Fairview Gardens stands on a tiny corner of what was once the largest Chumash Indian settlement on the Central Coast of California. Over the years the farm has meant different things to different people. For the Chumash, who did not farm, it was an unspoiled homeland; for the Spanish ranchers, a conquest. Turn-of-the-century settlers saw a place to build a home, establish orchards, and hunt in the lush watershed that once thrived here. The original ranch got its name, the story goes, when Mrs. Hollister exclaimed over the “fair view” she saw from her shiny new farmhouse circa 1895. Under her feet was some of the richest topsoil in California – 30 feet thick in some places – and as far as she could see, citrus and walnut groves stretched to the foothills and to the sea. The groves are mostly gone, but Fairview Gardens still flourishes.
The Chapman Family
Roger and Cornelia Chapman bought the land at 598 N. Fairview Ave. in 1975. They had already been farming organically in the Santa Barbara and Goleta area for years, and they were eager to try a new idea of providing an environment for the community to learn about the benefits of organic farming. They spent several years regenerating the soil and transforming the barren and derelict land into a thriving organic farm. Roger, Chairman of the UCSB music department through the 1960s and ’70s, was an
educator. He envisioned a farming ‘classroom’ where people could come learn about all aspects of organic farming, then go on to create their own operations, thereby expanding the reach of organic principals. The first groups of eager young farmers to learn at Fairview Gardens did just that, and continue to run successful organic farming operations in the area. In the many years since, countless individuals have turned their education at Fairview Gardens into practical and sustainable farming businesses.
After Roger’s death in 1989, the Chapman family continued to run Fairview Gardens as one of three organic operations in the Goleta valley. But by 1993, they were ready to pass the torch. They wanted to protect the land from future development and to make sure that it continued as an organic farming operation and education center.
In 1981 Michael Ableman took a job grafting orange trees at Fairview Gardens. When the farm manager left, Ableman remained and ended up staying for 20 years. His passion for organic farming and the urban agriculture movement was instrumental in building the reputation of Fairview Gardens. An accomplished photographer and writer, Ableman has published four books including On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm, which chronicles his adventures at Fairview Gardens.
The Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens
In 1997 with the help of the Chapman family, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County created an agricultural easement on the land and the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens was formed. Grant funds awarded by the County Board of Supervisors, along with private and foundation gifts, helped complete the land purchase. The first executive director was Michael Ableman. The agricultural land trust guaranteed the farm’s preservation as an organic educational facility for generations to come; a dream of Roger and Cornelia Chapman’s. And Michael Ableman was responsible for transforming Fairview
Gardens into an early model farm for sustainable, organic, urban agriculture. To this day, Fairview Gardens is steadfast in its commitment to the community. Thanks to the vision, generosity and hard work of all the farmers, volunteers, donors and staff, Fairview Gardens will forever exist as a natural space to enjoy a productive organic farm, and an education center accessible to the entire community.