Flag #2: Arizona
Location: Avalon Gardens & Eco Village in Tumacacori, Arizona
Names: Delevan Dell Erba, Amadon Dell Erba, and GenaVein
Text: by Nicole Davis
The way to Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage, one of the largest EcoVillages in the United States, sounds like the beginning of a fairytale—you must drive over a river and through the woods to reach the gates that open onto “Father’s Lane”—a dirt road lined with tall Arizona Cyprus trees and bordered by open pastures, all miraculously verdant in the otherwise desert region of southern Arizona.
“We are a collective of kindred spirits united by a common vision. Being a spiritual intentional community as well as an EcoVillage, our efforts to live in harmony with nature are rooted in our spiritual walk and recognition of the interconnectedness of all life.”
The mission of Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage is clearly stated, and when you walk through the 165 acres of land that hold and sustain the farmland and the village of community members, you can see that their vision has boldly taken root and is thriving.
Within the 165 acres there are 103 resident members that range from infant to elder, living within building structures that vary from a 1920’s adobe home (that was built more than 70 years before the community acquired the land but which has been greatly remodeled and fitted with solar panels) to hand-built whimsical and green sandbag structures designed and constructed by the Avalon community members through their own construction company called Earth Harmony Builders. All the housing structures have been built or retrofitted to align with the most sustainable design practices available today.
“Our goal is to become increasingly self-sustaining. We incorporate modern, cutting-edge technologies with sustainable practices that have been in use for thousands of years around the world, many of which have been abandoned by the unrealistic consumer society we live in today in America,” said Amadon Dell Erba.
Permaculture, which stands for “permanent culture”, was founded in the 1970s on that same principal of combining ancient technology with modern-day advancements in the areas of design and agriculture to create a lifestyle and culture for humanity that would become innately sustainable—or “permanent”—instead of today’s common practices, which are both destructive and reductive to other species and ecosystems.
Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage operates on those same principles and employs the wisdom of permaculture and sustainability to every aspect of life within Avalon and beyond.
Upon my visit to Avalon Gardens my tour guides were the dynamic siblings Amadon Dell Erba and DeleVan Dell Erba, the son and daughter of the original founding members of the community of Avalon back in 1989.
As we walked along, I had a pen and paper in hand and began to list all the features I came to see with my own eyes: grey water recycling systems; rain catchment tanks; a 3-acre permaculture food forest; a permaculture fish cultivation pond; solar power; wind power; compost and recycling programs; a solar oven; onsite schools for the children of each age group; an onsite Equine Therapy program; an amphitheater; free-range chickens for eggs; free-roaming goats for milk and cheese; grass-fed beef. They even had come up with a clever way to keep the shower house of one of their residence buildings warm by creating a greenhouse garden in the foyer.
When we toured the buildings, I could see the care and pride that was taken in creating each design. The intricate details and handmade decorative forms blended with the careful calculations that went into creating buildings of the highest eco-consciousness. The building for the elders on the property was outfitted with special safety and comfort features, like wider shorter steps, hand rails, special showers, and ample sun porches and sun decks to provide extra warmth during southern Arizona’s short-lived winters.
By noon we all sat down to lunch, and I was able to meet some of the members of the community. The food was so incredible that I could barely focus on meeting new people. They had laid out a spread of fresh vegetables and salad from their gardens, with homemade pita bread straight from their handmade adobe oven, hot hearty vegetarian soups, and the best baba ghanoush I have ever had.
What I found most unique and impressive about Avalon is their commitment to activism and in being involved in the world through a number of varied services and programs they offer to the public along with for-profit and nonprofit businesses they have created.
Some of these businesses and services include a nonprofit state-licensed Hospice Care staffed by the community’s resident psychologist, doctor, and several nurses whom are all ordained ministers and all volunteers. (The hospice also has paid outside employees and the service is covered by Medicare insurance.) They also have a farm co-op initiative that provides fresh organic produce grown at Avalon to neighboring families and communities in an area where organic produce is hard to come by. The younger tech-savvy members of the Avalon community work at Global Change Multi-Media Productions, a graphic design, web design, and marketing company founded by Gabriel of Urantia with the vision to help people get their positive ideas to the world. They also have a Spirit Steps Tours company that does eco-friendly tours in both Sedona and Tubac, Arizona, an art gallery, and a publication called the “Alternative Voice”, which—much like Red Flag Magazine—reports on ways we can shift to a more sustainable way of seeing and being in the world. They are currently working on expanding into Tucson where they plan on establishing a raw food and vegetarian restaurant, called Food For Ascension Café, a center for the arts and live music performance venue, called The Sea Of Glass, and a yoga and wellness space in the bustling college neighborhood that runs along 4th Avenue.
Most intentional communities and Eco Villages carve out a little space of Eden for themselves, away from the bustle of the world at large, and tend to become sustainable so they don’t have to interact with society. At Avalon they are fully sustainable and could easily keep to themselves but have chosen to engage with the world and offer a living example of a sustainable way of life.
For additional information you can visit their website: http://avalongardens.org/
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