In Their Own Words

Doug with huge salad


My background: 

I grew up in the Midwest with a mother who loved to garden and told me vivid stories of her Grandmother’s vast vegetable and flower garden on a farmstead in the prairies of Saskatchewan.  I discovered my love of plants listening to her and helping her tend her roses and tomatoes. Later in university, a Systematic Botany course blew my mind open to the wide green world around us and thereafter I took every botany course available, leading to a BS in Botany from the University of Michigan.

I found that growing food in various backyards of houses I lived in compelled me more than continuing with Academia, so I migrated to California in search of a place to study organic Biointensive agriculture.  That led me to the Farallones Institute Rural Center, the non-profit that flourished on this land until 1990.  It closed its doors, but I never left! Over the years, my focus has been on cooking from the garden, photographing the beauty of food crops, studying and gathering the diversity of food plants, medicinal and culinary herbs, and growing as much of it as possible in our Gardens and Nursery.

I have been involved with Food for Thought, the Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank for 20 years, and for the last 12 years as a collaborative ongoing project with OAEC, have managed the organic gardens and edible landscaping which grow vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers for the food bank’s clients.  As part of Project Africa, a program of the Food Bank to support AIDS relief work in Africa, I have been involved since 2005 with establishing the gardens and orchards at Hope Initiatives, a soup kitchen for AIDS orphans in a township outside of Windhoek, Namibia.

My passions: 

Discovering and knowing plants through their full life cycle from seed to seed.  Sowing, saving and sharing seeds.  Learning how to propagate newly discovered plants. Introducing favorite varieties and crops to our kitchen.  Talking about the plants I know and love to our visitors at our Plant Sales. Appreciating and cultivating beauty in the garden. Introducing students and visitors to the thrill of massaging and smelling rich, black, productive, healthy living soil.

I am also completely obsessed with African music and culture and have an ongoing love of studying the infinite wealth and variety of sounds that emanate from the Mother Continent and discovering the work of seemingly endless number of brilliant contemporary African musicians.

My favorite resiliency resource:

Touching, building and working the Soil, wherever you are.



My work at OAEC: 

I have been tending and loving the Gardens at OAEC since I arrived as an Intern in 1982.  As Garden Co-Manager, Nursery Manager and Mother Garden Program Director, I seek to integrate the joy of gardening and growing food with celebrating and disseminating the wealth of plant diversity in our Gardens and Nursery.  I curate our plant and seed collections, lead our Seed Saving Program and OAEC Seed Exchanges, and direct our Plant Sales.  My work as a Teacher with our Permaculture and School Garden Teacher Trainings, our Garden Interns and visitors on Volunteer Days, is to welcome all into our gardens and share with them the lessons we have learned here over the years.

Why my work matters: 

I believe that learning to work the earth and know the soil, to grow plants and one’s own food, and to sow seeds and make compost are some of the most provocative, democratic and radical acts one can take toward reconciling the modern world’s alienation from the Earth and the miracle of Life, and toward knowing ourselves and finding our right place as humans on the planet.

What gives me hope: 

Witnessing the germination of a seed, the coming into the fullness of flowering and ripening of seed on beautiful plants, the glorious abundance of a summer garden and the poetry of the inevitable decomposition and return to earth that enables rebirth.

The most impactful project I’ve ever worked on:

My work in the garden with Project Africa in Namibia.  It’s stunning to see how little it takes to be of  service through teaching and minimal material support, and how far it goes in changing people’s lives.  And how much impact the work can have when people are eager to receive it.


Doug in a tutu

The best advice I ever received was:   

Less is definitely less, and more is always more.  I heard that whispered to me by the Grandmother Oak who used to umbrella her impossibly beautiful limbs over the North Garden until a few years ago.

What community means to me:

Working in a Garden with a motley assortment of interesting people, laughing, learning, engaging in raucous good conversation, enjoying each other’s company and all the while loving the work.  In a beautiful place, whether it’s Occidental, Forestville or Windhoek.  My idea of perfection in Paradise.