12 Great Places: Fairfield, Iowa

Don’t overlook Fairfield, Iowa — this small town has thrived since embracing sustainability and adopting ancient Indian principles.

  • Fairfield Iowa - little girl painting
    Art is a local passion in Fairfield, Iowa.
    Photo by Stacey Hurlin/Fairfiled, Iowa

  • Fairfield Iowa - little girl painting

Your image of southeast Iowa probably doesn’t include the world’s premier ayurvedic health spa, more restaurants per capita than San Francisco or 25 art galleries on the downtown square, but these are just some of the many features of Fairfield, Iowa, a surprisingly sustainable and cosmopolitan town.

Since 1971, Fairfield has been home to Maharishi University of Management, founded by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. What began as an effort to teach India’s ancient principles of health and peace to Americans has spread into many aspects of life in the community. Fairfield hosts an Eco-Fair every year, and has the most homes with solar energy or other green building features in Iowa. The county has the most acres of organic cultivation in the state. It also has earned praise for its entrepreneurial spirit — many small businesses thrive there.

Two miles north of Fairfield is Maharishi Vedic City, where all homes are designed and built according to the principles of ayurvedic architecture, in which each building faces east and has a central silent space called a Brahmasthan and a golden roof ornament called a kalash. The sale of nonorganic food is banned in the city, and construction recently began on what will be 100 acres of greenhouses powered by wind and solar energy for the year-round production of organic food.

Do you live in Fairfield? Have you visited? Please post your comments below.

Fairfield, Iowa

Population: 9,459
County: Jefferson
Climate: hot summers; cold winters; rainy springs
Cost of living index: 79.7
Median home price: $96,200
Alternative energy: net metering and renewable energy incentives
Don’t miss: Maharishi University’s golden domes

1/6/2011 9:58:59 PM

I am sorry that John_5 had a bad experience visiting Vedic City. As for the "Us/Them" thing, I have a foot in both camps. My family settled in the county in the 1800's so I can be considered a "local". However, I also learned to meditate and most of my friends there are meditators. That said, there are degrees of belief. In general, the people in Vedic City are at the high end of that scale. I am probably at the low end. As most people would be, they probably were creeped out by your group staring at their houses and pointing as you walked through their private neighborhood. It is where their families live. It is not a theme park. It is too bad though that they didn't take the opportunity to educate/explain to you their beliefs. To be fair, I don't know what you were doing to draw their attention or what your reaction was when you were approached. However, I have been to Vedic City numerous times. I know no one who lives there and no one has ever challenged my right to be there.

11/29/2008 4:31:28 PM

My view on Fairfield is from 19 years of residing in this town. Fairfield is a nice quiet town. There has been some mention that when MIU(MUM) came, that there were some that basically divided the town into US and THEM. Personally, I have not had any bad problems with anyone in the entire town. There are, however, some BAD apples in the cart. Some of the views have been forced on the town of Fairfield. Take for instance the attempt to take over a certain farm northwest of Fairfield and conveniently located between Fairfield and Vedic City. Then, if you are not part of the college or the beliefs of the culture, you will not be able to go to Vedic City. I, at one time, was taking my kids on a small field trip to Vedic City, and was basically escorted that I could NOT come into the property. To me that is equality divided. My kids didn't understand. So, personally, yes I am part of the US/THEM crowd.

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