The town of Craik (population 450) located midway between Regina and Saskatoon wanted to try something to keep their community from disappearing like many other rural towns.
The idea was to encourage environmentally friendly homes on affordable lots with little if any building restrictions.
There are no services to the lots hence the reasonable price and you have to be prepared to be self sufficient.
Some residents think the rather disorganized ragged looking houses are an eyesore for others in the community but the very reasonable construction costs are certainly attractive for first time house owners.
It is obviously not for everyone but I am sure you will enjoy the stories of some people who are living there now.
The project “Craik sustainable living project” started in 2001 as a joint project between the town and the rural municipality had four key activities: eco center, outreach and education, community action and eco-village.
For a relatively small town the enthusiasm of the people has produced a wide variety of small business and industries.
As well as the eco-village, the town has a flax store offering a variety of related products, including flax bales which are also used in the construction of some eco friendly homes.
To encourage tourism there is a multipurpose Eco center, botanical garden, arboretum and xeric garden.
There was also a recent planting of 64,000 fast growing hybrid poplars for an agro-forestry project.
I came across this community project while researching a reference about a biochar plant that was constructed in Craik apparently because of the ecofriendly approach of the community.
The plant built by Titan Clean Energy Projects in 2008 uses waste materials destined for the land fill.
The plant uses 10,000 tons of waste per year and is growing at 35 percent per year.
They sell the biochar for a soil enhancement, dealing with oil spills and water filtration products.
In the future they may look at other products like syngas but for now they are concentrating on producing and marketing biochar products.
There are lots of sceptics especially on the usefulness of biochar as a soil additive but the company is sticking to biochar for the time being and seems to be selling the products being produced.
I am sure there are communities throughout B.C. that could use a similar approach to revitalizing their economies as well as developing industries that could use the abundant fibre sources from forestry in particular but also agriculture and municipal waste.
The recent change in fortunes of the oil and gas industry and the impending impact of the mountain pine beetle on the lumber industry should a wakeup call for all of us that a reliance on one industry is not as safe as one which considers a variety of approaches.
Search for “Craik, Saskatchewan, the little eco-village that could” to see more details on how this bargain price came about.
Jim Hilton is retired professional forester who writes columns for the Williams Lake Tribune/Advisor