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

Armstrong Regional Co-op board members Brett Kirkpatrick (left) and Robbie Hoyte (right) flank Scott John of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society. The co-op donated $2,500 to the society for its Save the Towne Theatre campaign. (ARC photo)
North Okanagan-Shuswap cooperative contributes to Vernon theatre campaign

Armstrong Regional Co-op kicks in $2,500 for Okanagan Screen Arts Society’s Save the Towne Theatre campaign

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery, scholarship for rescue at Sicamous beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Greyhound Canada announced May 13 it was closing operations permanently after more than a century of operation. (Black Press file photo)
COLUMN: Goodbye to a never forgotten friend

Greyhound bus trips played a big role in columnist’s life

Someone or something is vandalizing birdhouses built and erected along Salmon Arm’s Foreshore Trail, much to the chagrin of a Shuswap biologist who looks after the houses. All but one of 32 along the trail are occupied. (Facebook photo)
Ongoing birdhouse vandalism rocks Shuswap trail, groups

Eight more boxes were destroyed Saturday, May 15

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Brandon Messier of Messier’s Concrete and Landscaping has added some unique, glowing features to his front yard at 28 Huth Ave. (Submitted)
PHOTOS: Glowing boulders popping up in the Okanagan

Local landscaper Brandon Messier also brought the Lost statue to its new home

Coldstream Fire Department is on-scene Sunday, May 16, battling a fire in a Matner Lane orchard just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan fire crew tackles orchard blaze

Fire broke out just before 2 p.m. on Matner Lane, which is just up the hill from the Coldstream firehall on Aberdeen Road

A drug bust on Government Street in Duncan on Tuesday, March 30, led to a "substantial seizure" according to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. (File photo)
Search continues for diver who went missing in Okanagan Lake

Emergency crews continue to search for the 52-year-old who didn’t resurface Saturday

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

A man and woman, both 33 and from Kelowna, were arrested on Postill Lake Forest Service Road in possession of two stolen vehicles Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Kelowna duo arrested with stolen vehicles after ‘brief’ bicycle getaway attempt

A man and a woman were arrested on a forest service road on numerous pending charges

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Most Read