Poole picked out a white dried-up mushroom the size of my thumb and snapped it in two. “A gram for each of you,” says Poole, and hands me my half. One gram, it seemed, was a bit of a conservative portion, but I had heard stories of the Poole’s Land mushrooms. Like everything else on Michael Poole’s 17 acre rain forest property, the mushrooms grew with a powerful vitality which didn’t exist out east.
“Poole’s Land”, owned by the 63-year old Michael Poole, is a bit of a legend amongst hitchhikers and hippies, known for its liberal trade of hallucinogenic drugs and cheap summer surf boarding. For a few hours of work, you can earn your stay on his property, or – as we had done – trade work time for a taste of the “magic”.
Each year, young travellers hitchhike their way across the continent by the truckload to seek out the freedom of Canada’s temperate west coast. One by one, Tofino, BC – home of Poole’s Land – draws them in like a magnet. Anyone who has ever been will admit that Tofino is endowed with an intoxicating peacefulness. Even for a seasoned traveller like Poole, it’s easy to see how the western edge of Vancouver Island was the place to finally captivate his heart.
In October of 1988, Poole purchased his land in Tofino for only $50,000. It was getting to be winter, and without much more than a tent, Poole started building up the property. He made some trails and boardwalks through the forest, and eventually people started showing up, willing to trade their work for a place to tent. 26 years later, the now acclaimed Poole’s Land is able to offer firewood, telephone, internet, electricity and hot water showers to its guests.
“10 dollars a day is now the basic trade, but whether they pay or just work… it’s no problem,” says Poole.
Walking into Poole’s Land for the first time is like uncovering a secret world previously only known to fiction. His property is a vast network of boardwalks that wind through the rainforest and lead out into small openings with wooden platforms built to elevate tents. More permanent residences include painted school buses and vans that litter the outside of the property or The Pyramid, a 3-storey tree house built in the heart of the property. Small garden plots of organic kale, cooking herbs and cannabis crowd the open plots of land.
“Earth medicine” is a major component of the Poole’s Land way of life. In fact, all new entries into Poole’s Land are commemorated with a peace pipe of Tofino’s finest homegrown bud. However, more than drugs, for Poole at least, his village is primarily about supporting a lifestyle that adheres to the boundaries of ecological sustainability.
“It comes down to the 100 mile diet, and being responsible for our own lives, instead of having slave labour in other countries do our work,” says Poole.
Most can take a lesson from Mr. Poole in this respect, and in fact, a great number of people are beginning to embrace a more organic approach to life. Poole envisions permaculture communities like his, all within walking distance of one another, across the entire country.
As his community matures, Poole intends on closing off his 17-acre property from the general public to instead accommodate a tighter knit community of certified members. A sustainable community cannot be built with a foundation of just any old breed of misfits. They must be, as Poole puts it, “certified kind.” Besides, with enough marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms on site to send a horse to space, the Poole’s Land circus certainly cannot last forever, can it?
Actually, Poole is currently in the process of purchasing 160 acres of property in Tofino, which will serve as a sort of training ground for those interested in being integrated into the more structured and functional 17-acre community.
If you’re interested in visiting, any local in Tofino will be able to point you in the right direction. Just think, are you really mad enough to enter the world of Michael Poole? If your answer is no: try the mushrooms, give it an hour, and you will be.