I drove up from Crow Forest Farm today into the unknown world of intentional income sharing communities to visit Twin Oaks and Acorn. These two places are, to undo their re-branding, communes. Twin oaks was established in 1967 while Acorn was establish in 1993 with help from Twin Oaks.
Twin Oaks Community
The two communities have a shared value system but radically different organizing and decision making procedures. I wont comment much on the social and interpersonal systems due to my very limited time there.
Driving into acorn I came first upon a band of people manipulating dirt near the parking lot where the shared vehicles rest, doors unlocked, keys at the ready. Beyond a stand of young fruit trees is a beautiful building described by some as the seed palace. This recent addition to the property is where the main coop business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, is run. The building uses passive solar and under the floor heating. It has been designed to reflect the sustainable goals of the commune. While neither acorn or twin oaks top priorities are sustainability - like you would find in an eco village - they do their best to be low impact.
Beyond the palace is the old bar where I will be sleeping for the next two days. To the east is the old farm house which came with the property. It is one of a few buildings devoted to housing members. To the west is Heart Wood. I'm told it is the most desirable living space probably because it is also home to the kitchen where community meals are prepared and plenty of food is kept.
There are smaller structures scattered about the property. A stage is set up in a small clearing and a small smoke hut contains the tobacco smokers.
Behind the palace is a steal building scared black from a recent fire. The building still stands and contains multiple work shop areas. A group of people cut and cement tiles ceramic bits into a tile mosaic which will be fit above the seed palace door.
Acorn is a self identified anarchist community. It operates under modified consensus and a general culture of autonomy. There are two meetings a week, one for decision making and another for long form single topic discussion.
My tour guides Paul and Pax fill the group of visitors in on the inner workings of the commune while walking us across the long narrow track of land. Beyond the seed cultivation areas and subsistence garden plots are large hay fields. Some small fenced in areas with goats dot the landscape. Beyond the fields is a swamp and some woods where we are told the wild flowers grow.
I spend an hour weeding rows of freshly sprouted pole beans with a couple visiting from the East Wind Community, a fellow member of the The Federation of Egalitarian Communities, like Acorn and Twin Oaks.
Later in the day a bell is run warning us that dinner will be in ten minutes.
Everything here is shared. From books to bikes to cars. Some even half joke that boyfriends are on that list. The culture of sharing allows for the million dollar a year seed business to run at a very tight margin while still providing for nearly every need of the members here.
If you do the math everyone living on each of these communities is well below the poverty line. However they all enjoy full health care, full employment, 4 weeks vacation (minimum), access to cars, housing, and food. They don't worry about waking up tomorrow and not having a job or getting sick and not being able to see a doctor or having their rent increase.
Twin Oaks repairs their own vehicles
This simple magnetic chart manages the vehicles share program at Twin Oaks
According to Pax, at twin oaks the hundred members live in a manner that allows them to use 80% fewer resources than their mainstream counterparts. This fact is what draws me to these communities. They don't strive for a reduced carbon footprint, it isn't their mission, it is simply a side effect of living and working together. For all the talk about climate change this is the first time I've ever seen truly revolutionary action.
It is clear to me that these communities represent, in the broadest terms, what needs to happen right now across the world. A shift from the individualistic to the community. From scarcity to abundance. From hording to sharing. We already rely on a massive shared resource, the earth, and if we don't change our behavior now that shared resource will not continue to sustain us.
Another Twin Oaks residence
I look forward to returning to Acorn in June for an internship.