Vedic City, Ia. -- Construction will begin this fall on a 100-acre greenhouse project that aims to create world peace by growing organic vegetables year round.
When it is completed in two years, the project will be the largest of its kind in Iowa, said Bob Wynne, mayor of Vedic City, a community located two miles north of Fairfield.
Wynne said organizers want to create 215 jobs with the project and, in the process, help attract residents to the new city, which was founded in 2001 as Iowa's first new city since 1982.
Vegetables produced in the greenhouses will be marketed locally and in a 300-mile radius of Vedic City.
"We looked into the dynamics of the greenhouses as economic development for the city," Wynne said.
But the project is for more than economic development, Wynne said. It also is seen as a way to promote world peace.
Vedic City is the first city in the world to be constructed entirely according to design principles espoused by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who popularized transcendental meditation. The city was founded by followers of the maharishi.
Wynne said studies have shown that if 8,000 people use transcendental meditation in the same place, they can create a source of energy for positive change in the world that can lead to world peace.
But first, developers of the greenhouses have to be concerned with more mundane matters like raising money and construction.
The sale of $3.3 million in municipal revenue bonds backed by the city is being used to finance the project.
A $23,215 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay a fourth of the cost of installing two wind turbines to generate electrical power at the greenhouse site.
Photovoltaic panels also will be used to generate electricity from the sun, said Kent Boyum, director of the Vedic City Rebuild Program.
"We like solar energy," Wynne said. "The City Council has set a goal for the city to go completely to renewable energy sources."
The greenhouses will grow their vegetables in the soil, Wynne said, instead of in water or in pots.
Because they are grown in the soil, "the nutrition of these vegetables will be superior," Wynne said. "They'll be picked ripe when they are at their maximum nutrition."
The idea for the gigantic greenhouse project came out of a Vedic City "Parliament for World Peace" formed by Wynne. One of the committees looked into using agri- culture as a way to create jobs and promote peace.
Dean Goodale, a native Californian and greenhouse grower who lives in Vedic City, knew the economic potential of greenhouses.
Wynne said the agriculture committee looked at Goodale's financial projections and liked them. The greenhouse project was launched with Goodale as manager, and representatives were sent to Canada and Europe to look at similar projects.
Goodale said the group is ready to choose a contractor and start building this fall.
"We're going to start with two acres and take it from there," he said.
Maharishi Vedic City Organic Farms, as the project is formally known, purchased 160 acres north of here that had been certified organic by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The group paid $3,400 an acre for the land, Boyum said, which is above the going market for land in the area.
The fact that the farm had its organic certification meant Maharishi Vedic City Organic Farms will not have to wait three years before it can sell its produce as certified organic.
About 115 acres of sunflowers were grown on the farm during the summer for processing into organic oil.
Goodale spent six months south of St. Louis in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., growing vegetables for Maharishi Vedic Organic Farms as a test run for the big project in Jefferson County.
Enriching the soil, planting by moon and sun cycles and proper rotation of plants in the greenhouses are all used to keep diseases at bay, he said.
"It was a good drill to figure out what can be very complicated," Goodale said of the Missouri experiment. "It's rare to grow organic crops in the soil of a greenhouse.
"Some people say it can't be done because pathogens grow in the soil, but it is done in Europe, and it should be done here. People want to eat healthier food."