Meadowcreek, Inc. was formed in 2006 when The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Wildlife Land Trust deeded approximately 400 acres of land and several buildings located in the Ozark Mountains near Fox, Arkansas, to a newly formed Board of Directors. The new board is presently working to restore the infrastructure of the property in addition to finding suitable programs to fit its goal of making Meadowcreek a viable education, recreation and demonstration center in the Ozark region. During its organizational meetings, the Board developed a mission that will find ways for individuals and families to live and achieve sustainable livelihoods in a land area that promotes the well-being of wildlife and the environment.
Meadowcreek, Inc. inherits almost 30 years of physical structures, discarded dreams and a diverse reputation left by various organizational efforts in the Meadow Creek valley. The genesis of Meadowcreek can be traced back to 1979 when David and Wilson Orr founded an entity known as The Meadowcreek Project. The purpose of the original organization was to create a sustainable village that would draw residents and supporters to a place where the environment, renewable energy, sustainable living and community cooperation defined all aspects of everyday life.
The Meadowcreek Project developed into a significant organization through the 1980′s with a remarkable building phase, exciting programs and innovative projects. Most of the work was funded by gifts and grants drawn to the organization by successful fund raising efforts. By 1990, the buildings included an 18,000 square ft. conference center, two dormitories, seven houses, a wood products shop, maintenance shop and a renovated historic barn. A staff of over 20 people maintained the facilities; fostered the education programs; operated the farm, wood products business and other projects; and, facilitated a position of leadership in the environmental and sustainability movements on a national scale (for more detail on the Meadowcreek Project in 1982, see this story in the Mother Earth News).
Just as happened for many environmental organizations, funding became tight for The Meadowcreek Project after 1990. The founders left the valley and the property and buildings were mortgaged to The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Poteau, Oklahoma. The Kerr center had just been formed to promote a type of agriculture that used methods that strengthened the ability of the land to produce food and fiber while preserving the environment, animal well-being and farm families. In 1993, Meadowcreek was absorbed by The Kerr Center as one of is demonstration programs.
The connection between The Kerr Center and Meadowcreek lasted only two years when the physical distance and continued funding difficulties made the relationship unsustainable. The most positive project of the association was the Russian exchange. Meadowcreek had hosted a group of young people with their sponsors from the Soviet Academy of Sciences in 1988. The following year, a group of Arkansas students accompanied by Meadowcreek staff and friends became the first Americans to spend two weeks in the Soviet Academy of Science town of Puschina, just south of Moscow. The exchanges continued under the leadership of the Kerr Center during the historic shift of the USSR to Russia in the early 1990′s.
The Kerr Center separated Meadowcreek from its operations in 1994 providing funding for one year. The debt from the old Meadowcreek Project days was continued and the physical property remained tied to The Kerr Center.
The Meadowcreek staff worked for almost two years developing projects and resources to keep the enterprise in business. The hope was that people would be drawn to the beauty of the Meadow Creek valley and the various projects that were initiated including renewable energy, organic food production and environmental education. The greatest successes were achieved through the educational programs for young people and adults that involved hands-on learning and experiences.
The Humane Society of the United States held a family camp at Meadowcreek in the summer of 1995. The response was so positive that the HSUS leadership invited Meadowcreek to join its family of organizations as a demonstration of wildlife protection, sustainable agriculture with the humane treatment of farm animals, and environmental protection. During the negotiating process, the Kerr Center and the HSUS agreed to dedicate 1200 acres of Meadowcreek property to preserve habitat for wildlife to be held by the newly formed division, the HSUS Wildlife Land Trust. This agreement erased the debt held by the Kerr Center and set Meadowcreek on a new incarnation under the leadership of the nation’s largest animal protection organization.
Meadowcreek thrived briefly under the mantel of the HSUS. Regional meetings and workshops were held on site and a number of other local, state and national organizations took advantage of the setting. Several of the former staff members remained in the valley and established their own businesses including organic produce sold in a local farmers’ market, free range chickens raised in mobile pens, and wood products crafted in the wood shop. Slowly, people left the valley, sometimes to buy their own farms and/or to transfer their production to other locations.
Maintenance of the extensive infrastructure at Meadowcreek has always been a large expense in proportion to income. Gradually over the years the original structures built in the 1980′s began to show their age. While an extensive effort was made to keep them functional, the resources were not available for major renovations. The plans to make Meadowcreek a meeting place on a national scale were discouraged by rising fuel costs.
The HSUS decided to separate a portion of Meadowcreek in 2006 as a part of a consolidation process. The buildings and approximately 400 acres including the farm ground were transferred to Meadowcreek Inc. while the HSUS Wildlife Land Trust continued to manage the 1200-acre preserve. The new board included four members from the surrounding area as a way to tie the organization to the local community.
As a way to keep Meadowcreek a viable organization, the board decided to lease the land and the facilities to individuals and families who wanted to achieve sustainable livelihoods in a remote and natural setting. The Board of Directors also began to search for projects that would provide both the education and resources to serve people in the local region.
Meadowcreek has survived almost 30 years of various projects, managers, residents, and dreams. All the people who ever lived, worked or just visited Meadowcreek at any time in its existence carry their own memories, stories, and theories about what has worked and what hasn’t. It is a remarkable story filled with all the traumas and joys that can be expected from such a unique place and diverse cast of participants.
The best part of the entire experience is that the Meadowcreek valley continues to be a place of great beauty and interest. Over thirty years, the land area has become a prime habitat for a wide variety of creatures including just a few humans. All 1600 acres are protected by restricted easements that will preserve this incredible place for many generations to come.
The Meadowcreek story will continue with new projects, people and dreams in the future. In 2008, the HSUS Wildlife Land Trust will transfer the remainder of the property to Meadowcreek, Inc. meaning that, once again, its 1600 acres will be under its own management and free of debt. There are several opportunities on the horizon that will regenerate human presence in the valley. In the meantime, the other creatures will continue to enjoy their home, as they always have.