”

Drawn to the fledgling garden, student volunteers pitched in, hauling limestone from the old Cowell Ranch quarry to build paths and retaining walls, trucking in manure and other amendments, and loosening the rock-hard soil with pickaxes before digging permanent garden beds.

Chadwick used the apprenticeship style of teaching, working side by side with students to introduce them to his “French intensive/biodynamic” gardening philosophy, which Garden manager Orin Martin describes as “a synthesis traditional horticultural practices and observations from the Greek, Chinese, and Roman cultures on through nineteenth-century French market gardeners—folk techniques with modern scientific validity.”

Within two years, the Student Garden had blossomed, attracting campus and community members as well as drawing attention from beyond the university. Sunset magazine called Chadwick “…one of the most successful organic gardeners the editors have ever met.” Sunset’s editors marveled at the transformation of marginal land into an abundant garden, reporting that, “At times during the peak of the flower season, the students cut and placed ten thousand blooms a day at the help-yourself kiosk on the main campus road. And last year the gardeners grew, picked and supplied the college cafeterias with 1 3/4 tons of tomatoes.”

First the Garden, then the Farm

Newly dug beds at the UCSC Farm.

The success of the Student Garden Project (now the Chadwick Garden) led to the creation of a campus Farm in 1971, where Chadwick’s organic gardening methods could be put to work on a larger scale. The Farm grew into a popular site for classes in agriculture and natural history, and along with the Garden became a training ground for an informal “apprenticeship” in organic farming and gardening.

In 1975, in response to demand by students looking for a more in-depth, hands-on training opportunity, the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture was formalized as a UCSC Extension course, open to all applicants (not just UCSC students). Today the Apprenticeship continues to offer participants a full-time program of classroom and experiential training.

Apprentice Kim Allen packs produce for CSA shares.


The development of the Apprenticeship’s curriculum since 1975 reflects changes in interests and trends within the organic farming and gardening, and sustainable agriculture and food systems movements.

Through the years the Apprenticeship developed a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and other direct marketing projects, as well as an increasing emphasis on social justice aspects of the  food system, such as labor and distribution. Ongoing efforts to tailor the curriculum to apprentices’ interests, experiences and aspirations continue today.


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