Stelle never had to go green. It has been that way since
being founded in 1973.
Located in northern Ford County, the community of
approximately 85 people power their homes with renewable
energy and grow organic foods. Self-sufficiency is a
philosophy they live by.
The finale of Kankakee Community College's Sustainability
Week ended last Saturday with a tour of Stelle and its
highlights, including a straw bale house, a solar-powered
telephone company and an organic farm. Stelle will be
hosting its annual Earth Day Open House on Sunday, which
will be a full day of free tours and presentations.
Mark Hoffman, president of Stelle's Center for
Sustainable Community, an organization that teaches and
promotes sustainable practices, said Stelle might not be the
perfect model of sustainability, but works because the
"A number of people come together and do what they are
interested in," he said.
While many of the houses in the subdivision-like
community utilize renewable energy, one family took
sustainability to another level when it built a new home in
John and June Haeme constructed the first straw bale
house in Illinois, and it was the first stop on the tour.
The ranch-style house has a wooden frame with walls created
by stacks of straw bales secured vertically with bamboo
shoots and coated three times with stucco. The house is
largely run by solar and wind energy.
Another stop on the tour was the Stelle Telephone Co.,
the nation's first off-the-grid telephone company in the
nation. It provides the first solar-powered wireless
Internet service. The tour explored the inner workings of
the company and the photo-voltaic panels on the building's
roof that capture energy from the sun.
The final stop on the tour was at the 220-acre Mint Creek
Farm, where Harry Carr and his family raise grass-fed lambs
to sell at the Green City Market, a farmer's market in
Chicago. They are also working on producing milk and cheese
from the lambs' milk. The lambs eat a mixture of alfalfa,
clovers and perennial grasses, and no synthetic fertilizers
"The idea is to be working with nature rather than
against it," Carr said.
Carr said grass-based foods are healthy for not only the
environment, but for the people who eat them. They are rich
in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and betacarotene, and
grain-fed meat usually has lower levels of these nutrients.
Bourbonnais resident Annie Story, said she enjoyed all
aspects of the tour and went because she wants to make her
life a little more "green."
"I might eventually use solar energy on my own," Story