The Alternate Community garden, circa 1977. Notice the perfectly formed beds in the back made by a visiting helper from Germany who is the photo. (Dianne Wells photo)
The Alternate Community garden, circa 1977. Notice the perfectly formed beds in the back made by a visiting helper from Germany who is the photo. (Dianne Wells photo)

The Alternate Community garden, circa 1977. Notice the perfectly formed beds in the back made by a visiting helper from Germany who is the photo. (Dianne Wells photo) The Alternate Community garden, circa 1977. Notice the perfectly formed beds in the back made by a visiting helper from Germany who is the photo. (Dianne Wells photo)

Column: Shuswap intentional communities in the 1970s

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

By Jim Cooperman

Contributor

Thousands of young people in North America moved to the country in the late 1960s and the 1970s, with some setting up intentional, cooperative communities, including me.

By the mid-1970s, there were dozens of these communities throughout British Columbia and an organization was formed called the Coalition of Intentional Cooperative Communities (CICC) to share knowledge and build up the movement. Conferences were held quarterly, and a newsletter was distributed after each one.

A contact list in the April 1977 CICC newsletter lists approximately 230 individuals, communities, organizations and businesses throughout the province. There were 14 listed in the Shuswap region, including one in the Salmon River valley, one in Falkland, a few in Grindrod and Enderby and the majority located in the Lumby/Cherryville area.

While in the process of doing the research for this column, it was a delight to discover that I know some of the people that were part of these communities.

One of the best examples of a local intentional community was the Alternate Community near Lumby on Bessette Creek that began when Robin and Ken LeDrew moved to 14 acres and brought some of their artist friends with them from the Vancouver art collective they had been part of in the late 1960s. Robin explains how their community, which was to be based on experimental architecture, went through a number of phases that began with an early dis-organized, anarchistic-like scene with full-moon parties and people living roughly with many hardships.

After spending a year away that included time at a well-organized commune in Florida, they returned with intentions to revamp their community by focusing on more productive and progressive ideals, yet they found their land in disarray, with collapsed domes and the taxes unpaid. The next phase began when Ken returned from Vancouver after taking a course in intentional communities and with him were 30 people eager to begin communal living at the property.

Read more: Column: The magical English Creek landscape and bouldering destination

Read more: Solitary men lived in crude cabins and barely made wages in their quest for the motherlode

The group became a well-organized cooperative, with 2-3 meetings per week, at which decisions were made by consensus. All income was pooled, and they shared three vehicles. A huge garden fed everyone, and businesses were started, including a health food store in Vernon, a publishing company and a tree-planting and cone-picking company. With success came the inevitable problem of land ownership and, when the plan to put the land into a trust with everyone owning shares fell through, people left to become established elsewhere on property they owned or rented.

Some people stayed and others came to experience the next phase based on New Age philosophies that included Gestalt Therapy, dream circles and other alternative lifestyles. Today the property is just another family farm, with only a few of the originals left. In addition to her work as an artist, Robin had a successful career in social work and continues to contribute to the wider Lumby community as the president of the local arts council.

Robin remembers hosting one of the CICC conferences at their farm in 1977 and dealing with the logistics of feeding and housing 50 or more people from around the province for a weekend. She reminisced, “We talked endlessly about progressive ideals and how to change the world, but in the end, the world changed us and change happened anyway.” She also noted the irony of how they had to cope with living in what was then a conservative community, while now cannabis is legal and living close to the land has become more mainstream. However, Robin wished that more young people could have similar opportunities today, as living off the land with others builds character and teaches the values of cooperation.

There are many stories from those idealistic times, with more to come in subsequent columns. Perhaps what is most interesting is how history repeats itself. Many of the early settlers that left the cities in Europe to homestead here over 100 years ago for some of the same reasons that inspired us to move onto the land in the late sixties and seventies. Now there are young people who are once again moving to the land to grow food and share the work and the joy of country living.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Outdoors and Recreation

 

Sue Vignola and Robin LeDrew with their red cabbage harvest, circa 1977. (Dianne Wells photo)

Sue Vignola and Robin LeDrew with their red cabbage harvest, circa 1977. (Dianne Wells photo)

Sue Vignola and Robin LeDrew with their red cabbage harvest, circa 1977. (Dianne Wells photo)

Just Posted

The initial Genesis Community in 1978. (Norbert Maertens photo)
Hidden North Okanagan-Shuswap valley home to a European intentional community

Community members helped resurrect Cherryville’s status as ‘Hammock capital of Canada.’

Rachel Spanier opened her new business, Rikki Lou Who’s Gift Emporium at the corner of Alexander Street and Lakeshore Drive on May 11. Space at the rear of the store is dedicated to her other business, Head Gamez Hair & Company. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Lookie-loos welcome at new downtown Salmon Arm business

Rachel Spanier combines gift emporium and Head Gamez salon at one location

A thief or thieves broke into a kitchen at the grandstands at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds recently, destroying a door apparently with the intention of stealing copper. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Man found sleeping amidst damage on Salmon Arm fairgrounds

Agricultural association dismayed by vandalism, thefts in kitchen, dance studio

Quinn, left, and Adrian Van de Mosselaer are going through UBCO’s nursing program together after Quinn encouraged his brother to go back to school. (UBC Okanagan/Contributed)
UBC Okanagan student transitions from professional hockey to nursing

Adrian Van de Mosselaer credits his younger brother for the push to get him back to learning

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

File photo of osprey. Black Press Media
VIDEO: Livestream of osprey birds and their babies in Kelowna

FortisBC sets up a nest with livestream camera in Kelowna for Ospreys

Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. money laundering inquiry could have lessons for other provinces: lawyer

4 reports concluded the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime and the drug trade impacted the province’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Tinder, an online dating application that allows users to anonymously swipe to like or dislike other’s profiles. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. man granted paternity test to see if Tinder match-up led to a ‘beautiful baby’

The plaintiff is seeking contact with the married woman’s infant who he believes is his child

Susan Larsen, who still lives on her own, celebrates her 100th birthday on May 16, 2021. (Contributed)
99-year-old Vernon woman eagerly awaiting second COVID-19 vaccine

Susan Larsen celebrates her 100th birthday May 16

Nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. (Kareem Elgazzar/AP)
B.C. adults 30+ now eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Health officials made the announcement Wednesday afternoon

Richard Green writes poetry under the nom de plume Rick the Poet Warrior. Homeless, Green sometimes spends his summers in Revelstoke but winters in Victoria, travelling to Ontario to visit his sister whenever he can. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke nomad pens poetry, offers insight into homelessness

Rick the Poet Warrior’s books can be found online as well as at the Revelstoke library

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
B.C. teacher suspended after calling students ‘cutie’ and ‘sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

Most Read