A - Quite often in "green" circles of conversation, the question is often asked, "Is The Farm an Ecovillage?
To the critical eye, the answer may be No. After all, virtually all homes and businesses are connected to the grid. While there are various examples of passive solar design and other forms of alternative construction spread throughout the community, many of the homes and businesses appear to be built with fairly conventional construction methods and materials.
In the paragraphs below, I will explain that while not perfect, the Farm indeed fits all of the criteria of an Ecovillage and then some, with many of its Green attributes not immediately apparent, but embedded into the fabric of the community.
To begin, below is one universally recognized definition of an ecovillage along with a short description of how The Farm fulfills this requirement. However, it is understood that this definition is kept broad in order to include the efforts by many different types of ecovillages, whether they be urban centers or rural enclaves.
Robert Gilman, a recognized expert in sustainability and positive cultural change, lists the following characteristics for an ecovillage:
1. Human scale
It is generally understood that an ecovillage should be small enough that everyone can still know each other.
The Farm's has a 35+ year history of placing a high priority on the importance of family relationships. Our population size allows our residents to develop multiple circles of friends and connections on many different levels. Residents live, work, play and interact with each other on a daily basis.
2. Full featured settlement
The Farm has many of the features of a small town, including its own school, a clinic, its own water system, along with multiple businesses and a wide range of social activities. Farm Midwives deliver our babies. The community also has a cemetery with over 100 plots.
3. Harmlessly integrates human activities into the natural world
Over 1000 acres of The Farm's 1750 acres are kept completely wild and with no development, used primarily for by residents for hiking and horseback riding. All residential areas are merged with the hardwood forests along ridge tops leaving valleys separating neighborhoods undisturbed. Swan Conservation Trust, a nonprofit founded by Farm members in 1994, now owns and manages an additional 1475 acres as a nature preserve surrounding The Farm community . Altogether, The Farm and its extended network currently control over 4000 contiguous acres.
4. Supports healthy human development
From the very beginning, this has been a cornerstone of The Farm's mission as evidenced through the work of Plenty International, our relief and development organization, The Farm Midwives and the work of the Ecovillage Training Center.
5. Can be successfully continued into the indefinite future
We have realized that sustainability is very much about passing on your ideals to subsequent generations. In recent years, The Farm has turned a corner as new, young families build homes and establish a life here, carrying forward the vision started by the original founding members.
6. Has multiple centers of initiative
As described by Diana Christian, author of Finding a Life Together, this term refers to ecovillage members having direct autonomy over the initiation of their home, business, finances and other issues related to their personal life with the community.
Farm members have many ways to be directly involved in expressing their own destiny. We are a mix of collectivity and intense personal freedom.
We'll explore this topic more in future editions, specifically identifying some of the best examples of green living and alternative technology within The Farm Community.
In the meantime, make plans to come see for yourself by attending one of our many workshops or special events.