Apparently, that is visible and palpable to students. They seem to respond to that. The curriculum is the Farm and Garden. It’s the most environmentally rich curriculum you could imagine. It’s all there. I feel most comfortable when I’m teaching in situ in the Garden. I have a tree. I can talk about it. I know about it. I have a broccoli plant, whatever it is. That’s your lesson plan, as it were. I’m somewhat uncomfortable even with notes and other instructional aides in the classroom, but we do a blend of both.
It’s an unintentional temporary community for six months. That is to say, this person didn’t come to live with that person—they came to study agriculture and horticulture—but they are thrust together in this unintentional community, and they live on site and they share all domestic duties: shopping and cooking and cleaning.
There are marvelous opportunities for learning and growth in terms of the social dynamics of living together. People come in and train them in various aspects. Not just, this is how you cook, although we have that too, but some stuff about group dynamics: here are some typical cycles that you’ll go through. The ethic at the apprentice program is, try to work through consensus. So there’s trainings around that. But the eclectic nature of the apprentice group and the richness of the various life and professional experiences is a huge dynamic, value-added informal curriculum.
For a number of years I had a good almanac and I brought it in at the beginning of the program and said, “Okay,” just on a volunteer basis on any given day, “someone find where you live. Show us where it is, tell us about it.” Oral, cultural history. It gets people going. People feel free about sharing their background professionally and culturally. But beyond that, there’s actually a structure that we’ve sort of helped them organize, where they have evening classes. Like if someone has had experience with agriculture in the tropics because they were in the Peace Corps, they have a venue to speak, slide shows. So it actually has some focus and direction.
It’s a bear for them to self-manage and us to manage forty people. Everybody wants their individually tailored program and curriculum, which of course is impossible. But the richness, especially when it goes well, is just amazing. It’s an education in itself. People always say, “How come you never go anywhere?” I say, “Well, I don’t have to go anywhere. The whole world comes to me through the apprentices.”
This is an excerpt from an interview with Chadwick Garden Manager and Apprenticeship instructor Orin Martin, which Sarah Rabkin conducted as part of the UCSC Regional History Project’s latest effort, Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History of Organic Farming and Sustainable Agriculture on California’s Central Coast. The project resulted in a 10-volume set of interviews with key players in the development of the organic farming movement, including many associated with the Apprenticeship and the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. Many of the interviews were recently condensed into an anthology that is now available at Bookshop Santa Cruz and other local bookshops, and at Amazon.com. Read more about the anthology and where to find it.