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: Flashback to communes in Enderby, Lumby in the ’70s

Columnist Jim Cooperman says living off the land has come around full circle, almost

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 disorganized, 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 two to three 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

Vernon resident David Melanson, 21, left the South Hills Tertiary Psychiatric Centre in Brocklehurst at about 1 a.m. on May 12, the day he was reported missing. (Contributed)
Body of missing Vernon man found in Kamloops Lake

David Melanson, 21, left psychiatric centre around 1 a.m. the day he was reported missing

Canadian author Paul Young, who wrote the critically acclaimed novel, the Shack, will join Vernon-based foundation, the Emily Dahl Foundation, for a Fireside Chat event in June 2021. (YouTube)
Acclaimed author to talk mental health at Vernon event

Paul Young, author of bestselling book The Shack, to join Emily Dahl Foundation for Fireside Chat June 8

Vernon-based artist Patricia Neil Lawton is offering a cash reward to the person who can find her missing painting. (Contributed)
Vernon artist offers cash reward for missing painting

Artist Patricia Neil Lawton missing portrait of Billy Muir after downsizing

Shane Ertmoed (right) is serving a life sentence for killing 10-year-old Heather Thomas on Oct. 1, 2000. (File photos)
Child-killer from Vernon an ‘average’ risk to sexually reoffend: Parole Board

Written reasons behind approval of Shane Ertmoed’s request for escorted absences shared

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn

Your morning start for Friday, May 14, 2021

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Kelowna rain
Kelowna records driest March on record, spells summer trouble for Okanagan

In March, Kelowna received a total of 2.6 mm of precipitation, compared to the monthly average of almost 22 mm

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

Most Read