Kakwa Ecovillage

🕔Apr 07, 2009

Living in the north constantly reminds me how cyclical is nature. As young plants take hold in the warming soil and begin to grow, I am mindful of the golden harvest they will provide as they mature…and my thoughts return to last year’s harvest celebration at Kakwa Ecovillage.

We arrived there on a fresh, crisp autumn morning, scattered leaves crunching underfoot and a light frost teasing the air. It was our first time visiting the Kakwa site 140 kilometres east of Prince George, a drive that took us through the inland rainforest and past the trailhead of the Ancient Forest Trail that meanders through ferns, moss, and 1,500-year-old cedars on the edge of Highway 16.
As we turned onto the Walker Creek Forest Service Road and made our way down winding roads, we felt that we were entering a different world, leaving the industrial north behind. We passed a fairy-tale house, smoke lazily curling out of the chimney, great green plants jutting up from a garden in its final autumn glory. Then we crossed the railway tracks. This historic railway runs along the Fraser River, through ghostly logging and sawmill towns, toward the Rocky Mountains at the Alberta border.

I first met Russ Purvis, the general manager and visionary behind Kakwa Ecovillage, at the Prince George farmers’ market where he sells soft, cozy alpaca-wool socks. He invited us to come out for a gathering to celebrate the harvest and to connect with others interested in the ecovillage concept.

Russ describes how time spent at Findhorn on the east coast of Scotland inspired his vision for this place in the wilderness of British Columbia. In the 1960s, Findhorn emerged out of the vision of a couple of brilliant misfits from the British Isles, and from their early days of caravan beach living and simple organic gardening has grown into an international inspiration and learning centre for sustainable community living. Since then the Global Ecovillage Network has emerged as a uniting force for people wanting to connect with and learn more about this growing movement.

In essence, ecovillages are communities committed to creating a supportive social environment while fostering low-impact lifestyles. The movement’s overarching goal is to reverse destructive environmental practices and the disintegration of social and cultural supports. Across the planet, ecovillages are created by groups of people with a united vision to reconnect to the Earth and to live more sustainably with others in community. In northern BC—and elsewhere in the province—a number of intentional communities with spiritual and environmentally sustainable aims have already taken form.

Friendly characters
This weekend at Kakwa was to be our introduction to the ecovillage movement and how it might look in a northern BC context.

We pulled up to a field outside the main house, and a congenial guy in a woolen hat and baggy clothes came out to invite us in.

“There are some really yummy high-bush cranberry and blueberry muffins,” he told us. Inside, a group of friendly characters of all ages greeted us. A jumble of coats and shoes adorned the foyer by the door, and in the living room were toys and young children playing, worn couches, a table piled high with sustainable-living literature. Flipcharts and maps hung on the walls. Our four-year-old son gravitated to the other children, and I welcomed the warming cup of herbal tea someone put into my hands.

People had come from all over BC for this harvest gathering. Several hailed from the lower mainland and Vancouver Island. One man rode the train from Prince Rupert, getting off at the flag stop down the road. Another had travelled all over the world, visiting other ecovillages as he went, and had come back to Kakwa for his third time. A family had come up from the US and told us they were hoping to stay all winter in the wood-heated log cabin beside the river.

What had attracted these people to this place on the edge of a river in the mountain wilderness of north-central British Columbia? They knew about the ecovillage movement and some had researched intentional communities. What I learned is that they all share a desire to find a different way of living focused on sustainability, stewardship of the earth, and community. Some expressed grave concerns and fears about the direction mainstream society is going, and are seeking a different way of living. They were collectively reaching out for a better dream, a fresh version of reality. It was a powerful feeling to be surrounded by people who share such a unified vision and had followed different paths to this same piece of wildernesss to celebrate the harvest.

Kakwa Ecovillage is indeed an intriguing dream in the making. Russ has lived on the 500-acre property for several years now, and during that time has been constructing and developing an elaborate and sophisticated plan for sustainable community living in the wilderness. When we’d finished our tea, three of us headed down the hill toward the river, past the herd of fluffy alpacas and llamas, the source of the soft wool for socks, mitts, hats, vests and other products already being successfully created and marketed by Russ and his neighbours.

At the bottom of the hill we came to the garden, full of potatoes, beets, carrots, and dill that seemed to grow right up to the sky. “Llama droppings make good fertilizer,” one of my companions explained. We picked some of the dill to cook with salmon for dinner; other salmon would be drizzled with birch syrup tapped by a couple from nearby Hansard.

By the river, the medicinal scent of yarrow wafted through the air. Wild mint grew here too, and there was a cranberry bog just over the hill. The mighty Fraser wound around us, touching the land on three sides as it made its way into the interior plateau from its ice-clad Mount Robson source. The sacred power of the land, river, and plants that grow here are all integral parts of the ecovillage vision.

Kakwa Ecovillage is structured as a cooperative. Once fully subscribed, this cooperative will own the land outright and will collectively develop the vision for its development into the future. The housing area is perched on a hill with a mountain view, and sustainable building practices are encouraged. Although the soil has not yet been broken for the first cooperative home, the dream already resonates through the forest here with a quiet energy and evolving power.

After much socializing and chatting about what concerns and inspires us about the world, we sat down together for a scrumptious community dinner of beet soup, nut loaf, salmon, turkey, pototoes, squash, green salad, fruit pies, and wine. What better way to celebrate than by sharing the harvest with a group of people seeking a better way of being with the earth, our forks clutched through woolen mitts against the stealthy autumn chill, under whispering trees and an orange evening sky.

For more information:
Global Ecovillage Network gen.ecovillage.org
Kakwa Ecovillage www.kakwaecovillage.com