Alternative Community Potential


EcoVillage evokes alternative community potential

story and photography by Ken Levy

Evolving plans are taking root just outside Garden City, where about three acres of leased farmland will be transformed into the Boise EcoVillage Project. It’s one of the first steps for an organization that’s building a much larger vision of a virtually self-contained alternative community based on caring for the Earth, fellow residents, and fair share.

Project manager Sunny Freeman-Genz says BEP volunteers tilled 1.75 acres of the site in late April and planted cover crops to give the land a fresh start.

Although the current project site is small, organizers hope to grow into another seven acres on the north side of Chinden as the concept catches on. This year, a portion of that land was planted in pumpkins, which sold at an existing produce stand and earned the non-profit about $900 toward its goals.

Partnering with the non-profit Growing Change, BEP will plant 500 trees onsite, mostly apple, cherry, pear, and other fruit trees.

Vegetable gardens will go in next year with tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, squash and other favorites due to pop up.

As envisioned, the site will include an outdoor soils lab in partnership with Boise State University Biology Professor Marie-Anne de Graaff, incorporating student research on four plots of land to explore soil health and restoration. This summer, students did soil samples and learned the ground is lacking somewhat in carbon and nitrogen. Hopefully, cover crops can boost the soil.

Students will be working with wheat and barley cultivars to research how to increase production.

As the EcoVillage project expands, BEP will look at integrating tours, workshops, community festivals, and other “agritourism” activities “to promote participation in the local foods movement, bringing awareness and opportunities to engage the public,” Sunny says.

“We see the Boise EcoVillage Project manifesting as a network of sustainable communities and sustainable projects,” Sunny says.

Benjamin Nelson has been working with Sunny in organizing and networking and in developing the vision, goals, and mission of the Boise EcoVillage Project. That vision includes a self-sustaining community that grows its own food, builds its own homes using natural green techniques and renewable energy sources, and features a community center to host events for a tight-knit group of residents.

“This is an attempt for people who care about the world they live in to create alternatives that are healthier than conventional society,” Nelson said.

Cheryl Mendiola, the project’s soil remediation team leader, is also its eco-weaver. She will work with other local farmers and gardeners to integrate their goods into a localized food hub.

“It’s about connecting with others growing food in the community for more direct farm-to-table situations,” she says.

Sunny says BEP is looking for collaborative relationships as well as interns, investors, and community members willing to get involved.

For details on the project, visit