Every once in a while, one finds themselves in a place and time that seems to be a perfect fit. More often than not, this sort of match seems to come about by pure chance. It has happened a lot this trip; randomly running into strangers who soon become friends, stumbling upon places that seem unremarkable but with closer inspection become spectacular, and arriving at a place expecting something quite normal and ordinary but instead finding something truly incredible. Echo Valley Farm, a quiet and happy little place nestled in the Driftless Mountains in Southeastern Wisconsin fits all of these bills.
We arrived at the farm with the intent of finding a place where we could stop traveling for a few days, capture some footage of us working the soil of America, and, frankly, recompose ourselves before the metropolitan blur that is the East coast. With the help of WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), we also had the fortune of exchanging labor for room and board. What we found was not just a simple exchange of manual labor for food and a bed. Though that was indeed a part of it, we found much more at Echo Valley.
What we somewhat stumbled into at Echo Valley turned into all three of us greatly furthering our understanding of community, sustainability, lifestyle, and happiness. The farm is a twelve year old “experiment” in the way of living life close to the earth much like indigenous people always have, without much dependence on government or globalized markets, in harmony with the plants and animals living on the farm, and, perhaps the most importantly, as a strong community that advocates cooperation rather than competition. The farm, which consists of roughly two hundred acres across three parcels of land, consists of upwards of five gardens, a vast orchard, hay fields, a concert stage, teaching spaces, a vast number of log, timber, and cob cabins, and more chickens, goats, sheep, mules, cats, dogs, turkeys, and guinea fowl than are worth counting (for they’ve all seem to haven grown in number the five short days we’ve been here).
The message that Echo Valley promotes is an overarching, powerful statement that existing with peace towards all living things, we can rediscover the way of life that many have forgotten, and that by living in this way we can reduce our impact on the earth and let others in the future enjoy its splendor. And the lesson is strong. Though we only spent a short time here in the scope of our trip so far, we gained much insight into such ways of living. The work we did, though physically challenging at times, was a pleasure to do knowing that we were helping such a positive cause.
We’ve spent our time here clearing orchards, re-purposing old barn wood to make compost bins, cutting and splitting firewood, weeding gardens, herding goats, fixing computers, cliff jumping, volunteering at a country fair, feeding the animals, and – of course – eating and sleeping very, very well. Parking the bikes for a handful of days and trading travel for life in its purest form has been a nice change of pace and a much needed time to reflect and meditate on the experiences we’ve had thus far.
Check out the site and their mission here: http://www.echovalleyhope.org/. To our friends at Echo Valley, it was truly a pleasure spending time with you. We hope to see you all again soon.