Crook County residents Linda and Patrick Oliver use their charity to teach others how to live off the grid

by: BILL MINTIENS - Linda and Patrick Oliver stand in front of their EcoPod that is powered by solar and wind energy.

Merle Haggard, singing the classic song “Big City,” captured what Patrick and Linda Oliver were feeling when they left the corporate world in Eugene about seven years ago.

Turn me loose, set me free, somewhere in the middle of Montana

And gimme all I got comin’ to me,

And keep your retirement and your so called social security

Big City turn me loose and set me free.

Now firmly planted on about 40 acres about 25 miles southeast of Prineville, the Olivers’ plans for their land are not what you might expect from a couple escaping the urban lifestyle.

They started a 501(c)3 non-profit public charity organization based on 100 percent volunteerism. The Olivers have dubbed their organization and property “OMfield.” Their business card refers to OMfield as “a celebration of fluid, living, unified relationships.”

“The name derives from two sources. One, I wanted to pay tribute to a very close friend of mine who passed away; his name was Oldfield. And two, OM refers to chanting, the repetition of words, phrases, or song patterns that create a vibrational field of energy that stills the mind, cleanses the emotions, and balances the soul,” said Patrick.

OMfield’s goal is to educate and share information, all for free.

“Our intention is to share alternative information, material resources, progressive education in sustainable building structures, off-grid clean electricity, water harvesting and storage, complimentary economies, alternative healing methods, and organic food growing — all free of charge,” cites OMfield’s web site.

Patrick and Linda met in the early 2000s in Denver while pursuing their individual professional careers. Patrick, with a Masters Degree in computer science, was working for an insurance company. Linda, a graphic artist, was working in corporate communications.

But they knew, deep down in their souls, that the corporate world, and the life that came with it, was not what they were meant to do.

“By 2004, we decided that the corporate world was not fulfilling our soul needs. So we decided to liquidate our lives and gave away or sold all the things we didn’t need and camped throughout the Pacific Northwest. We eventually wound up in Eugene,” said Patrick.

Many people dream of living a simpler “giving” life, selling or giving away everything, and living off the land. But very few ever actually do it, and those who do seldom want to give back, preferring to isolate themselves from society’s ills by moving off the grid.

Not the Olivers. Sure, their life vision entailed living off the grid, but it also involved community and a spirit of giving. They wanted to live their lives in community with others, sharing education about health and healing practices, spirituality, sustainable building, and home-based renewable energy.

Their vision wasn’t about a commune or starting a cult, it was about providing educational resources and experiences to help a community live in balanced harmony.

“One of the aspects of our vision was how to tie the community aspects into the vision. We wanted to know how to incorporate sustainability, healing and wellness, and other things that would meet the needs of the community,” said Patrick.

The Olivers decided that they needed to immerse themselves in a community where they could experience and learn the skills they would need to actualize their own vision.

They found what they were looking for in Taos, N.M., Linda’s home town.

The Olivers spent a year soaking up knowledge from Earthship Biotecture, a company in Taos that specializes in designing and building economical homes that incorporate sustainable architecture using indigenous and recycled materials. They learned how to build structures that rely on natural energy sources independent from the grid.

“We literally threw ourselves into it because we knew we had to learn by experiencing it. It was the hardest and most amazing year of my life,” recalled Linda.

Knowledge and experience in-hand, the Olivers were back in Eugene in 2006 living the comfortable life of working professionals. Then fate intervened and their path was clear.

“My job with Symantec was outsourced to India and, what could have been a calamity, turned out to be an opportunity because we chose to put our vision into high gear. It was time to integrate our work and our lives so they were one,” said Patrick.

The Olivers gathered all their resources and started to look for land on which they could utilize and share everything they had learned about sustainable living.

They found the perfect spot in Crook County, not far from Bowman Dam. And the Crook County Planning Commission (CCPC) gave them conditional approval to move ahead with their plans.

The Olivers have lived on the property now for approximately two years and have made considerable progress with building Earthship-inspired structures for their classes and activities.

“Now that we’ve been living off-grid, I don’t think we could ever go back,” said Linda.

With all-volunteer help, the Olivers have built an Earth Temple and an EcoPod using the knowledge gained from their Earthship experience. Additionally, a large Tipi, several labyrinths, and a walking trail have all been constructed by students and volunteers.

Funding for non-profits is always a concern for founders and OMfield is no exception. A volunteer-driven organization, OMfield is soliciting donations as well as applying for grants to support their efforts. Their web site lists ways that interested people can get involved and support the organization.

One sign that OMfields vision of “offering sustainable local solutions to modern global challenges by providing an oasis of alternative experience” has caught the attention of corporate America — Goldman Sachs, a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm, is providing ongoing funding for OMfields development and growth.

Future building plans are subject to approval by the CCPC but that commission doesn’t see any problems at this point in OMfields plans.

“The commission voted unanimously in favor of their initial plans on Oct. 23, 2013 and there was no neighbor opposition,” said Phil Stenbeck, Assistant Planning Director with Crook County.

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