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Publicity still from The Farm
Publicity still from The Farm

In 1991, Robert and Diane Gilman co-authored a seminal study called “Ecovillages and Sustainable Communities” for Gaia Trust. Today, there are ecovillages in over 70 countries on six continents.

Ecovillages (only some of which are off-grid) can be located in urban or rural areas.  They are formed and populated by people who share the environmental and social values of sustainability and low-impact living. According to the Global Ecovillages Network, residents of ecovillages live out these ideals by integrating “aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices….”

Many ecovillages, especially in the industrialized North, are “intentional communities“, where residents seek to align their ecological values with a strong sense of community. One such is The Farm, America’s largest and oldest eco-village.

In his 2006 book , Jonathan Dawson, the former president of the Global Ecovillages Network, lists five ecovillage principles:

1 They are not government-sponsored projects, but grassroots initiatives.

2 Their residents value and practice community living.

3 Their residents are not overly dependent on government, corporate or other centralized sources for water, food, shelter, power and other basic necessities. Rather, they attempt to provide these resources themselves.

4 Their residents have a strong sense of shared values, often characterized in spiritual terms.

5 They often serve as research and demonstration sites, offering educational experiences for others.

Ecovillages projects in Canada include Yarrow Ecovillages, EcoReality Co-op and O.U.R. Ecovillage in British Columbia; La Cite Ecologique de Ham Nord in Quebec; as well as Whole Village in Ontario, the community photographed here. Author of Finding Community, a book about ecovillages, Diana Leafe Christian is also the editor of Ecovillages, a free online publication.

She lives at Earthaven Ecovillage in North Carolina. To learn more, visit her website at

Salt & Earth

WHOLE VILLAGE, a self-described “intentional community,” is located on an 80-hectare farm in Caledon, Ontario, an hour north of Toronto. Some 30 educators, professionals and farmers live in the 11 suites and large common areas comprising Greenhaven, Whole Village’s newly constructed 1400-square-metre, co-operative residence. Ontario’s only ecovillage, Whole Village is its members’ response to a lack of community in our society, and the increasing impoverishment of Ontario’s farmland. Jonathan Taggart lived and worked on the farm for 18 months, while producing his photo-documentary, Salt & Earth. Visit Whole Village’s website at

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the web site

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