Before there was Harmony, the new community in east Osceola County, Florida there was the Harmony Institute, a non-profit charitable organization that provided the inspiration for the community.
Founded in 1996 by Martha E. Lentz, a former director of the SPCA of Central Florida, the Institute was created to initiate long-term studies of beneficial health and education impacts of residents who routinely experience animals and nature as part of their daily activities. The Institute was named in memory of Martha’s mother, Margaret Harmony Eastman, who encouraged her family’s respect and involvement with nature and animals.
The vision encouraged the formation of Birchwood Acres L.L.L.P., the purchase of an 11,000+ acre parcel of property in 1998, and the development of the Town of Harmony, Florida in accordance with advice and guidelines provided by the Harmony Institute Center Advisory Board (HICAB) concerning land design as well as environmental and animal (agricultural, companion and wild) elements and amenities within the community. Visit www.harmonyfl.com for more
In 2003 the first residents of Harmony moved in. In 2005, Starwood Capital purchased Birchwood Acres and donated 100 net usable acres to the Harmony Institute in recognition for its contribution to building the community. The Institute operates many of its program at Spirit Farm within its 100 acres with future plans for development of the Albert Schweitzer Education and Conference Center as well as the Harmony Animal Health Center and a Children’s Health Clinic.
HICAB continues to advise the Starwood development team (Harmony Development Company) on sustainable design practices that have contributed to the Town of Harmony receiving numerous awards including:
• The Florida Association of Realtors Environmental or “ENVY” Award for recognition as the environmental community of the year, 2003.
• Sustainable Florida, Promising Practices, awarded by the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida, 2004.
• Sustainable Florida, WCI Green Building Award, awarded by the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida, 2006.
The Harmony Development Company (HDC) and the Harmony Institute exist as completely independent and self-governing organizations. While they collaborate on programming that works to fulfill the Institute’s mission and provide model activities for Harmony residents, the Institute is not directed by nor funded by the development company. HDC adopted the name Harmony from the Institute as it also works to exemplify the environment of the community.