The story of Narköy began with a shattered knee.
It was on April 18, 1996 that a child fell on the kind of concrete that had replaced school gardens all across Turkey. On that day Nardane Kuşcu, who was a teacher at the time, wrote in her notebook, ‘I will establish an educational organic farm.’ She carried this note around with her until 2002 when her wish finally came to fruition. “It was the injustice that pushed me to make this dream a reality,” she says, “the injustice created by a school system based on merit and succeeding in exams, which stopped teachers from seeing their students as individuals, stripping those students of their right to take a break, to play and fall on the soil, to learn and heal themselves.”
Kuşcu first established Nar NLP, an educational program for children and their families, which later grew into the Nar Education and Consulting company. With the support of her family, Kuşcu finally founded her organic farm and education center Narköy in 2007. In the district of Kandıra and within the village of Kıncıllı, Narköy appears like a small utopia, where the architecture itself seems to have sprouted out of the edible natural landscape. Footpaths connect the wooden structures, where guests can stay overnight, waking up in the mornings to the softly pulsing life of nature’s daily cycle, which flows inward from the open balcony doors.
Built from a low carbon-footprint, cold steel system, all of Narköy’s buildings were created through recycled and natural materials. One of the footpaths also leads to the Nar Training and Consultancy Center, which continues the educational and consultancy work that Kuşcu first started off with. Workshops are also held regularly and range from the minute process of making organic cheese to the details and benefits of permaculture or just learning to be more mindful and present in nature.
Yet, within the 100 acres of Narköy’s organic farm and its heirloom seed bank with more than 800 varieties, all the theories really come into practice. “Nature is really the greatest teacher,” says Kuşcu, “ecosystems have a principle of diversity, and if you can continue this diversity, you can become sustainable; the most sustainable design is the one that’s modeled on nature and its processes.”
More than 150 kinds of organic products are harvested here, most of which end up on the plate at Narköy’s own restaurant, where organic principles and an experimentation in taste converge. Participants in the utopic experience are encouraged to get their hands back in the soil, where they belong, gathering produce from the farm or caring for the animals.
The reasons for escaping to Narköy are many: families who come here just to get away from the city and let their children play freely in the forest; individuals who want to learn about growing a garden naturally on a terrace or other limited spaces; groups who want to embark on a spiritual journey to the heart of Mother Nature without the comforts of modern life.
“The children and young people who came here and were inspired by nature were able to achieve things that made us proud,” says Kuşcu, “we’ve had more than 6000 volunteers from all over the world and all together we’re continuing to learn by living in nature.” Kuşcu’s oasis is a refuge for any and all who believe in the necessity of going back to basics and who are open to learning and therefore changing the future.
“We are mother nature’s unruly children,” says Kuşcu, “we’ve destroyed the living spaces of a lot of creatures through the false belief that the world was created for us, we’ve done things to others that we would never want done to us. At Narköy we’re lucky to be in harmony with nature and we make it an endeavor to observe and learn.”
Photos by Elif Savari Kızıl