Alton farm being groomed as a communal living project
By DAVID CARKHUFF, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ALTON — Nearly 50 acres of farmland here could become home to an "intentional community," a group of people growing their own food and living communally, based on the vision of a retired aeronautics engineer.
On Thursday, the architect of this community welcomes interested people to attend a meeting in Durham to explore the idea.
Peter Ejarque of Durham said he is a retired engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with an interest in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy.
"By trade I'm an aerospace engineer. I used to work for NASA. I've lived in a community before, and I'm really fascinated by this," Ejarque said.
The farm he envisions is called "Sunburst."
"I've had a lot of interest. We've had a lot of people apply already," Ejarque said.
But the idea remains in the planning phase.
"We're still in our infancy. We don't have any buildings up on the farm yet," Ejarque said.
According to his Craigslist ad, "Sunburst is a community with plans to be self-supporting, providing jobs through intense aquaculture, hydroponics, beekeeping, internet business, recumbent-bicycle making, and the production of electric bicycles and trikes. Sunburst is a home for those who share high ideals and who know that tomorrow is built today. We are presently in the formative stages: We now own 50 acres of farmland and are in the process of purchasing another 45 acres on which to build our buildings and residential housing. We are building the relationships and the organizational foundations of a community. We are planning on building a cluster of energy-efficient mini-homes/moveable mini-homes on trailers and developing a conference and education center which will demonstrate conservation of energy resources and sustainable agriculture."
Nic Strong, town planner for Alton, confirmed that Ejarque owns 46 acres on Coffin Brook Road in Alton.
"He did get a building permit to put up a couple of pole type greenhouses for his personal use which have not yet been constructed," Strong reported in an email to the Sun. "The property is located in the Rural District, and Agriculture is a permitted use in that district. Depending on the particular agricultural use that is proposed for a property, it may require a minor site plan with the Planning Board. No applications have been submitted to the Alton Planning Board."
Ejarque explained, "We are presently in the formative stages."
The community could spread out to encompass 140 acres, including the nearly 50 acres of farmland in Alton and 48 acres on Lake Wentworth. Another 46 acres about four miles from the Alton site in Barnstead are owned by a nearby property owner who is interested in Ejarque's vision of building residential housing, also in a communal-living style and possibly as an adjunct to the farm, Ejarque said.
Ejarque explained that he learned about the 46-acre site in Barnstead about four months ago, and this discovery of a potential housing hub ignited his interest in gathering a community of people at Alton to generate food on an educational farm.
"We're trying to get this thing to take off. We're not sure how many members we want to have on the farm, in the community, but we have about 15 people who are really interested," Ejarque said.
Ejarque said he lived in an intentional community in Twin Oaks, Virginia. The key is to find like-minded people who will contribute to the farming and living effort, he said.
"We're trying to provide a place where someone can work in in exchange for free room and board," he said.
Ejarque expects to host monthly meetings, with the idea of screening participants. People who have "tiny homes and/or small homes on trailers" are invited to join the community. Ejarque said he plans to bring in two large greenhouses in the spring. He also envisions two storage containers, electric fencing and a small moat around the greenhouses for irrigation. If the project takes off, the farm could include cutting-edge growing methods and solar power.
Citing experience at NASA with hydroponics, the science of growing plants without soil, Ejarque said his home in Durham features a composting heating system, where woodchips and horse manure organically heat up a system of piping.
Many of these areas of study would be incorporated at Sunburst, according to his Craigslist meeting notice.
"The community house will include a pro-type aquaculture system utilizing fish and vegetables. Also we plan to install an underground thermal storage tank for our compost heating system combined with our solar hot water and rocket stoves. This spring we will be putting up another greenhouse for our hydroponic gardens. In addition we will be building a 'living pond' and constructing two sheds to house our rabbits and chickens," he wrote.
Sunburst is ideal "if somebody wants to quit their dead-end job and come out and live on a farm and come out to a community and support it, build up a farm where you can generate your own money," Ejarque said.
Some of the produce may end up in local grocery stores, based on his early inquiries, he said. The intentional community would not hinge on religious affiliation or any kind of "cult" mentality, Ejarque said.
"We're looking for people with a sense of the future and who have some grand ideas and want to change the world," he said.
For more information about Sunburst, visit the Fellowship for Intentional Community at http://www.ic.org/directory/sunburst-2/.
The meeting in Durham is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12. Anyone interested in attending is asked to make a reservation first via http://nh.craigslist.org/apa/5944425632.html.
Peter Ejarque's house in Durham features renewable energy systems and a spot for his electric car. Ejarque hopes to convert a farm in Alton into an "intentional community," a place for people to live communally and grow food. (Courtesy photo)