How to breathe new life into an old apartment complex and transform the parking lot into an edible paradise.
In 2007, Ole and Maitri Ersson bought the run-down Cabana apartment complex downtown and they immediately began removing parking lots to make room for what is now a massive permaculture living space and urban food forest.
Today, the Kailash Ecovillage has 55 residents, all helping to farm on the site where paving, grass, a swimming pool and an overgrown weed field once stood.
What if we forget for a moment the rules …
The community is well prepared for system collapse; they have extensive rainwater collection and storage, an abundance of produce, and they process their own wastewater. Their permitted sanitation project meets international building codes for composting toilets and urine disposal systems and converts their pee and poop into nitrogen and compost.
Here, almost everything is shared. There are two shared electric cars – donated by the Erssons who no longer have their own cars -, shared bicycles (and bike carts), an extensive fruit orchard, berry and grape plantations and a substantial community garden. Photovoltaic panels provide about two-thirds of the energy consumed by the complex.
Neil Robinson is the community’s full-time farmer who has sold thousands of dollars worth of Kailash produce at farmers markets. He moved in here to prepare for the collapse of the system. “I wanted to learn to grow food and then have a system that could intervene. We have water, we have food.
Rents here are lower than the Portland average because the Erssons want Kailash to be accessible to all income levels. There is a waiting list of 300 people, but Ole hopes others will follow their lead.
“If you look at it from an economic perspective, no company would want a complex landscape like this because it requires way too much maintenance, but what you have to do is turn the maintenance over to the residents, and then they do it: they get to enjoy it; it’s an antidepressant; it’s a way to create food; it’s a way to create a community; so you have to do it in a way, but it’s certainly a lot more work than the typical grass and shrub landscape.”
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