We had heard of Growing Power for years, but we managed to tour it only months before it went out of business.
The Farm is legendary as one of the hippie communes founded during the Back to the Land movement. It's no longer a commune, but it is one of the longest-lasting intentional communities in the country. We stayed a night in their Ecovillage Training Center, which was not otherwise in use at the time.
See an album of photos of our visit to the Farm.
When I was visiting ecovillages in 2004-05, lots of people told me I should make a point to visit Earthaven. However, it's up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I was traveling by bicycle, so I didn't go. We got the chance to return by car in July, 2012.
See an album of photos from our visit to Earthaven.
Sandhill Farm is notable for being one of the longest lasting communes in the US, and for being one of the top producers of sorghum syrup in the Midwest. I stayed there for a few days in 2004 and helped with the sorghum harvest; then stopped by again in 2007 with a tour group from Fairfield.
See an album of photos of my visits to Sandhill Farm.
Lonnie Gamble bought Surya Nagar Farm (Sanskrit for "home of the sun") in an off-grid development outside Fairfield in about 1994. By the time I saw it in 2004, he and his wife Valerie had built two strawbale houses and a hoop house on the property; by the time he sold it around 2015, there was also a strawbale barn that he used as a shop, office, and classroom. Lonnie's style of year-round gardening in an unheated hoop house was heavily influenced by Eliot Coleman, and he and Valerie named their son Eliot. Lonnie was one of my biggest inspirations in learning and teaching permaculture.
Abundance Ecovillage is a housing development outside Fairfield, Iowa. When I first visited Fairfield in 2004, there was only one house completed at the ecovillage, and another under construction. Since then it has grown into a community of dozens of houses; some are strawbale, some cob or other green building materials, and others are made of conventional materials but built to be super-efficient. In 2010 when I got my permaculture design certification, part of the ecovillage's land had been transferred to the Sustainable Living Coalition (SLC) and part to private ownership.
I've visited Dancing Rabbit half a dozen times since 2004.
View an album of photos from my visits to the ecovillage.
Dreamtime Village is an aspiring ecovillage in the unincorporated town of West Lima, WI. The former school and a number of surrounding buildings were purchased at auction by a community of artists from nearby Madison, and they proceeded to decorate the buildings without first evaluating them for structural integrity or safety. When asbestos was found in the school a few months later, they had to abandon the building, and when I visited in 2004 it was being reclaimed by nature, murals and school buses and all. I didn't take nearly enough photos.
Keynote: "What can one person do? The perspective of a long-time activist" by Denise O'Brien, Atlantic, Iowa
- (ran for Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2007?)
- Why farm? for family, for physical activity and connection to nature. Also to set a good example, amid ample bad examples.
- Distinguish between agribusiness and agriculture, because agribusiness gives nothing back to the ecology or culture, but real farmers participate in the community.
- Finding a niche market for organic products is crucial.