Sometimes It Takes a Village: Natural Awakenings First Annual Sustainable Fall Harvest Festival and Farmer's Market
Samuel Breidenbach is turning his vision of a sustainable eco-village into a reality and sharing it with the public this October with a Natural Awakenings-partnered Fall Festival.
Breidenbach had experienced nothing but success in his life, as he careened through many different careers and made a name for himself in diverse realms. Even with an abundance of monetary possessions and earnest investments, something was missing from his life, and in this unique story, it took dying and coming back to life for him to discover exactly what that was. Sometimes, crisis is exactly what we need to initiate change in our lives, and for Breidenbach, crisis came in the form of a brain tumor. After losing everything he held dear, he departed to South America to visit a friend and ultimately, find a beautiful place to die.
"I went through Western medical science and they couldn’t do anything for me. I went broke paying for all of my medical bills, my wife left me, I lost my house and I was at a major low point,” explains Breidenbach.
“I had nothing to lose, and one of my friends invited me to come down to South America, and I died there. I literally died. My heart stopped for eight minutes and I went over to the other side. I discovered that if I went back to where I was before, I would die because my soul wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I had to do something different. I was told that if I went back and made the changes I was supposed to, I could help a lot of people,” he says.
“When I recovered, my tumor was gone,” says Breidenbach. “So I came back and I closed the businesses that I was running and stopped
everything I was doing and took a couple of years to figure out my next plan. I kept having visions of starting a community or a school, or something of that nature. I was a real estate broker and I’ve always been green, so it all came together after that.”
The product of Breidenbach’s life-changing experience manifested itself in the concept of Tucson Tortolita Eco-Village (TTEV). The idea is simple in execution, but profound in result, as his dream of melding community with sustainable lifestyle could turn out to be the wave of the future. Utilizing green techniques such as permaculture, harvesting sustainable energy, using aquaculture and hydroponics, building natural green houses and maintaining communal agriculture, TTEV is soon to become a collective that embraces the people around it and lives off the land that is surrounds it.
“An eco-village is a community where everything matters–the land, the people, the animals, the environment, the habitat, the type of materials–everything is energy. The eco-village is designed to constantly evolve itself and grow in every way possible, while keeping the central focus on the community itself,” says Breidenbach. “I found in my research that green communities in Arizona are great, but they’re very expensive. You have to have a lot of money to be able to live in a community like that. That is why I want to make it my goal to make
this community affordable, so that the average family here in Tucson can move there for the same price that the average non-green home would be.”
The site of the eco-village is located on a beautiful plot on the west side of town, just miles from I-19 and Ajo Road. While the plans and progress of the community are still under development, Breidenbach’s vision for the land is constantly expanding with every exploration of the property he makes.
"It even has what I call an enchanted forest on the property that in actuality is a Southwest Desert Bosque. The trees are so tall and the plants are so thick I couldn’t even walk through it. I needed a machete just to look around inside. It is at least a couple acres in size. I would love to put a sweat lodge out there or make an area for ceremonies,” says Breidenbach.
“There is also an area for a lake on the property, where construction crews dug up the land to make the highway. They took a lot of dirt and it is just a hole in the ground, but when it rains, it fills up a few feet deep and is a couple acres in diameter. I want to turn this into a lakeside environmental activity park. If we contour the borders of the lake out, it would be able to hold in 50,000 or so gallons of water. We would fill it with fish and foliage that would sustain the environment of it. There’s just so much potential out there,” he says.
To stick with his model of “beyond sustainability,” Breidenbach is utilizing natural ways to construct the houses and structures on the property. Just as many eco-friendly techniques have ancient roots, the practice of making cob houses dates back to the 11th century.
Breidenbach continues, “One of the techniques for building the houses that we are looking at are made with clay, water and straw to form a
substance called cob. This is a cheap and simple to make structures, and they are used all over the world. They make 10-story buildings out of these in Yemen and some of them stay up for hundreds of years. They’re rounded and they fit in with their surroundings. We have all of the materials out on the property to make these houses, so it would be a fast and natural process to do so.”
To promote the community and give Tucsonans a look at the land and the plans for eco-village, Breidenbach has teamed up with Holly Baker, publisher of Natural Awakenings, to create a Fall Festival on the property that will be taking place on October 22 and 23.
“We’re calling it the Natural Awakenings Tucson Sustainable Fall Festival and Farmers’ Market. I tried to come up with an acronym for that, but haven’t had much luck,” says Breidenbach. “Instead of just having a fall festival where you drink cider and pick pumpkins, we wanted to have a gathering that promotes sustainability. We’re bringing in several speakers on topics like growing food in the desert and internal ecology. We’re going to have activities and items from the Tyrannosaurus Rex museum and an area where kids can dig for fossils and take them home for free. We’ll have people selling locally grown food and drinks. We’ll have classes on water harvesting, permaculture, sustainable food and much more. It will really be a great time for everyone.”
Aside from the festival, October is a significant month for Breidenbach, as it is also the month that he is closing on the property for the village. “We should have the property closed on in October, right around the time of the festival. And from that point on, all of the legal stuff will fall into place. We may start taking reservations at the Festival for people who want to join the community. I expect that we will start selling plots in October. We will be breaking ground sometime at the beginning of next year.”
With an almost unbelievable life already behind him and a dream coming to fruition not far ahead of him, Breidenbach utilizes the knowledge he has gained and preservers on his path with wild determination and a jovial outlook that keeps his purpose in perspective.
He states, “I learned when I died that this life really is really just a game. It’s about figuring out the rules–which ones you’re going to accept, which ones you’re going to break and so on, and then you go out and build a team around you and you play. You go after your dreams passionately, and if they fail, you put in another quarter and start over again. I look at every day as another chance and that keeps life amazing and inspiring. We are so lucky to be alive and playing this game.”
The Natural Awakening’s Tucson Fall Harvest Festival & Farmers Market will be held October 22-23. To learn more about Tucson Tortolita Eco-Village, go to www.ttev.org.