What are dreams made of? They are different for everyone, but there are a number of folks in the Sooke area whose dreams are the same.
They want to create an ecovillage on 153 acres of farm land lying along Helgeson Road. The land is a pleasant mix of pasture and forest fed by DeMamiel Creek.
Their vision, still in the formative stages, includes a working farm, workshops, a large communal kitchen, 10 sustainably built homes, apprenticeships, and food processing.
“We’re still making a lot of decisions, there are a lot of different possibilities with a strong emphasis on community and cooperation. We want to create a cooperative,” said Village Farm spokesperson Susan Nelson. “We want a lot of integration into the community.”
An ecovillage is defined as an intentional community with a goal of becoming more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. The 18 active members involved are united by shared ideals. Other people will become shareholders in a producer/user co-op to have access to land and facilities. The land was bought by the Sooke Region Farmland Trust and the ownership will remain with the non-profit trust, the farm will be run by the Sooke EcoVillage Farm Co-op (a.k.a. the Village Farm). The group is made up of architects, builders, electricians, writers, artists and farmers aged between four and 88-years-of-age.
Nelson said they have an accepted offer and down payment for the old Wright farm property and have until April 1 to come up with the $1.6-million needed to purchase the land.
“We have until April 1 to make sure we have enough support and finances to move forward,” said Nelson.
The Village Farm folk are looking for ideas from the community. They don’t want the farm to be isolated and set apart from the rest of the community, they want people to participate, not just purchase produce.
Nelson said it was not going to be a commune, but a working farm to produce food locally. Education will be a big component of the Village Farm, and they see endless possibilities — local food cafe, farm stay B&B, space for meetings and garden plots. Of the land, 133 acres are in the ALR and 20 acres are zoned RU2. On those 20 acres they hope to build four homes with four suites.
“Creating something together is a big aspect and what we are creating is an important thing,” Nelson stated.
Nelson said the United Nations has recognized ecovillages as important aspects of creating a way of life that is sustainable.
“The food production and farming aspect is really important.”
Sooke was chosen as a place to initiate this project because as Nelson said, “It’s a great place! Many of us that are interested came together living here. There is lots of openness to creative ways of dealing with issues regarding farming. It’s the pioneer spirit.”
Nelson went on to say family farms are not happening anymore, and this was a way to divide the work. She said the land is perfect as it is within walking distance in a small town.
“It can become a part of the fabric of the community. It’s a chance and it will need a lot of support. It’s a great adventure and having participation makes it really alive.”
Ecovillages are not a new concept. There is an ecovillage, O.U.R. Ecovillage, in Shawnigan Lake which operates on 25 acres. Today there are ecovillages in over 70 countries. The Harbourside Senior Co-housing in Sooke is another group that is bringing people together in a co-operative housing situation at the Sooke Ocean Resort property on Horne Road.
The Village Farm folk have a number of upcoming events where they will spread the idea of their ecovillage farm. They will speak at the Awareness Film Night on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at EMCS, and at Seedy Saturday on Feb. 23.
They are looking for input and donations from the community and a few orientation/open houses are planned for people who want to know more. Suggestion boxes will begin appearing in select spots in Sooke.
Susan Nelson can be contacted at 250-642-1714 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. A blog is at: http:villagefarmblog.wordpress.com.