In Memoriam: Marshall Chrostowski, Pacifica’s Transformational Land Manager

Marshall Chrostowski, beloved Pacifica ‘Elder, steward of the land, animals and community,’ passed away peacefully at home this morning, surrounded by his great love Micheline Lanctot, daughters Kristen McClintock and  Linda Grund. He was a remarkable man, who tended soul in and of the world.

– Stephen Aizenstat

Marshall Chrostowski was the founder of the Organic Market Gardens and the land manager for both campuses. He held advanced degrees in soil science, plant and tropical ecology, and ethnobotany. He came to Pacifica in 1989 to renovate the long abandoned grounds and orchards.

In 1990 Marshall called on Pacifica and the greater South Coast community to plant the first major grain, garlic and fava bean grow-out in the field now occupied by South Hall. By 1993, several acres had been set aside for a demonstration urban mini-farm, expanding over the next 5 years into a local food source for Pacifica’s community and the greater Santa Barbara area. Seed conservation continued to be featured, accompanied by special grow-outs and workshops on seed saving and organic gardening.


Land Manager Marshall Chrostowski’s
Tenure at Pacifica

A sense of place is central to the learning community at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Great attention has been given to creating an environment that nurtures creativity, nourishes soul, and seeks to transform. That process is guided by and enhanced by the trees, the plants, the water, and the spatial design of both the Lambert Road and Ladera Lane Campuses. And the man who directed these efforts left behind a legacy that will forever continue to shape our students, faculty, staff, and anyone else who has the good fortune to walk the grounds.

Pacifica co-founder and faculty member Maren Hansen asked Marshall to compile a list of his many achievements on the Pacifica campuses. Here are some highlights of Marshall’s tenure at Pacifica.

The Lambert Road Campus

Nov. 1988 – starting at the Lambert Road property, assess site and irrigate as needed

1989-1990 – Landscaping west end of Administration Building and Courtyard, major irrigation manifolds and piping installed; new sub main lines taken to margins of the property (finished in 1994)

1990-91 – First grow out of ancient grains and traditional favas and garlic with KUSA Seed Foundation and volunteer from Community Environmental Council

1990-91 – First planting of deciduous fruit trees behind Guest House and below future rose garden

1992-94 – Food production below current library and site of future South Hall, food for kitchen, staff and faculty

1994 – Open up ground for current organic market garden at south side of property

1994 – Ceremonial Circle (class gift) (redone in 2007)

1991-1996 – First cycle of landscaping of existing building, entrance, roadsides, and Riverine Woodland along Lambert Road.

1997 – 2000 – Expansion of organic market farm to 3 acres, clearing dying lemons on terraces, and first of 4 flocks of laying hens.

2000 – Eureka Lemon Orchard replanted on two acres in herbs and vegetables

2000 -2004 – Re-imagining and re-landscaping property into Mediterranean floristic regions of the world.

1994-2006 – Incremental expansion of low-chill orchard and edible landscaping.

2005 – 2006 – Change the oak-dominated slope below dining lawn to Cal. Live Oak Woodland, removing non-natives and plant native species.

2008 – Major realignment of entry road and parking expansion and attending landscaping.

2008 – Herman E. Warsh Memorial Garden below the Courtyard.

2009 – Expansion of farm to block below the Lemon Orchard, making farm close to 2 acres.

2010 – Sewer Project, advised on routing and buried utilities; saved possible over costs directed to constructing two special features:

2011 – Foundation Fountain located at the head of The Grotto, all materials derived on site. Western Creek and Settling Basins (stone lined) and new Riparian Oak Woodland

2012 – HeronWood Labyrinth (and sister Labyrinth at the Ladera Campus), soil and stone from property.

2013 – 2015 – Major apple grafting project, especially “Mother EinShemer” tree top-grafted with over 70 varieties of uncommon and rare varieties. Ed Hachfeld, Master Grafter.

2012, 2013, 2014 – SB Foodbank’s Farm-to-Table fundraisers at the market farm.


Ongoing activities originally managed by Marshall Chrostowski:

From 1989 – Seed conservation and varietal and material trials at the market garden; cooperative projects with SSE, SB Seed Guild, SB Seed Swap (multiple years), Ojai Seed Swap,

From 1990 – Trialing and evaluating low-chill fruit trees and shrubs, grafting and other techniques used and taught

From 1990 – Vegetable, herbs and small fruit production and distribution (retail and wholesale and many tons donated to Foodbank and other non-profit kitchens and pantries

From 1991 – Interns, employees, volunteers and student projects at the farm (over 100 persons)

From 1992 – Garden and/or Farm tours (over 200)


Highlights of Marshall Chrostowski projects on the Ladera Campus

2005 – Major clearing and landscaping for the 30th Anniversary

2006 – Marion Woodman Memorial Rose Spiral

2009 – Clearing and planting Olive Allie with balled and boxed ancient and new olive trees, west end of Administration Building

2010 – 2011 – Low-chill Deciduous Orchard north of Residence Hall

2010 – Source Fountain and associated landscaping and reworking existing succulent garden adjacent to the Fountain.

2011-13 – Expansion of drought-resistant landscaping

2012 – Laid out Medicinal Wheel for class donation, prepped the area and made path.

2012 – Oak Grove Labyrinth and landscaping – cohort gift and work.

2012 – James Hillman Memorial Oak Grove – creation and ceremony

2014 – Succulent Rock Gardens and mulched lawn area at inner entrance to campus

2015 – Renovating with augmented design and defense of the Marion Woodman Memorial Rose Spiral.


Marshall, thank you so much for your contributions. We are forever grateful.

Marshall Chrostowski: The Therapist Gardener

Santa Barbara Independent Local Hero 2013

Just off Highway 101, between Summerland and Carpinteria on the grounds of Pacifica Graduate Institute, there is a botanist’s wonderland bursting with edible plants, medicinal shrubs, and colorful flowers from all corners of the globe. It’s a place for the public to learn about sustainability, for growing food that’s consumed by Pacifica’s faculty and students, for getting exotic species accustomed to the South Coast climate, and for connecting with the earth by getting your hands dirty. It’s all the brainchild of landscaper extraordinaire Marshall Chrostowski, who started developing the seven acres of on-campus farmland in 1994 and has cultivated its bounty ever since.

“I can’t believe I’m still being paid to do this,” said Chrostowski, now 77 years old and particularly renowned for his fava beans. “I’m enjoying it so much.” In addition, Chrostowski, who also works as a contractor for La Casa de Maria and another 20 clients around town, is deeply involved in the Santa Barbara Seed Saving Guild (which gives away “locally adapted seeds of high quality” to schools and others) and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s farm-to-table fundraiser dinners.

After realigning his career trajectory multiple times ​— ​he was a professor of ethnobotany at Northridge until age 36, then was a rosarian to the stars in Bel Air, among other moves ​— ​Chrostowski finally seems at home working on this urban mini-farm that follows French biointesive agriculture. His smooth hands reveal the magic of toiling so long in the soil, and he’s witnessed lives changed because people found gardening. “We’ve mentored a lot of troubled people here and got them straight, without psychology,” said Chrostowski. “You just let them work with the earth.”