Marianne and I were raised in a family that encouraged us to see and experience as much as we could. Since childhood, if we were traveling with our aunt and grandmother, special experiences included antique shops, road side stands, home and garden tours, and any notable bakery or cafe we encountered along the way. It is no wonder that when visiting the bay area we stayed at the awe-inspiring Green Gulch Farm. Green Gulch is nestled within a steep ravine just north of San Francisco and steps away from the majestic Pacific Ocean. Although we had no intention of waking at 4:35AM and participating in the 5AM Zazen meditation, we were elated to walk through the lavish gardens, to take a stroll along the beach, and to completely immerse ourselves in the natural surroundings of Green Gulch. The enchanting grounds were arranged with lively fruit, herb, and vegetable gardens as well as the most lush lettuce and greens farm we have ever seen. It was truly spectacular!
Horticulturist and English master gardener Alan Chadwick was one of the original architects of the Green Gulch Farm. He was also a chief innovator in organic farming techniques and greatly influenced by biodynamic and French intensive gardening. Today, those methods of farming provide the baby-fresh ingredients used to prepare a style of cooking classified as 'California Cuisine'. The privilege of walking among these succulent lettuce rows was one myriad of the glorious experiences here. It was truly engaging to see each and every stage of plant development: from the the endless varieties to the on-going seasonal changes of the fruit trees, herbs, and perennials, to the beginnings of baby greens peering through the tiny dirt-filled squares of foam trays in the greenhouse.
Green Gulch is a Soto Zen practice center that began in 1972 when the San Francisco Zen Center and Zantatsu Richard Baker purchased the land from rancher George Wheelright (co-founder of Polaroid). The sale contract stated that the land would always remain open to the public and engage in agricultural awareness, which coincided with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi's request to create a residential monastery.* In addition to the Soto Zen practice, Green Gulch offers lectures, classes and workshops like the Japanese tea ceremony plus the fundamentals of bread baking! The Zendo, originally a hay barn, host monthly mediation retreats and a public program each Sunday. Green Gulch has a conference center, guest house, and even a quaint bookstore!
The one hundred and fifteen acres that have become Green Gulch is like heaven on earth. As you arrive, you are consumed with the smell of the eucalyptus trees that line the drive and are overcome with the calm and perfectly natural world that surrounds you. We invite you to visit and enjoy Green Gulch. It is simply divine!