Some saw the barren hillside on the San Diego State University campus as useless land. Quincy John Workman saw potential, a return to Eden.
Quincy John Workman, founder of the New World Builders, and the author at the entrance to San Diego State University's "Garden of Eden."
PHOTO: KARIN PIET
The "Garden of Eden" lies just below the chemistry building on San Diego State University's campus. Less than 10 years ago, the spot was simply a barren and rocky hillside overlooking the freeway. Since then that "useless" plot of land has been terraced into a beautiful, one-acre paradise by 83-year-old Quincy John Workman, who welcomes curious visitors with a sign that announces: "Working for survival of mankind, nonpollution, ecology action, natural living, organic gardening, full production, no destruction, free distribution. "
Workman, who founded the "New World Builders" to promote such goals, began his "return to Eden" as a symbol of hope for a healthier, more productive world. Today the organic "Elysian Field" contains over 40 fruit trees, as well as numerous perennial herbs such as comfrey and mint.
"There's a unique study program going on here," says Quincy John of the student volunteers who come to him to learn about organic gardening. "I demonstrate how to grow things ... rather than merely teach theory. My pupils plant, water, and learn how to deal with parasites and other garden pests. I see work in the garden as a step toward self-sufficiency and survival. "
This remarkable man was once a toy manufacturer in Birmingham, Alabama. After his business went bankrupt during the depression, Quincy spent over 40 years working at various engineering jobs before devoting himself to the "Garden of Eden".
A critic of the American economy and the banking system (which he says is run by a "den of thieves") and an active champion of Proposition 13, Quincy John had to look long and hard before he found a place to nourish his dream of a "New World".
After finally gaining permission from reluctant university administration, the octogenarian removed eucalyptus trees, terraced the rocky land, planted orchards and some castor beans (poison black-leaved plants "which are certain to keep them gophers out") ... and, to satisfy the university, built a trailer/office "so it could be easily—and quickly—moved".
"Nine years ago," says Quincy John Workman as he proudly surveys his garden "I began to make this patch of nothing in to a fruitful acre of land, and I plan keep it thrivin' until the day I die!
"You see," he adds, "Mother Nature gives us everything we have, and her universal laws are the only ones we ever need to follow."