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The Organic Art Ranch

Logo http://benjamineckert.pageflow.io/the-organic-art-ranch







A multimedia feature by Benjamin Eckert



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The Organic Art Ranch is located in the Apuseni mountains, in the North-West of Transylvania.

It's part of a small traditional Romanian village, surrounded by deep forests, vast blueberry fields and wild animals.

About 12 years ago, the Mexican inmigrant Roger bought the property on a steep hillside and moved to a small house with no electricity and running water.

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In the past ten years, Roger and his partner Zsuzsi built up a vivid place that encourages people to experience ecological living, arts and environmental ideas:

“Hopefully we can make a small change in people’s lives in order for them to be a great change in the world.”
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Different types of people visit the Organic Art Ranch, mostly younger travelers who come as volunteers. But there are also middle class guests and artists who stay in the cozy guest room of the Ranch.

Around two thirds of the visitors are from Europe, since Romania became part of the European Union in 2007.
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Volunteers stay at the Ranch and work for board and lodging. They can learn about ecological wood working and to lend a hand in the two vegetable gardens. They also do some basic upkeep of the house.

And they can experience a diverse community with people from all over the world. The youngest volunteer at the Ranch was 16 and the oldest around 56 years old.
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In the past ten years there have been over 800 people visiting the Organic Art Ranch.

Like Brahm from the United States. In the summer of 2018 he stayed for three weeks and helped Roger with construction work. Brahm learned about timber framing and realized how fulfilling it is for him to live in the community:

"I will come back for sure. For me it's not gonna be easy to stay in the city anymore", he says.
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The comfort of the modern world partially reached the hill a few years ago. By now the Ranch and its neighbors have electricity and running water. Also a mobile network is available.

Still the life at the Ranch is quite simple and pure. The accommodation is basic, daily activities mostly take place outdoors and many tasks require physical work.
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Besides work there is also a lot of relaxation going on. Guests, volunteers and hosts spend a lot of their time together – at the campfire, the bar in the valley or the neighbor's places. For Roger and Zsuzsi idleness and sociality is important as hard work.

"If I'd be working all day, I'd be back to city life. And I chose to live here for a reason", Roger says.
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The main reason for Roger and Zsuzsi to live in the countryside is to be part of mother nature. Everything that happens at the Ranch leads back to the weather, their dependency on natural resources and the surrounding wildlife.

Animals need to be fed and protected of predators, the plants in the garden need to be cultivated and the buildings to be maintained.

Life goes by the pace of nature – like it always did in this part of Romania.
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Roger and Zsuzsi obviously love their way of living, to host people and to keep their place running.

But they also struggle with changes that are quickly reaching Romania like many other pristine regions in Europe. 
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There is an unhealthily growing tourism industry reaching for the mountain regions. 

Locals can see it when they look out of their centuries-old houses: the destruction of the environment and the deforestation are omnipresent. And the westernization of Romania threatens its diverse cultural heritage. 
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The owners of the Organic Art Ranch have seen a lot of alarming changes in their village, but they also have a certain idea how to slow down this trend.

Roger and Zsuzsi try to support their village community, so that young people don't have to leave it anymore. Visitors of the Ranch don't stay in a fancy guesthouse but in a traditional room with basic comfort and an impressive view. Work materials and food mostly are bought from the neighbors.
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The season at the Organic Art Ranch starts in March and ends in November. 

The first frost in October points to the end of the year. In autumn already less people reach the hill and in winter season work nearly becomes impossible. All the tools and materials just freeze.
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In November Roger and Zsuzsi leave for their winter holidays.

In the following year, when the snow starts to melt, they will come back to their Ranch.

To "the place, where the clouds are born", how they call it.
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Photos, videos and text:
Benjamin Eckert

Published: November 2018

www.benjamineckert.com






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