OUTLOOK: Living the village life at the Yarrow Ecovillage

With 31 of 33 units full, only two upper units remain unsold in the co-housing community known as Groundswell.

Yarrow Ecovillage babies Zen and Raquel spent some time together recently at a parents' group get-together. The co-housing community has 31 of its 33 units filled and is looking for last two households to be filled.

They are almost full at the Yarrow Ecovillage in Chilliwack.

With 31 of 33 units spoken for, only two upper duplex units remain unsold in the co-housing community known as Groundswell.

“The real innovation is the people,” said Ecovillage resident Linda Jones. “Everyone is so driven here to live the better life.”

Yarrow Ecovillage is on a 22-acre site on Yarrow Central Road. There are 20 acres of certified organic farm land being cultivated, in addition to the 33 units of multi-generational co-housing built on a smaller parcel.

Jones said she enjoys taking part in Parents’ Group activities with her four-month old daughter Raquel and her neighbours.

They get together monthly to share food, ideas, recipes, and diapers. The best part is Jones said she can walk to her neighbours’ homes, to school and to nearby shops. The most “eco” thing about ecovillage life is being able to walk everywhere, she added.

The homes are strata-type residences and the community has been flourishing in recent years on the western edge of Chilliwack.

Yarrow Ecovillage was actually the first in Canada to see the term “ecovillage” incorporated into a rezoning. Chilliwack council approved the plan to redesignate the zoning at the site from rural residential to the newly established ‘ecovillage zone’ in 2006.

Using the term ‘ecovillage’ underlined the residents’ desire to live sustainably and cooperatively in an intentional community.

The group built a biological waste water treatment system that allows for treatment and reclamation of all their waste water on-site.

They have their own private residences but share amenities like a new common house. The common house is perfect for holding community dinners, housing guests, doing laundry, and much more.

“I fell in love with Yarrow while house-sitting years ago,” Jones said. “But I couldn’t afford to live here because of the land prices. Living at the Ecovillage was the answer.”

The community dinners make life infinitely easier for the mom of three kids.

“We have a community meal set up four nights a week,” said Jones. “It means I don’t have to think about meals, plan them, or clean up after.”

Of course everything is optional.

You can share a meal in the common house — or not. You can socialize — or not.

“I like that you can be as private or as social as you like to be,” she said. “I treasure that.”

For stay-at-home dad Steve Woolf what is inherently different about ecovillage life is the strong emphasis on collaboration and teamwork within the community.

“There’s a security and freedom provided here that you can’t really buy.”

As a family with three kids, they opted to move here from California in part because of how family-friendly life it is at the ecovillage.

“People collaborate in a way I haven’t seen happen outside this community,” Woolf said. “You see it in the business world but the scope here is bigger.

“So instead of it being me and my family against the world, you get a whole group looking out for you.”

For Jones, it’s much appreciated to have so many varied skill sets covered, including growing food.

“As a gardener I love having gardeners living here to share wisdom.”

Woolf agreed there’s lots of knowledge at the Ecovillage to draw on.

“Every topic is covered from babies teething, to planting leeks or building sheds. There’s a collective wisdom you can tap into. If you want to do something, there it is.”

In some ways they are out to recapture everything good about village life as a group.

“This a reflection of how people used to live,” said Kirsten Pudas.

“You know your neighbours and you can rely on each other.

“We’re setting that up again, which is something I think we’ve lost as a society.”

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