How Cliff and Patricia Became Co-Founders of Vegan Utopia Ecovillage

Can you believe that our history goes all the way back to 1975, when I was 21 and Cliff was 31?

Cliff and I were newly married. Invited by Cliff’s friends to help with starting their blueberry farm, we moved from San Diego to Arkansas. During that first year we discovered that there was a movement of Intentional Communities happening.  We decided that we wanted to start such a community.

Since that time, we have dreamed of owning land so we could create our own community. However, we always lived very simply and didn’t see the possibility of making a land payment. But during our fifteen year marriage, we were always facilitating gatherings that helped people draw closer and have a sense of community. I loved how we worked together so harmoniously in that effort.

Because of my weaknesses and addictions, I ended the marriage with Cliff. That is another story. Let me just say that even though our marriage ended, our friendship and desire for creating community never ended.

Years after our divorce, we visited a number of communities and were disappointed by all of them! I lived in a community and got a crash course in the light and shadow of community living.  I continued to visit and research communities after my disappointing experience. I even tried to create community on other people’s land with their permission. But nothing ever worked out. However, we continued to learn!

In 2002, a series of what I believe are miraculous events made it possible for Cliff, Robert (who was my husband at the time) and I to finally buy land. We bought the land together, and Robert was on board with creating community. (Robert and I divorced about 10 years later, and he wants to sell his part of the land to the Ecovillage. We are still good friends.)

After I went on a tour of Christian communities in 2013, I came back broken hearted. None of the communities I visited had met my expectations. I had hoped I would find such a wonderful community that my whole family would be willing to move.  In the midst of my grieving, I asked my family–Cliff, Robert, Maud and Chris–if they would be willing to become a community. And they agreed! For a year or so, we met weekly, and worked to create more of a sense of community among ourselves. Learn more about this phase of our lives here. 

For various reasons, we dissolved this effort. We all still spent holidays together and connected on birthdays, but Chris and Maud were starting to become more involved with a youth group. Courtships with their future spouses were starting to blossom.

I ended up traveling to the Bay Area where I realized that my main passion was to be an animal rights activist. I met a friend who wanted to fund the vegan community that I envisioned–at that time I called it Jesus Vegans Ecovillage.

Cliff, Scott (who is now on the mission circle)  and I met weekly to help get this new effort off the ground. Even though neither of them called themselves Christians, they were so supportive and encouraging. Scott encouraged us to hire Diana Leaf Christianson to coach us and that was invaluable.

A series of events occurred where Scott, Cliff and I stopped meeting. I was feeling discouraged about community, especially since the vegan Christians I hoped to attract all felt so at odds with my beliefs about what the Bible teaches. I continued to study deeply the teachings of the early Christians, the church fathers, and the Bible itself and keep coming to the same conclusions which lead me to want to create a community where people of all faiths or even no faith–could co-exist harmoniously.

I decided to rename the community, Vegan Utopia Ecovillage. Cliff liked that name since he is very much into having an interfaith community. He expressed interest in once again helping to get the community off the ground.

In December of 2018, I asked him to become co-founder of the community. He agreed. Soon after that, with the suggestion of Rob McNeil and another friend, we formed the “Mission Circle” which is similar to a board of directors.

Scott Master, Rob McNeil, Cliff and I are using the principles and patterns of Sociocracy 3.0 to guide the creation of our governing structure. The purpose of the mission circle is to help our organization stay on track with the vision and mission we have set forth.

Cliff and I have had several long meetings to map out the long term goals and vision, and we meet every day (with just a few exceptions) to talk about Vegan Utopia Ecovillage and encourage each other. We meet every other week with the mission circle.

In 2020, it will be 45 years since Cliff and I first had a dream of creating a community together. The story of our journey with its dramatic twists and turns would make a great movie! The fact that we are still together working on the project is so hopeful. I can envision the end of the movie happening like this:

“Patricia and Cliff Mikkelson achieved their goal which had eluded them for 4 and a half decades–that of building a healthy, thriving community. Vegan Utopia Ecovillage now has 25 members who are working together on every level to create the on-line and on-site learning center and a self-sufficient sustainable physical community where everyone gets to do what they are passionate about.

They feel so satisfied as they see so many people, from 5 to 85 years old–working together happily and harmoniously to grow food, teach people healthy community skills, create a vegan permaculture paradise, have tons of fun, and so much more !

The best feeling of all comes from the fact that everyone is healing their childhood wounds and increasing in fulfilling their potential while working on the larger vision of helping everyone to live in healthy, vegan communities.”

Even if the movie ended now–with Cliff and I leading the way for the beautiful vision of healthy vegan communities to be something easily attainable by anyone–the ending would be happy! The healing that is resulting from doing what Cliff and I have done ever since we met–to work harmoniously together–is so beautiful.

I feel grateful that Cliff and I can continue to keep the vision alive after all these years. Having Scott and Rob working with us is so encouraging to both of us. This is the first time we have found people to show up consistently, be willing to work out conflicts, and share the same values and goals.

Since all we have is the present moment, I do my best to savor the process of the unfoldment of our vision. We who are on the Mission Circle are the Vegan Utopia Ecovillage. We don’t all live together, but our heart connection which is growing, is satisfying the need for loving, healthy community. A growing number of old and new friends are joining this long distance community. We are finding ways to help people feel connected and involved.

At last, my desire for community is being fulfilled!

I resonate with the idea that we as humans share 6 needs which I learned from this article:

  • Contribution
  • Growth,
  • Love and connection
  • Significance
  • Variety
  • Certainty

As we build community, we are fulfilling these needs.

By building as strong community foundation, we will be able to more effectively help everyone–human animals and nonhuman animals– on the planet get their needs meet.

Would you like to join us? Check out the website to find out more about us and how to get involved. You just might be the next person to join our tribe!



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