Orin Martin manages the Alan Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz, where he is widely admired for his skills as a master orchardist, horticulturalist, and teacher.
Martin grew up an athletic and outdoors-oriented child in Massachusetts, Florida, New York State, and Ohio—without any interest in gardening, which struck him as “an onerous chore, and kind of sissy stuff, actually.” While he was in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s, as a student at American University, he “got politicized” by current events: some 100,000 citizens marched on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam war; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. In 1969, exhausted and alienated after a lonely struggle to avoid the military draft, Martin followed some friends to Santa Cruz, where he heard about “this place called ‘The Garden’”—the one being cultivated by Alan Chadwick and his protégés on the UCSC campus. “I wandered up there one morning,” said Martin in this interview, “and I was just bowled over, and fell in love with it, and felt, I have to do this.”
Martin had no training as a gardener. His unfinished undergraduate studies were in English; his interests leaned toward writing and literature. Suddenly infatuated with the Chadwick garden nonetheless, he attended public lectures given by Alan Chadwick on the campus and in town. In 1972, shortly after Chadwick had left Santa Cruz and the UCSC Farm had been launched, Martin began volunteering several days a week at the Farm and Garden. When the apprenticeship program there became formalized under Chadwick successor Stephen Kaffka, Martin applied; after completing the apprenticeship in 1975, he received a grant to start a community gardening program in various locations around Santa Cruz County. In 1977, UCSC hired Martin and a colleague named “Big” Jim Nelson (not to be confused with the Jim Nelson interviewed in this series) to oversee the Farm and Garden.
More than thirty years later, countless productive garden beds, fruit trees, and former apprentices bear vital testimony to the effectiveness of Martin’s ministrations. In this interview—conducted on July 11th and August 29th, 2008, at UCSC’s Science and Engineering Library—Orin Martin spoke with Sarah Rabkin about his work with the Farm and Garden and the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, his cultivation of an organic rose collection and orchards of citrus and deciduous fruit tree varieties especially suited to the local climate, and his mentorship of Farm and Garden apprentices.