Plant Answers  >  Heroes > Malcolm Beck

Malcolm Beck


In the midst of what we call our "progress" an occasional person has the genius to combine solid ecological knowledge with technical skill and to apply the results with good common sense. In the areas of soil building and maintenance and of the recycling of organic wastes, one of these leaders is Malcolm Beck. Malcolm Beck began his career in sustainable agriculture as a family farmer in the 1950s, raising and selling organic produce near San Antonio, Texas. Later, he turned to helping others find alternatives to conventional agricultural methods and materials through his business, Garden-Ville. Garden-Ville mines bat guano, chips mulches, digests municipal sludge, and prepares compost for sale as non-chemical ways to build the organic matter content of soil. He has spent almost a lifetime in the study, experiment and practice which equip an inventive spirit to create new systems solving both old and new problems with our soils and our refuse. Malcolm Beck is known throughout the country and the world as a leading authority and practitioner in the field of organic growing. Widely sought-after as a speaker on the on the subject of organic growing, Beck's home-spun approach to farming and gardening is based on the belief that if you work with nature, nature will reward your efforts.

Malcolm owned and ran Garden-Ville, a successful organic farm with its own marketing center, for decades. During all that time he conducted his own research on organic growing techniques and lectured widely on his discoveries in managing plants and soils. He is recognized as one of the leading experts in organic and natural gardening, and lectures to groups around the world. His books include GARDEN-VILLE METHOD, Lessons in Nature, Lessons in Nature II and, with Howard Garret, The Texas Bug Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The Secret Life of Compost: A Guide to Static-Pile Composting - Lawn, Garden, Feedlot or Farm, and Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening: The Total Guide to Growing Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Other Edible Plants the Natural Way.

Gradually his interest has focused on how to achieve and permanently maintain the finest soil quality. Soon that led him into much experimentation with composting. Before long Malcolm had prepared a lot just for composting, and soon he was collecting the refuse from the stables, tree trimmers and such, all around San Antonio in order to meet the demand for his compost. All the while he was studying about soils, experimenting with mixes, and designing bigger and better mixing machines. Nurserymen began to learn how great the soil mixes he was producing were, and soon he had a big business on his hands.

His business in composting and selling soil mixes was so successful that it kept a whole fleet of trucks on the roads and enriched countless flower pots, gardens, and whole fields. But Malcolm was not sitting back as a satisfied CEO. He was/is still studying, experimenting, and applying what he is learning. Malcolm Beck has taken decades of real-world organic farming experience and developed an entire line of organic gardening Products -- from Organic Fertilizers to Compost to Pest Controls -- to help gardeners and horticultural professionals achieve their goals naturally.

Malcolm Beck
Malcolm Beck



Malcolm Beck by TALL corn
Malcolm Beck by TALL corn
It is obvious that Malcolm is an author, a national lecturer, a world-renowned expert on waste management and a great humanitarian. But to Malcolm, all he is interested in doing is making the world a better place to live the natural way. I have known Malcolm Beck for over 40 years since I came to San Antonio as an Extension Vegetable Specialist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (now known as the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service). He was a close friend of Dr. Sam Cotner, the original Vegetable Specialist for this area, and of Dr. Robert Dewers, the first Bexar County Extension Horticulturist. To know Beck is to be a friend of Malcolm’s and, even though you may have different opinions on certain things, to respect him as the most honest person you have ever met. I coined a phase about Malcolm many years ago when someone was saying he was just being “organic” to make more money---I told this person that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, someone would have to explain dishonesty to Malcolm---it is such a foreign concept for him. He also trusted his customers in the same way-he used to brag that gardeners do not write bad checks. He had only received two or three bad checks from gardeners in more than 30 years of doing business at Gardenville.

I think Malcolm’s greatest horticultural contributions are:
  1. He began the making of and sales of a multitude of soil amendments to improve production of horticulture crops and landscapes in this area and across the state. While doing this, he demonstrated the best of recycling techniques and used by-products to enhance growing conditions throughout the state.
  2. He pioneered the use of cover crops such as cereal rye (Elbon) for increasing the organic matter and controlling nematodes in Texas.
  3. He is the father of the organic gardening movement in Texas and the U.S. but also has a common-sense approach which bridges the gap between radical organics and rational thinking, i.e., use of glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide.
  4. He is the originator of using compost for lawn dressing to increase water and nutrient holding capacities.
  5. He is a good friend and treasured colleague in the never-ending effort to help local gardeners and homeowners have a successful growing experience.

Del Weniger, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Our Lady of the Lake University
Jerry M. Parsons, Professor and Extension Horticulturist for Texas A&M University --retired

 

Changsha planting at Malcolm Beck's farm
Changsha planting at Malcolm Beck's farm
Dr. Joe Novac and Malcolm Beck examining Goodwin Creek Lavender at Sbisa...
Dr. Joe Novac and Malcolm Beck examining Goodwin Creek Lavender at Sbisa...
Malcolm Beck Roasting Corn
Malcolm Beck Roasting Corn
Malcolm Beck with his Beck's Big okra
Malcolm Beck with his Beck's Big okra
Malcolm Beck with group visiting Bat Cave at Bracken
Malcolm Beck with group visiting Bat Cave at Bracken
Malcolm harvesting sweet corn for roasting in '02
Malcolm harvesting sweet corn for roasting in '02
Malcolm putting sweet corn on the grill for roasting in '02
Malcolm putting sweet corn on the grill for roasting in '02
Malcolm shucking HOT roasted sweet corn in '02
Malcolm shucking HOT roasted sweet corn in '02
Malcolm's Changsha tangerine
Malcolm's Changsha tangerine
Beck with Bracken Bats
Beck with Bracken Bats
Beck with farmer friend Lamar Burgess
Beck with farmer friend Lamar Burgess
Malcolm tries to convince Jerry Parsons that his Guano don't stink
Malcolm tries to convince Jerry Parsons that his Guano don't stink
Malcolm & Friend, Clayton Leonard, at Festival of Flowers on May 23, 2009
Malcolm & Friend, Clayton Leonard, at Festival of Flowers on May 23, 2009
Row Cover at Becks
Row Cover at Becks
Malcolm with wife, Delphine, by TALL corn he developed at Gardenville
Malcolm with wife, Delphine, by TALL corn he developed at Gardenville
Malcolm on his trail
Malcolm on his trail
Lynn Parsons with Malcolm and Bats
Lynn Parsons with Malcolm and Bats
Cereal Rye & Beck '79
Cereal Rye & Beck '79
Malcolm Beck watering experimental citrus planting in '09
Malcolm Beck watering experimental citrus planting in '09
 
Malcolm with wife, Delphine, by TALL corn he developed
Malcolm with wife, Delphine, by TALL corn he developed
Malcolm with TALL corn he developed
Malcolm with TALL corn he developed
Beck with Satsumas
Beck with Satsumas
Beck in Cereal Rye '79
Beck in Cereal Rye '79
 


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