A Village Within a Village
Earthaven is unlike almost every other North American ecovillage I know of, because it’s a village within a village. Our 329-acre property is surrounded by adjacent and nearby neighbors and friends who participate in and contribute to our developing ecovillage life and culture.
I first realized this when I first visited Findhorn, a large, well-known, 60-year-old intentional community and ecovillage in northern Scotland. The early Findhorn community, founded in 1962 in rented trailers on a 15-acre mobile home park, is the original village. Over the years the wider ecovillage developed out beyond its borders as former community members moved nearby and new people moved to the area specifically to contribute to and participate in the new spiritually oriented, ecologically aware culture Findhorn was developing. (Short video of Findhorn Community. )
The original community, the Findhorn Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization (now about 50 members), soon bought the mobile home park, The Park. Approximately 450 Findhorn-affiliated friends and neighbors live in various degrees of proximity to the Foundation, renting mobile homes or bungalows in The Park or living in several adjacent housing developments, including the Field of Dreams project and East Whins Cohousing. Others live in the small fishing village at one end of the peninsula, or in Kinloss, a larger village on the other mainland end of the peninsula, and in the small Scottish city of Forres, three miles away. Another Findhorn Foundation property, Cluny Hill, hosts educational events in a former hotel two miles past Forres. Many of these Findhorn villagers run businesses with a product or service, or a nonprofit with a mission, that resonates closely with the Foundation’s values. These include a wind generator co-op, a dairy co-op, a car co-op, a health food store, a credit union, a Waldorf school, and an Earth-restoration project helping to reforest the Scottish highlands.
While Findhorn had 60 years to develop this way, Earthaven started becoming a village within a village in the last 15 years or so. Members of our ecovillage family include, like Findhorn, former community members who moved next door or nearby, people interested in membership who didn’t end up joining us but still wanted to participate and live nearby, and longtime Scots-Irish neighbors who visit often and share their Southern Appalachian homestead lore. Other village members are visitors, especially people who attended Earthaven’s School of Integrated Living (SOIL) educational programs, like Earthaven Experience Week, so drawn to our values and culture they rent homes onsite or nearby. Many have become dues-paying members of our Earthaven Community Association along with most Earthaven members.
I believe Earthaven is one of the few communities in North America like this. Some former members of Sirius Community in Massachusetts live nearby and attend weekly dinners. But Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri, which is similar to Earthaven in many ways, has no friends living nearby because their neighbors, mostly retired Mennonite dairy and soybean farmers, don’t offer rentals.
Wonderful neighbors in our village family include Leon Birstein and Geni Stephenson, who’ve been integral parts of our lives since our earliest days. Geni brings fresh produce and other homestead products from their organic farm to our weekly Coffee and Trade farmers market, operates a pottery studio some of our members use too, manages five small rental units adjacent to our property for new people considering Earthaven membership, and opens the Zendo on their property for morning and evening meditations. Leon, who built the Zendo and their homestead, runs the farm with another neighbor, Jonathan Greenberg, innovates useful ways to run a homestead (which many of us copy), and serves as an electrical, plumbing, and general homesteading expert for many of us.
Tricia and John Baehr and their children have contributed in numerous ways, John providing physical labor in various community workdays, and Tricia, a superb cook, hosting various village celebrations, catering various celebration events for members, and offering educational cooking and baking classes for kids. Tricia co-produced, hosted, and catered our Forest Garden Party one summer evening, where we wore forest-themed costumes and danced with the fireflies. She also wrote, directed, and produced a wonderful children’s play with Earthaven and neighbor children. Bob Broadhead participates in workdays, manages an onsite trout pond with one of our members, and hosts the coffee bar at the Coffee and Trade, and Seraina Broadhead is a Board Member of Culture’s Edge, Earthaven’s 501(c)3 nonprofit; hosts a study group on eldering for our older folks; and in a widely attended ceremony was inducted as a village “Elder in Training,” to enthusiastic applause and cheers.
Friends and neighbors serve on Earthaven’s committees, serve in community roles or part-time jobs, or offer classes. Allie Bales serves on our Care Team, Alinahh Ever and Chelsea Spitzer are on our Racial Equity Task Group (and Chelsea was a teacher for our youngest children at The Village School). Chris Ehart is barbeque master at our Tuesday night cookouts, Jason Dionne helps on our Council Hall wood furnace crew, Danu Macon served as our Labor Project Coordinator. Arturo Chaves teaches Cumbia, Merengue and other Mexican dances, Kayla Birstein teaches kickboxing, and Michelle Dione taught Middle Eastern dancing in our Council Hall. Jonathan Greenberg and Sarah Nolan-Poupart cover shifts at our onsite farm, and Karen Budd is the SOIL registrar. Other friends provide garden and farm products, delicious snacks, and homemade crafts at our weekly Coffee and Trade farmer’s market or our annual Bizarre Bazaar — Peggy Austin Malone, Otter Kaase, Chrisa Hickey, Alinahh, and Rainbow Teplitsky.
Longtime area residents Alvin Lytle, Thrisa Murphy, and Lois and Reid Murphy, whose Scots-Irish-descended families have lived in our southern Appalachian mountains for generations, have each brought benefits and local wisdom to our village life, and Alvin, a local organic farmer, offers organic farm products at every Coffee and Trade.
Other neighbors who regularly contribute to or have done so in the recent past, and who regularly attend our social events, include Chris Heath, Brent Hickey, Ed Hickey, Linda Bark, Pripo Teplitsky, June Lytle, Rio Fiore, Sarah Anne Amunson, Ben Kassahun, Luke Cannon, Juniper and John O’Dell, Thomas Doochin and his partner Paeonia, Jane Ware and Don Miller, and Faith Butterfield.
We can never forget Randy and Sally Frazer, who lived here long before Earthaven was founded, not only kindly invested in our Earth Shares Fund in our early days to help us get started, and generously gave us a donation too.
We are so lucky. Thank you all so much!