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Arterra Bizimodu

Early June 2022 • Navarra, Spain

Arterra Bizimodu was on our radar long ago when we took a virtual tour with the Global Ecovillage network during the peak of Covid times.

They only have open-door days a few times a year, but our friends Eva and Julian were staying there for 8 months as European Solidarity Corps volunteers, and we were able to visit as their guests.

What we knew from the virtual tour was that Arterra is home to the GEN Europe offices. We also learned they were about 40 people, that they were located in an old boarding school, that they had big gardens and made their own beer and bio-gas, they practiced Sociocracy, that they were 9 years old, and they really seemed to have their game together.

Arterra is located in Navarra Spain, which is part of the wider Basque Country. We didn't realize this before! Navarra is much more yellow and much less green than what comes to mind when you think of Pais Basquo, but there were rolling dune-like formations surrounding the wider plateau and a freezing river just down the road to escape the already very hot summer. It was surrounded by wheat fields.

We didn’t get a super clear idea of this community in the 10 days we stayed there, as we were twice-removed as the guests of volunteers, but it was interesting to learn about the ESC (European Solidarity Corps) program and see the possibilities that people come up with for community when they have access to large spaces. As usual (being visitors) we didn't participate in any of their communal meetings, and therefor didn't get a good grasp on how sociocracy is implemented there.

This place was massive, and we didn’t even see all of it during our brief stay. They have several co-working spaces in addition to the living quarters, and there are entire wings of the property still waiting to be renovated once needed. They had several generations living together from brand new babies to elderly locals with mobility needs. To us, 45 people felt rather big. They shared lunches together, took turns cooking them, had a rather big garden system with some sheep, chickens, and a sizable mushroom growing grove on the shaded side of the property. It was mulberry season when we were there, and we helped them prepare their massive swimming pool for the season.

For various reasons, largely due to the landscape of the area, we didn’t feel it was the right fit for us, but it was a pleasure to get to step into their world for a week and a half.

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