The pristine, idealistic picture of America painted by songs like ‘America the Beautiful’ and in classic artwork is far different than what’s been playing out in its heartland in recent years. Chemicalized, greed-fueled farming systems have taken their toll on the landscape and all of its inhabitants ranging from birds to bees, monarch butterflies to people.
In response to the agrochemical giants overstepping their bounds, organic farming in America has been on the comeback trail, but did you know that one city in America’s bread basket has been on the organic train since its inception over 13 years ago?
America’s First True “Organic City” Takes Root
The organic haven in question is Maharishi Vedic City, located in the southeast part of the state of Iowa, just over 60 miles south of Iowa City. Maharishi Vedic City was officially incorporated on July 21, 2001, and became the first new city to be created in Iowa since 1982.
The end result was something entirely different, and something that hasn’t been re-created since — a veritable “organic city” where the sale of non-organic food was actually banned within its borders in November 2002 after the passing of a city council ordinance.
These days Maharishi Vedic City, named after the well known Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who spent time with John Lennon, Paul McCartney and the rest of the Beatles, enjoys a thriving tourism industry, welcoming several thousand visitors per year and offering tours to the public since 2003.
The city was even the subject of a TV show titled “America’s Most Unusual Town” which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network in March 2012 and included Winfrey’s visit to both the city and nearby Fairfield (where many of the city’s new residents came from, and also a city where holistic living and transcendental meditation are popular).
Among the most popular tourist attractions in America’s Organic City are:
-The Pandit Campus, where nearly 1,000 Indian pandits (Vedic scholars) “help to create peace and harmony in the world (according to the city’s website)”
-The Vedic Observatory with architecture reminiscent of ancient cultures from every part of the world
-The Rukmapura Hotel, a large, classic log-built structure
–Eco Village, where all of the homes are eco-friendly and use solar and wind power
–The Campus of the Maharishi University of Management including the Golden Domes, where large-scale, daily transcendental meditation is popular.
Beyond meditation and a natural way of life including a focus on Ayurvedic healing techniques, organic food is a necessity: the city even promotes its own organic food products on its website, and in April 2005 the city council voted to ban the use of all synthetic pesticides and fertilizers within city limits, making it the first all-organic city in the country.
All-Organic, But Not Exactly the Biggest City in the World
Although the ideals of the city are exciting and tourism is popular, Maharishi Vedic City is not exactly New York, with just 259 people counted as of the 2010 Census, which originally excluded the pandit campus dwellers.
A correction was then made later to add these additional residents, bringing the overall population count to 1,294.
According to a recent report on the TV show ‘Extreme Towns (see video below),’ it is believed to be the fastest-growing city in Iowa, however.
Altogether, the city covers 3.36 square miles, making the most of the land it has by placing a special emphasis on balancing soil minerals and quality using biodynamic farming practices to maximize yields and to produce the most flavorful and nutritious food possible.
The Maharishi Vedic City Organic Farm, which is officially based in neighboring Fairfield, features 80,000-plus square foot greenhouses applying these “beyond organic” techniques for food production.
While the city features many concepts that may be described as “new age,” the city is actually based strongly on Vedic history (a precursor to the modern Hinduism lifestyle).
The city also features an enchanting throwback to ancient living and exploration at the Vedic Observatory.
“The Maharishi Vedic Observatory is a two-acre, open-air observatory built according to the principles of the ancient observatories that were once built around the world,” said Observatory builder Tim Fitz Randolph to the city’s website.
“It is unique in the world for its ability to display in one compact form the whole structure of the universe along with all the movements of the sun, the planets, and the stars.”
To check out the observatory, and to see what life is like in America’s only “organic city,” check out this video of the show ‘Extreme Towns’ from the Discovery Channel: