In September of 2017, the Buller family visited Whole Village near Caledon, Ontario. I had originally read about it in Finding Community, but hadn’t looked too closely. It came up again when we started googling for other communities in Canada.
This time upon looking closer, the family was very interested. We visited during the community’s September 2017 orientation. We arrived a day beforehand, staying in one of their AirBnBs. In the meantime, before the orientation, we checked out Orangeville and St. Jacobs. We find this area of Ontario just gorgeous. It’s so very different from the Great Plains that both Julia and I have grown up on.
Whole Village is a community with well over a decade of establishment. Their intake process is graduated, and membership has a number of different tiers. For ten dollars a month we became Supporting Members, and are subscribed to their meeting minutes so we can start getting an idea of what is talked about in their meetings.
A lot of thought had been given to this, and I am a fan of intake procedures. A great reason why intake procedures are a good thing is when potential members ask weird questions and current members get a feeling of this person being clingy and high maintenance. An intake procedure screens people and doesn’t destabilize a carefully cultivated equilibrium in a community.
John Gagnon conducted the orientation, giving us a good idea of the community policies, why they do what they do, and their plans for the future. The fact there was an orientation was a plus for me. Seeing the community take steps to bring ecovillage aspirants up to speed is important to me, as it gets people onto the same page as the community quicker, staving off potential conflict. This is particularly helpful if people are visiting and want to get an idea of what the community is all about.
Another feature my family really appreciates is the residential building, also known as ‘Greenhaven’. With about 20,000 square feet subdivided into eleven different suites with anywhere from one to five bedrooms per suite, it affords a great balance between having our own space and shared space. Suites are spread out in multiple wings, and because it’s horizontal development, it doesn’t feel like an apartment either. Laundry is shared, and we don’t have to go outside for it. There is a playroom for kids right next to the kitchen, as well as a play area outside. There is also an office near the kitchen. The dining space is the size of a double-sized yoga room, and there is a separate library. This sort of arrangement changes the carbon footprint of multiple families, severely negating the expenditure. It’s a great blend of the dormitory-style housing found in Twin Oaks and the individual housing of say, Northern Sun Farm.
The big thing about the suites is that there are no ranges for a full stove, rather each has a kitchenette. The builders had to keep it to just one shared kitchen due to zoning restrictions. Already Julia is working out ways of cooking and baking without a full stove and oven. Electric induction elements are one option, and are about $80 at Costco. Tabletop convection ovens are also available for about $150 at Costco. The community runs a CSA farm, and residents buy shares, so there is always organic vegetables to eat.
There are shared meals during the week, giving community members the opportunity to get to know each other. The community asks for 5 to 8 hours of work a week, which is unpaid but includes things like building maintenance, gardening or other responsibilities of home ownership. As a current homeowner, this is exactly the kind of arrangement that I like, as it lets me do work that is appreciated by my neighborhood and benefits more than just me and my family. I’m at a place in my life where I’d rather my work go directly towards my community. Win-win, right?
In addition to Greenhaven is the original farm house where more people stay, as well as campers where people have their own space too.
The property was designed in the beginning by a Masters of Landscape Architecture with permaculture in mind, which is also pretty cool. It gives the layout a very organic feel. The community runs permaculture design courses on their land, which is not only a great method of living their ecological values in the world, but a potential revenue stream for them. A swimming hole can also be found on the property, as well as a fire pit. The land was beautiful and felt spacious, despite having a large facility like Greenhaven on it.
The September visit was a great time for the family, and we are headed there again on April 22, 2018. We will be there for a two week immersion, discovering more about Whole Village, the people that live there, and what life is like for them. I will post another write-up after we get back.
(Edited 4/19/2018 10:43 PM)
View the photo gallery on ecovillages.ca here: