Bob Crowder: A New Zealand organics pioneer - Matt Morris

Bob Crowder: A New Zealand organics pioneer - Matt Morris

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Bob Crowder: A New Zealand organics pioneer, by leading garden historian Matt Morris, tells the story of Bob Crowder’s life and his role in the birth of the organics movement in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Growing up in wartime Britain, the peaceful pursuit of gardening was young Bob’s refuge. He later became an innovative horticulturalist and early champion of regenerative agriculture. After emigrating to New Zealand in the early 1960s, Crowder established the country’s only university-based organics research unit at Lincoln, where he experimented with new techniques and plant varieties and inspired generations of students.

A controversial figure within orthodox agricultural science, Crowder’s impatience with bureaucracy and criticism of industrial growing methods brought him into conflict with the mainstream. From the late 1970s on, he became an outspoken advocate of organics, helping to build a sector now worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

To those who knew him, Crowder was a larger-than-life character, pragmatic and visionary, but his homosexuality also made him an outsider in many ways, and he wrestled with the impact of homophobia throughout his career.

Scrupulously researched, drawing on extensive interviews with Crowder, and accompanied by full-colour illustrations, Bob Crowder: A New Zealand organics pioneer captures a complex man whose legacy goes beyond his achievements in horticulture.


Matt Morris completed a PhD on Christchurch’s garden history and works as the sustainability manager at the University of Canterbury. Matt also runs an organic sauerkraut business called The Urban Monk, and is the co-chair of Soil & Health Association National Council. He is deeply involved in community-led garden initiatives and has surrounded his home in New Brighton with fruit trees and vegetables. His previous book, Common Ground: Garden Histories of Aotearoa (Otago University Press, 2021) was shortlisted for the NZSA Heritage Literary Awards 2021.



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