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A group of local activists plan to build an “EcoVillage,” a sustainable, communal agricultural community just outside the city.
“What we want to create is a sustainability centre, a housing cooperative, for those committed to living as sustainable as possible,” says Dana Hartt of ecoFredericton Sustainable Living Inc. EcoFredericton is a non-profit organization, formed in 2004.
“There’s going to be a housing cooperative for actual residents, who live and work there, but it will be a residential building with classrooms, communal kitchens, and on the grounds we’ll be experimenting with permaculture,” says Hart.
Permaculture is a branch of ecological engineering. It focuses on creating sustainable settlements designed with self-maintained agricultural systems using natural principles.
The building is still in the design stage, but will house between 20 to 30 people. Each person brings with them a set of skills iwith which they can provide for the community, while training others.
“It would entail a farming cooperative, organic farming and sustainable energy systems like solar water heating,” says Hartt.
Nakita Smith, a university student and fundraising co-ordinator for ecoFredericton, saysthe concept took shape after the group was able to negotiate a prospective deal for unused farmland valued at $200,000.
“I want the next generation of children to be truly self-sufficient in every sense of the word,” says Smith.
The group explained plans for the land to the owner and he agreed to lease the land to them at $2,000 a month. What makes the land especially valuable for them is that it’s registered under the Farm Land Identification Program.
The provincial program is designed to subsidize property tax for land used for agricultural pursuits. They hope to pay their bills through the sale of surplus produce.
“It’s cheap and it’s workable, and it’s in the perfect spot,” says Smith.
Arthur Taylor, co-ordinator of ecoFredericton, said the project was inspired by the 1992 philosophical novel “Ishmael,” where a young man learns a new view history through a gorilla who communicates telepathically.
“It inspired me to create a self-education curriculum that looked at the relationships between evolution, colonialism, economics, ecology, psychology.”
He’s built a socioeconomic model by gathering the most ecologically and economically sustainable ideas from a range of cultures throughout history.
“I call the model ecoSystem, as a nod to the Greek word for ‘household,’ the root of both ecology and economics. EcoFredericton’s efforts, like our new ecoVillage project, represent the pilot phase of this initiative.”
The non-profit has a core circle of a half dozen coordinators and a growing Facebook following of over three hundred members.
Support is growing through donations from Capital, Cedar Tree Cafe, Westminster Books, and a dozen local businesses.
The group hopes, through fundraising and matching government grants, to raise the necessary start-up funds.
“Some of the grants are for housing cooperatives, so we will have to incorporate a housing cooperative,” says Hart.
Fundraising will kick off with a Duelling Troubadours Karaoke Contest on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Fusion Night club. The group hopes to kick off their project next planting season. Part of their plan is to have two cars with diesel engines that can run on processed cooking oil. They hope to overcome the distance barrier by car-pooling.
Hart believes the group is on to something.
“We would like this to be an example. This is the way, we believe, people should be living,”