was born February 6, 1950
in Morgantown, West Virginia. When he was four, his parents moved to Syracuse, New York, where his father taught Woods Products Engineering at SUNY College of Forestry. At Syracuse Central Technical High School, he was "the whizz" of the Computer Technology program, graduating 10th in his class of 350 students.
As a Freshman at Syracuse University, David had an office in the University Computing Center, where he worked as Systems Programmer writing software to automate the University Library. He also began tutoring inner city children in reading and math, and in his Junior year, transferred into the School of Special Education, receiving a 4.0, all-A average his first Junior semester. That same year, he became director of the Projection '70 tutoring program, supervisoring tutor training, and remedial literacy and arithmetic for 90 inner city underachieving school children.
But in 1970, U.S. President Nixon invaded Cambodia, and a nationwide student strike shut universities. So David left college and Syracuse to travel around America investigating life and society. In Fayette, Mississippi he worked for Charles Evers, the first black mayor in that state in a century. He also investigated life in New Orleans, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver. In northern New Mexico, he lived in Los Cerrillos—a small "ghost" town, "hippie haven" and tourist trap—and explored the western wilderness. There, he began to learn about the land's fragile ecologies. His journeys imparted a vision of the human future, and clearly nature and humanity were on a collision course. The next year, David returned to Syracuse resolved to face the challenges at the gateway to the new Millennium.
In 1971, David realized children watch TV more hours than they sit in classrooms, so he explored new portable video technology as a tool for teaching and self awareness. Leaving education, he worked for Synapse, the Syracuse University Student Union campus cable TV network, pulled cable to campus buildings, wired a color TV studio, and did production engineering.
This culminated in October 1972, when—unexpectedly—he found himself barricaded in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) building in Washington, DC for eight days with 2000 members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), who had caravaned to the nation's Capitol in the Trail of Broken Treaties. David recorded over 50 hours of video, set up sound systems, trained cameramen, edited videotape, and witnessed what nearly became the last great Indian battle of North America. What he witnessed and recorded in those eight days—and then reviewed again and again in two weeks of cataloging and editing the video and audio tapes—transformed his view of native Americans, human culture and Nature.
Then, David had to face his own poor health. Although very bright, David was troubled by regular bouts of sickness, discharge, acne, allergy, toothaches, cysts, stuttering, and depression. He was clumsy, physically awkward, and too weak for most sports. Experiments with food and cooking convinced him the foundation for personal health is food: we are what we ate. Having taught himself computer programming and video engineering, David dove into physiology and health. In 1973, he recognized his unhealthy reactions to milk and sugar, and his nutrition study broadened into exploration of natural healing and ecology—and food system activism.
In 1975, David read a self-published paper by retired engineer John Hamaker which described the gradual but steadily increasing accumulation of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere from deforestation and fossil fuel combustion, and the probable impacts on weather and climate worldwide. He could see from the graph of increasing CO2 that before the end of his own life, he would witness a time when human beings would have to face the consequences of unrestrained industrial pollution.
The next year David read The Limits to Growth, a book by MIT computer scientists James and Donella Meadows which described their results in developing and testing the first mathematical computer simulation of Earth and society. Their results were harshly sobering: no matter how they adjusted their model for population, pollution, resource depletion, technology, and food supply, around the turn of the Millennium, their computer model crashed in a calamity. Clearly, the unrestrained growth of human industrial society was approaching the limited and finite "carrying capacity" of the planet.
At this same time, David read a thin book titled "A Basic Call to Consciouness," which was the position papers presented by the Haudenosaunee to the United Nations Conference on Discrimination Against Indgenous Peoples in the Western Hemisphere. All these messages affirmed David's sense that a deadline with destiny awaited humanity near the end of his lifetime. Inspired by this vision, David decided to dedicate his life to preparing humanity for this confrontation with the finite limits of nature on a small planet.
Through the 1970's, David started a variety of community food projects, and became involved in regional food and farm issues. With Susan Strunk of The New Environment Association, he started Comstock Community Gardens, where 65 families grew food and flowers, and neighborhood natural food buying clubs. Garden co-founder Susan Strunk gave David the name Yarrow, after the herb that flowered all around his garden. Then he became dry goods coordinator at the Syracuse Real Food Coop, re-organized into an inventoried storefront and sat on the Board of Directors for three years. He regularly cooked lunches and benefit dinners featuring natural cookery, organic foods and garden-fresh vegetables. In 1976, he helped start what became On the Rise whole grain bakery in downtown Syracuse, and made and sold soymilk and tofu locally, earning the title "tofu kid." With Hank Strunk, he helped create Common Place Community Land Trust, an ecological community on 432 acres near Truxton, NY.
By 1979, David was editing the NYS Coop Federation Newsletter, and decided to organize a statewide grassroots conference on the regional agriculture and food systems. On March 29-31, over 125 activists gathered at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to address the growing crisis in regional agriculture, food supply and human health. That same weekend, a nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island sent a radioactive plume swirling across Syracuse and the Northeast. This event initiated David into statewide food and farm activism, including incorporating the NYS Coalition for Local Self Reliance, NYS Food Policy Council and Onondaga County Food System Council.
In 1979, he started Wellspring: Syracuse Center for Self Healing, a community education center teaching natural food cooking, wholistic nutrition, natural healing, and macrobiotics. For three years, David had hosted classes and dinners in his apartment. Now, as director of a storefront health education center, David taught, counseled and gave acupressure to many people in search of health—often relief from serious sickness and dangerous disease.
About this time, David acquired the totem name "turtle" as he steadily traveled all around New York for meetings, conferences, visits, and research to create a sensible, sustainable, ecological, humane food system. These included regular visits to the Capitol in Albany to advocate natural, organic and ecological policies for food, farming and nutrition. The effort was often lonely, frustrating and exhausting, with few victories, recognition, rewards or compensations. He supported himself by teaching and counseling people in health, nutrition and cooking, and giving acupressure treatments. The turtle is Earth's oldest living reptile, and has the oldest memories of any animal with a central nervous system. In native American, Hindu and Chinese myth, the world was created and rides on the back of a turtle. As David hitched, hiked, biked, and bused his way around the Empire State carrying his life with him trying to assure a liveable human future on Earth, he adopted the identity and duty of this ancient animal.
In March 1983, with Craig Cramer and Karen Kerney, David organized the Founding Members meeting of the New York chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) at May Memorial Church in Syracuse, and drafted and filed papers for incorporation, bylaws and tax exemption. He served steadily and diligently as NOFA-NY State Council member for four years, and initiated on-farm education workshops, started the NOFA-NY Organic Farm Certification program, wrote the first Certification Standards for NY, inspected the first eight farms. David represented New York in meetings to reorganize NOFA into a regional structure, and helsped start the Organic Foods Production Association of North America (OFPANA) and Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA).
David also petitioned the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets to establish an Organic Food Advisory Committee, and served as its consumer representative until 1992. With support from NOFA-NY and NYS Natural Food Associates, David organized two Close the Food Circle conferences which drew over 125 food and farm activists from the Northeast together for strategy sessions and planning workshops, an event which launched several initiatives.
In 1985, he wrote a $15,000 grant that began the Finger Lakes Organic Growers Cooperative (FLO) with nine organic farms around Cayuga Lake. FLO is still NY's only organic farm coop, based in the Ithaca-Trumansburg area.
During this time, David lived in Auburn with an elderly man who cured his cancer with David's guidance and support The backyard of this man was the first slopes of the "Indian mound" in Fort Hill Cemetery, just west of downtown. David studied this cluster of ancient man-made earthworks—some over 100 feet high—preserved in Fort Hill Cemetery, just west of downtown. His investigation of the mystery of these man-made mounds from an unknown past grew into a 40-page report on the Osco Mounds in 1987, and convinced David America's ancient inhabitants were far more advanced, sophisticated and subtle than history and archaeology had begun to comprehend.
In 1987, David—exhausted and broke—resigned from farm organizing and life on the road to return to Syracuse, where he revived the faltering Wellspring Center for Self Healing. Dr. Sherry Rogers, a leading specialist in Environmental Illness, began sending her hopeless cases to David's Center for classes in macrobiotic cooking, food, nutrition, and healing.
Soon her "canaries" began to show significant recovery, so Dr. Rogers herself began to learn and practice the principles of healing through diet and self care and prescribe them to her patients. Later Dr. Rogers co-authored a book with Michio Kushi, a leading macrobiotic teacher in America.
In 1988, David's life took an unexpected turn when he discovered huge canisters of hazardous chemicals (PCBs) buried at Marley's Scrap Metal Yard on the southeast shore of Onondaga Lake, where the $250 million Carousel Center shopping mall was about to be built by Pyramid Companies, builder and owner of 21 shopping malls—and Syracuse is their hometown headquarters. For three months, David stood up in public insisting on an investigation of the toxic site. Meanwhile, he discovered several more astounding secrets buried at Marley's—including a 33-mile-long, geomantic dragon coiled around the Salt City. A year late, the Carousel Center mall was finally built, but Pyramid spent $15 million to clean up chlorinated hydrocarbons in a little corner of what everyone now knew was a dirty, dangerous place. These events are chronicled in David's book:
The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
While writing his book, David was Associate Editor of Solstice magazine in Charlottesville, Virginia, a bimonthly journal on health and the environment. Now, instead of frontline food activist, David covered the food system as a journalist. He edited articles and wrote several stories, including
Return of the Dragon
Hazards of Man-Made Magnetism
To B12 or not to B12?
Heal Your Lymphatic Ocean, and
Stone Age Agriculture
In 1989, David returned to Syracuse to arouse public concern to clean-up and restore Onondaga Lake, and recognize and protect Onondaga Nation as a sovereign government and America's oldest democracy. He saw Humanity and Nature were on a collision course, potential war between races, and a traumatic, painful passage into a post-industrial world. David felt despair that two decades of activism and self-sacrifice brought minimal gains in an affluent, complacent consumer culture headed at high speed for an ecological catastrophe, but he kept on.
David resumed experiments to restore and improve topsoil fertility with powered rock and compost. His field trials and research readings with remineralization convinced him of its key value in soil fertility and plant vitality. David became a writer and editor for Remineralize the Earth. In 1992, he met Bob Able of Gernatt Gravel Co., and wrote a proposal for National Aggregate Association to fund research in using rockdust by-products as soil amendments.
In 1990, with Winston and Joe Gordon of Cornerstone Farm in Oneida County, David incorporated Earthwise Education Center to teach folks "to be earthwise, not clockwise." Their focus was Bring the People Back Home—a project to train urban homeless to be homesteaders living on the land and growing food for income. Winston and David went to New York City and Albany to research the idea, recruit homeless and enlist support. March 12, 1991 they brought eight men from Manhattan to Cornerstone Farm. The next day, their first recruit was in the front Metro page of the New York Times as "the mole man from Manhattan," the beginning of a deluge of publicity, and the Gordon brother's phone kept ringing. The next two years demanded extra-ordinary effort and sacrifice to sustain this pioneering project with minimal resources, and against local opposition, insitutional hostility and public inertia.
On August 5, 1992, David presented a workshop "Close the Food Circle: building sustainable regional food systems" to the North American Greens Economic Conference in Minneapolis, based on his 20 years of effort in New York. The next day— the New Moon of August 6—Hiroshima Day—David was visiting Spark Burmaster, an electric engineer in southwest Wisconsin to interview him for an article on the hazards of the electric power grid, when David was electrocuted by 6000 volts, suffering severe electric burns. Shocked unconscious, he fell to the ground, fracturing ribs and spine, shattering vertebrae T-5, puncturing his lung. Five days later he returned to full consciousness 200 miles away in University of Wisconsin Hospital's intensive care burn unit, where he remained hospitalized for eight months. As soon as he could sit up, David began to type Spark's astonishing, alarming story about Stray Earth Currents.
The next four years were a fierce fight for life and healing. Without money or insurance to finance therapy, David bounced in and out of hospitals, nursing homes and housing in several states. In 1995, George Broeckx gave David refuge in his single bedroom apartment in Rensselaer, New York at the end of the bridge across the Hudson River below the New York State Capitol, where he began a slow, painful, doubtful recovery. David credits many angels—divine and flesh & blood—for his survival and healing, and also Trace-lyte, a trace mineral electrolyte from Dr. Gerry Olarsch of North Port, Florida.
In 1996, David quit all medications and began rapid recovery. He began writing again for Remineralize the Earth journal, and founded the Florida Champion Tree Project with David Milarch and Terry Mock. Two years later, he began to walk again, and moved to a 185-year-old historic farmhouse in East Greenbush, New York, east of Albany. He currently is continuing his recovery, and creating Turtle EyeLand Sanctuary as a nature education center and headquarters for the New York Champion Tree Project. In the next decade, he expects to devote his creativity to prepare youth to be environmental stewards in a sustainable society in the new century and millenium.
David also developed a website for the Champion Tree Project:
and for the Onondaga Lake Peace Festival
A library of David Yarrow's articles, insights and written ruminations are kept on the World Wide Web at a site by his friend and fellow geomancer Dr. Dan Winter: