The Land Eco Village brings alternative lifestyle to Conway
July 16-22, 2018
By Becca Bona
Inspired by nature
Perched at the top of a hill only ten minutes from Conway’s epicenter, rests the Land Eco Village – Central Arkansas’ newest model for alternative living. After stepping foot onto the property, visitors feel as if they’ve discovered a sanctuary. Not far from the entrance, Samuel C. Pettit III is likely working on one project or another, vying to get ever closer to his dream.
“I’m trying to do ‘all-sustainable, all-at-once’,” he says, looking around the lush, three acres. The Land currently harbors tiny houses, gardens, and a few travelers – among other things.
The first of its kind in Central Arkansas, the Land is more than a quaint stop on Airbnb – it is the beginning of a community. To understand the vision behind the Land, one must first understand a little about Pettit.
Active in various projects in Central Arkansas, he could be considered a jack of all trades. An active yogi and well-versed in acrobatics, Pettit is involved with Arkansas Circus Arts, a North Little Rock-based movement studio which provides an outlet to Central Arkansas’ burgeoning creative community. As an instructor, he’s entrenched in the program, saying, “I’ve been involved with Arkansas Circus Arts from the ground up.”
Since childhood, though, he’s had a deep connection with nature, something he can link back to his upbringing. “I’ve always had a garden. [My] mom made sure that I had access to plants. I developed a green thumb, and have always enjoyed them – they’re almost like people to me.”
Pettit also spent years learning how to build anything and everything from his family’s link to the construction business, and has been involved with designing and building tiny homes through Petite Homes Inc.
Plus, every time he travels, Pettit takes mental notes of the things he sees that push the envelope when it comes to the environment and garnering a community.
“[The Land] is a sort of culmination of people’s stuff that inspired me and I tried to apply myself,” he says.
Finding the land
Everything fell into place for Pettit when he found the acreage that would one day morph into the Land. He was in the market for an abode near Conway, but he knew something was missing in the traditional model. He looked to tiny houses, which offered an economical angle that would provide him the opportunity to combine all the things he loved.
“I’ve been talking about doing something like this since I was 16 and I’m 27 now,” he explains. “I want to live in a tiny home because I didn’t want to pay $230,000 for a house that I’ll likely leave for eight hours a day.”
There was also the natural angle, as he continues, “My passion is the Earth and being a steward of it. That is the purpose of the Land, [to provide] good stewardship to the Earth.”
During his search, he relied on his mom’s help, a real estate agent who eventually found the three acres that Pettit would come to love.
“We were looking for land. I was about to buy a trailer and cut it in half and make it into a tiny house,” he says, laughing. He points to the tidy row of tiny houses, remembering, “[Mom] said, ‘There’s seven buildings on three acres right outside Conway you have to get over here.”
Yet another detail that adds to the quaintness of the Land – the area once served as a seismic testing facility. Reports were sent to NASA, with testing managed by a group at Conway’s Hendrix College. Pettit converted the testing spaces into tiny houses. Consequently, each tiny house is equipped with a cellar space leftover from the facility.
“I converted them into 88 sq. ft. living spaces. I want people to see that there is another way to live that can yield a life of time and low bills,” Pettit explains. “Tiny homes are the way to be free and not trapped in debt enslavement.”
Growing a community
He broke ground in January of 2017, and hasn’t looked back.
The heart of the Land is the ground upon which Pettit’s many projects rest, but the supportive veins are the community that is already growing around it.
He has visions of retreats and events for those interested in yoga, gardening and beyond. During his travels he created a solid network, and has already secured a yoga workshop for late July led by Abigail Herrick, a clinical exercise trainer and registered dietician from St. Louis.
His largest stepping stone to-date, however, is the introduction of a solar powered grid which Pettit secured from a local company – SEAL Energy Solutions.
“There will be 10,000 watts of solar […] and we will be a miniature power plant for green energy,” he says. The goal is to create more energy than the Land uses.
“It’s really not technically ‘eco’ unless we produce,” he explains. “I don’t want to just consume energy, I also want to produce it. I want to use way less than I intake here.”
Pettit hopes to provide a model for those considering an alternative lifestyle – one open to time, freedom, and mindful of the environment. At this point, he chips away at his to-do list everyday – from adding lights and prepping raised garden beds to creating community spaces – to get closer to that goal.
“It’s really starting to have life,” he notes. “I think the idea is making spaces for people to hang out – and – if you make those spaces, people will come.”
As far as Central Arkansas’ response to the Land, Pettit has been impressed with those that have made contributions, as he says they have positively affected the growth. These days he finally has a roommate, like he envisioned, and is also looking to host more people in the future. “I feel like this is the bottom floor – it’s just the beginning,” he says.
Location-wise, Pettit feels that the Land couldn’t really be anywhere else.
“I think Central Arkansas has some really amazing potential […] our population is so low, we have good water and cheap land – we have all this amazing stuff. We’re kind of a well-kept secret.”
And although everything is currently a work-in-progress, Pettit’s vision is solid: “We will be an off-grid, self sustained, organic farm, yoga retreat and community healing center.”
For more information on the community and projects at the Land Eco Village visit: http://thelandecovillage.com/.
PHOTO 1 CAPTION:
Ever thought about living slightly off the grid? Samuel C. Pettit III has and is currently working to make that happen at the Land Eco Village. The three acres perched 10 minutes from Conway harbor his vision of a self-sustained organic farm equipped with tiny houses and a growing community. (Photo by Becca Bona)
ALL OTHER PHOTOS:
(Courtesy of Samuel C. Pettit III)