Community

Edmonton ecovillage/intentional community

Have you ever considered moving into an intentional community or ecovillage? The picture most people might have in their mind when they hear about intentional communities is a hippie commune or religious colony (not that there’s anything wrong with those).

Those are just a few examples of the many different types of intentional communities. Really, an intentional community is a group of people with similar views and goals who have chosen to live in a community together. Humans have succeeded in nature in part because of our joining together for common purpose. There are many modern examples of groups of people who have chosen to form communities, whether in an ecovillage in a rural setting or a co-op housing development in a city.

We created this website as a way of expressing our interests in relocating from an urban to rural setting and talking about the ideas and activities we are interested in. More recently we’ve talked about finding an existing or planned intentional community in the Edmonton area to join but have not found any that meet our general criteria.

Why an intentional community?

We see an intentional community as a way of moving towards a more sustainable, environmentally friendly lifestyle, with a slower pace in a rural setting, growing and raising much of our own organic food and sharing with others the work and rewards of our efforts.

What do we envision this intentional community to be?

It would be a community of like-minded individuals from varied backgrounds and experiences.

We see the intentional community being an ecovillage. The ecovillage will not be governed by any particular political or religious perspective.

Our plan is to engage in agricultural pursuits such as raising livestock (bees, cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, etc) and growing as much of our own food as is practical. All crops will be grown organically (no use of artificial pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, etc) and livestock will be raised on natural feed (no grains, commercial feed, etc).

Location:

Sharing the values and goals of the sort of community we’re proposing is key, and location is next on the list. We recognize that not everyone has the financial resources to be able to make such a move to a rural location and that they may need (and choose) to continue working in the Edmonton area.

We would like to be located up to 45 minutes east or southeast of Edmonton. This distance would allow us to locate in a rural area, but still be close enough to the city where commutes to the city would not be too onerous.

This distance has the dual benefit of being able to live far enough outside of the city to be able to live in a rural setting unlikely to see the imminent threat of urban/suburban development while being close enough to travel to work, shop, attend school, etc.

Land:

Our goal is to purchase at least a quarter section of land (160 acres). We feel that this amount of space would be initially sufficient to form a small ecovillage of up to 20 families while providing enough land to raise a variety of animals and grow a good variety of crops.

Perhaps 20 families would be too many. At this point we’re not sure. Maybe it would be easier to start with four to ten families and keep it at that level. Once we’ve had a chance to meet with people interested in this idea we can figure it out from there.

Each community member would share the property in common with other community members and each would have a small homestead section upon which they could build a home.

Legal & governance:

While the exact legal structure is yet to be determined, member families would have an equal interest in the land, along with a small plot in the village area.

The legal agreement each community member would be expected to sign before investing their time, effort and resources is a crucial part of the process. This agreement would govern the rights, responsibilities and expectations of each member of the community.

Important components of this agreement would be:

  • Legal structure
  • Principles and vision statement: How do we see ourselves, what are our goals and by what principles will we govern ourselves?
  • Entry: how do new members join the community?
  • Exit: what happens if someone wants to move?
  • Investment: how much is required initially and, if applicable, ongoing? How should investment in community property be handled?
  • Decision making: how will the community be governed?
  • Dispute resolution: in human interaction disputes are inevitable. How will they be resolved?
  • Business & economics: should the community decide to create a business, how will it be run and proceeds distributed?
  • Rights and responsibilities: what can each resident of the community expect, and what will be expected of them?

Our thought is that this is one of the most important aspects of the formation of an intentional community. Each potential member of the community must be 100 per cent clear about what they are entering into. By having a clear and comprehensive agreement that will be negotiated and created by the initial members of the community, we will be clear in our purpose and hopefully minimize the possibility of disputes in the future. And should any disputes arise, as they inevitably do, there will be a clear process to deal with them.

Financial:

The initial, upfront cost would be to purchase the land. There would be legal costs to create the community agreement, possible costs for rezoning the land (if necessary, to allow multiple families to be located there), contribution to common community structures (community hall, etc).

On a side note, zoning and approval are likely to be one of the largest hurdles we will face. It is not an insurmountable obstacle and there are many Hutterite communities in Alberta, so there are many precendents.

Some ongoing costs could include property taxes, licensing, regulatory costs, etc. Other capital costs might include farm and other equipment, community energy and other systems, barns and outbuildings, etc.

Crops and livestock will primarily be for the use of the ecovillage’s residents, but what happens if/when there is a surplus? How will proceeds from this activity be distributed?

Should the community engage in other revenue generating opportunities? What sorts? What investment would be required and should they be optional? How would profits be distributed?

Will the community have the ability to borrow to acquire land and equipment, apply for grants, receive donations? What sorts of approval would be required?

Of course there are no quick answers to many of these questions. They would be determined by those interested in forming such a community and would form an important part of the community building exercise.

It would be ideal to be able to create a variety of value-added businesses in the ecovillage, owned by individuals in the community or as a co-op, and employment of other community members would be encouraged. Working close to home is something many people strive for, and our goal would be to make that a possibility in this community. Some possibilities include market gardening, arts and crafts, alternative home construction, etc.

Home:

Each member family of the community would have their own home, which they would be responsible to build, whether built personally or by a contractor. If there are community members interested, houses could be built as a community.

Homes on the land could be built in a variety of ways, from conventional homes to alternative methods of construction. Alternative building methods would be encouraged, with methods such as cob, cordwood, strawbale, shipping container, stone, adobe, post and beam, underground, earth-berm, etc being different   possibilities. Building homes with a variety of methods would be a great learning experience for everyone in the community.

Community:

In the ecovillage we envision, there would be at least one community building for gatherings, meals, dinners, etc. Some ideas include a commercial kitchen, bread oven, laundry/shower/washroom facilities, stage, etc. This building could function as a hub for community events and other activities such as canning, food preparation and possibly even a small commercial kitchen to create value-added food products. Again, it would be up to those forming the community to decide.

Environmental sustainability:

One of the principles underlying all activities within the ecovillage would be that of sustainability. Exactly what that would look like would be up to community members to decide.

“Green” and “sustainable” have almost become meaningless buzzwords these days. Essentially what we envision is living more harmoniously with our environment and attempting to minimize the amount of damage we do to it. We understand that our lives will have impact on the environment but it’s not all negative. We strongly believe that agriculture can have a positive effect on our environment. On that note we’re quite interested in the ideas of Joel Salatin and Will Allen.

As mentioned before, livestock and plants would be grown organically. Perhaps organic certification would be something to achieve.

We believe that technology has a valuable part to play in this community. Sustainable ideas will be worked into the community and homes, such as community power systems, solar power, wind power, off-grid, biogas, geothermal, super-insulation, greywater recycling, rainwater collection, composting toilets, permaculture, etc.

Who might be interested?

We believe what we are proposing will have a fairly broad appeal. We don’t have any particular type or age of person who might be interested in participating in an ecovillage, but we believe there are some qualities one should possess before getting involved, or a willingness to work towards. That being said, we don’t think you have to possess all of them. I doubt that we do!

These qualities might include:creating-a-life-together-diana-leafe-christian

  • A willingness to help others
  • Be willing to learn and share your knowledge
  • Wanting to be an active part of a community
  • An interest in organic agriculture
  • A desire to live outside of the city

Moving forward

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please get in touch with us. If you have questions, please ask. If you have suggestions, please let us know.

We have set a goal to move outside of the city in the very near future. It will happen and we are serious about it. We are making it happen and it would be great if we could team up with others who have similar ideas.

And if you are interested in intentional communities, we would encourage you to read the book Creating a Life Together. We have found it very useful in helping us to form our vision of what this intentional community might be.

Alain