Juneau man inspired to grow organic community

From Capital City Weekly, Friday, August 13, 2010:

The first thing you notice when you get to Rick Bellagh’s place on Shelter Island is a large creepy weather-beaten stuffed Big Bird figure with a pipe in its beak. Next to it stands a sign that reads, “Welcome to Shelter Skelter Wilderness Farm,” followed by rules such as “be kind and compassionate to everyone” and “be mindful as you work.”

No, the first thing you notice is that Rick might not fit the profile for someone who lives on a remote island six months out of the year and says he left a full-time teaching position for “political reasons.” He looks young, is sociable and enthusiastic, and speaks about pragmatic solutions to complex tribulations.

Leading a tour up the path to his farm, Rick explained the Big Bird was a gift from some neighbors on the island.

“They thought I was out and they were going to put it in my bed,” he said. “I wasn’t out.”

Rick, now 43, moved to Juneau almost two decades ago as a Jesuit volunteer. He taught Spanish full time at UAS for six years, but gave it up in reaction to what he saw as a tumultuous national political climate on the rise. He decided it was time to live in a more modest way. He pared down his life, sold his car and started spending half the year out on his seven-acre plot on Shelter Island.

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