In Effingham County, Georgia, Michael Maddox hopes to turn his family farm into a model of sustainability, in keeping with his “Think Globally, Act Locally” philosophy.
Michael Maddox has been reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS since he was in high school, and has always wanted the lifestyle described in its pages. Now in his 60s, he’s reached a point where not only can he bring that dream to fruition, but he can also share it with others.
His strong desire to “think globally, act locally” is why he decided to subdivide part of the farm that’s been in his family since 1798. He received approval for his subdivision from the county zoning commission in 2008, and soon began selling 1.2- to 1.6-acre plots on 25 wooded acres in Effingham County, Georgia. Unlike many subdivisions where McMansions are the prevailing aesthetic, Green Bridge Farm sets maximum square footage and heights, and requires that 90 percent of each site remains wooded. The subdivision has an organic farm at its center.
“I had a career as a landscape supervisor for the city of Savannah,” Maddox says. “I’d been working on this farm as a side project for several years, and creating this community was always a back-burner project. My wife, Annette, and I want our place to become an experimental station for sustainability, and eventually we want to create an educational center to help spread the word in this part of the country.”
A 4-acre community space in the center of the neighborhood features organic fruit trees and a large market garden, cultivated using biointensive methods. The garden overflows with vegetables Maddox sells at the local farmers market and through a “pick and pay” system on the farm. Part of the labor is compensated through a barter system: one hour of labor for a $15 box of produce.
Aside from house size, covenants include a ban on overhead outdoor lighting and chain-link fencing, and an agreement that residents will use geothermal heating and cooling systems. Earthcraft or LEED certification for the homes is also encouraged, though not mandatory.
One of the first to buy a lot at Green Bridge Farm was Charles Davis, president of Earth Comfort, a company that specializes in geothermal systems and shallow irrigation water wells. Davis’ net-zero-energy home is a prefab design from Warren Buffet’s Clayton Homes, and features solar photovoltaic roof panels that generate energy for both the home and Davis’ Chevy Volt. Green Bridge’s covenants make it a perfect location for tiny homes and small modular homes like Davis’, which would have trouble in traditional subdivisions that often don’t allow small dwellings.
Julian Urdaz and his wife, Sheena, met Maddox at his booth at the local farmers market and accepted his invitation to visit the farm. They’re now the community’s newest residents, renting a large yurt on the farm while they save to buy a lot and build a home. Having grown up in New York City, Urdaz says the idea that they’ll be living in such close proximity to several neighbors is fine with him. The difference is that the neighborly focus on sustainability at Green Bridge Farm inspires him.
“Working out here has given me a good sense of what it takes to make great food and community happen,” he says. “We moved to the South to get away from overpopulation and to find a place where we could grow our food and give our daughter a more free lifestyle. The community is in its early stages, but it’s peaceful, serene and clean here. I love to bring old neighbors from the city out because it’s a whole new world for them. It takes work to change our lives, but it’s actually easier than most people think.”
Want to learn more about our 2015 Homestead Hamlets? Read Joining Forces for More Sustainable Communities to learn more.
K.C. Compton is senior editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and formerly was Editor in Chief of our sister publications, The Herb Companion and GRIT. A huge fan of the food chain, from molecules to meals on the table, K.C. is passionate about the idea that most of what we need to be healthy can be found in the garden.