Is this a cult?
No. Not a cult because with a cult people would try to keep people here forever and try to get everyone to think the same. People leave whenever they want, sometimes we’re sad because they are our friends, but we want people to do what they want.
We share everything, but there is a wide number of opinions, which can often make decision making difficult, but it is valuable to have so many different outlooks.
I’d say we share a lot of the same values as in egalitarianism, feminism, non-violence. We are just looking to be the example of what we would like to see in the world. We are very focused on face to face communication and conflict resolution. We also have no leaders and we emphasize personal responsibility.
There’s no leaders?
There are full members (people who’ve been members a year +), provisional members (under a year)associate members(intern more than once) interns (2-6 month stayers) and visitors (3 week visits applying for membership). Full members often have the most power.
The best is that no one is my boss and no one tells me what to do or benefits more than I do from our income.
How many people live in the commune?
Do the people you live with share anything in common besides farming? Are many of them related, were you all friends before forming a commune?
The commune we live on has existed for about 20 years. Most of us have some alternative political views. Many people here would identify as anarchists. I probably would, but I do not like labels. A lot of people are also interested in growing most of our own food and participating in capitalism as little as possible. We have no bosses. We use consensus to make decisions, meaning no proposals get passed unless everyone consents to them.
There is a bigger commune in the area that is our sister commune. Some members from there decided to start the one I live on, they were not related but many of them had known each other for a while.
Right now there is a woman who has lived here for a couple of years and her daughter in her late 20’s just moved here this year. There are a lot of couples, I don’t know if you would consider that related. There was a couple of children here, but their families moved to different communes in the area.
Are there rules to your anarchist commune?
Anarchism to me means lacking oppression and no hierarchy. Not necessarily “no rules” thats silly little anarchist teenagers.
There are policies which are kind of like rules, but these are subject to change depending on where the community is at the time.
There are norms, which are more like common sense things.. like don’t put knives or pointy things in the bucket we put all the other silverware in the dish room. You know so no one cuts themselves.
There are actually rules I guess, our values are egalitarianism, feminism and non-violence. Meaning you can’t be physically violent with someone, if someone did this who had been living here long term this would mean a BUNCH of long meanings.
Also non-consensual touching is a big no no also.
How did you decide to join? What attracted you to this one?
I met a guy who eventually moved to the larger commune and he asked me to come visit. I was rejected from membership in short because I am obnoxious and promiscuous. Then the guy I was dating from the larger commune asked me to come visit again, just as his guest, but I thought visiting the smaller commune nearby might be more interesting. I didn’t plan to stay, but after a week I liked acorn more than my relationship and i stayed as an intern for months before becoming a member.
The freedom here attracted me and the lack of structure. Working whenever you want. The clearness process is awesome to me, people don’t communicate enough in the outside world.
What is the clearness process?
A clearness is when someone has a conversation with every member of the community about what its been like to live with them this can range from a simple “I like you you’re great, how’ve you been doing these days?” to long conversations processing personal issues. Then the group gets together for a meeting and talks about their clearnesses and if any conflicts were unable to be resolved in personal clearnesses we talk about it as a group. If people get violent sometimes we’ll give them another chance if they’ve been here a while with no incident, but generally we have a no tolerance policy and that person will be asked to leave pretty quickly.
How do you guys make money?
We live on a farm and run an income sharing heirloom seeds business.
In terms of your seed business and shared income concept, is the income shared as in split equally and each individual receives a portion or shared in the sense of a large pot used to benefit the group.
Large pot to be benefited from the group.
Do you get an allowance or how does perosnal money work?
We each get a smallish stipend a month and some people save up to buy personal computers and such.
Much of our business is run through the internet so we have to have computers. We share a number of desktop computers and laptops.
If someone wants to buy something that is kind of expensive to be shared by the community we bring it to one of our meetings. We make decisions using consensus.
How do you decide what to purchase? What if someone else in the community doesn’t agree with a purchase?
We make all of our decisions by consensus. For major expenses or unusual one-time expenses, you bring a proposal to the group.
Examples: – Requesting $500 and use of the neglected hay wagon to build a chicken coop. – Requesting $500 for transportation, class fees, and books for a natural building course, along with 300 hours of community time to spend on natural building. – Requesting that the community buy and pay for a cell phone for a member who travels for the community on a regular basis.
Full members, people who have lived here for more than a year, can spend up to $50 at their discretion.
Some costs are normalized to the point that they don’t need to be ran by the group. If the chickens run out of feed, someone takes the cargo van to the local organic feed producer and buys some more without bothering to run it by the group at large. The person in charge of the bulk food order will order food every week. When we run out of shipping envelopes in the office, someone will order them.
If you have a problem with things that people buy with community money, you talk to them. Sometimes we have meetings to affirm community norms about purchases, like “no buying factory-farmed meat with our collective money.”
When the collective makes a decision you don’t agree with does that piss you off as much as when a boss makes one?
No because if I really didn’t want something to happen it wouldn’t. I could block or try and change it until I thought it worked. Thats how consensus works.
What does the community do if someone isn’t working hard enough?
If someone isn’t working hard enough it’ll probably be brought up in a clearness and maybe asked to keep labor sheets.. sheets where they record their labor for the whole community to see.
How do you deal with internal issues like fights, breakups etc?
I’ve had a breakup here, we’re still friends. Usually people are pretty good at keeping conflicts between them and working it out calmly, but sometimes if it gets really bad it comes to a meeting and people have to go through a clearness process.
Whats your day to day life like?
I usually wake up whenever I want unless I have signed up to cook lunch which is served at noo or if I sign up to do a phone shift that starts at 9 am. People generally work whenever they want, but there are certain jobs people sign up for at our sunday meeting. That includes cooking shifts and customer service phone shifts for our business. A lot of things count as work gardening, cleaning, work for the business.
So here is a typical day as in my day yesterday: I woke up, helped my partner build a new computer for the office, he is teaching me about the parts of a computer, I’m kind of interested in programming, so this is helpful. Then I cooked dinner. I made Lasagna, three different kids due to the diets of people I live with. I made one with local ground beef, one vegetarian one with just cheese, and one vegan one with crumbled tofu instead of cheese. Then I smoked cigarettes in our only smoking allowed area with some people visiting from a friend community in another state. We talked for a bit, had some laughs, I shipped out some packs of seeds in my room while listening to music for a few hours. Then I wrote a little bit, I like to write fictional stories and plays, then I went to sleep.
If members wish to have children (something rather expensive to be shared by the community), is this subject to a vote?
At the larger community people are asked to ask the community to approve a pregnancy. At the community I live in we prefer for people to ask, but people rarely say no. It is easier to have a child in community than it is to move to community with kids.
How do you raise children? Do they go to school? Would living in a way so at odds with the outside world create problems for them when they grow up?
There are children that live in the larger community nearby.
A lot of them are home schooled and there is a daycare program for the younger kids. I am actually going to play theatre games with the kids there one day soon.
Some of them go to the public school in the area and some of them go to private schools that the community pays for.
Most of the kids I know are more mature and more capable of communicating with adults than most others kids I’ve met . They are very bright and I can actually have real conversations with them.
Do you share lovers?
Some people engage in polyamoury. I do not. I am in a monogamous relationship. This is up to the individuals.
To what extent do you see this lifestyle as feasible? Do you plan to live in this type of structure until your end comes around? Do many people leave once they have lived with the group for some time?
There are people of many ages here. Most are in there 20s to early 30s, but there are people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. I’d say most people who live here have lived here about 6 months- 3 years. There are a few people here who have been here for about 8 years.
I see myself being here for the next couple of years. I may go try and be an actress, but I would still maintain a status of “friend of the community” and I would probably come back at some point.
There is quite a bit of turn over. The people here are often the types who are not worried about money and trust they can figure out how to survive. A lot of people also go off to do more WOOF type deals.
Working on organic farm. Its a work trade thing.
Is there anything you miss about life prior to the commune?
I am originally from Brooklyn and I often miss walking the streets of New York and all the opportunities to meet strangers. I miss some of my old friends and I miss all the theatrical opportunities NY had. I was studying to be a musical theatre actress before I came here.
I do often get to meet strangers here though, a lot of guests and people interested in community come through. Its a bit like non-nomadic traveling. There are community theaters nearby and sometimes we have music performances at parties and events and stuff.
What does your family and friends think about your decision to be a part of this.
My parents are thrilled. I used to be a wild hitchhiking traveling kid and they never knew where the fuck I was.
Now all they have to do is call the community and someone’ll be they “yea… I saw her earlier, eating cereal.. ”
My friends are pretty groovy, some of them have come to visit it me and one did stay for a few solid months and actually got accepted as member, but went on to do other things. Another friend is coming for a month or two in the summer.
I’d say friends and family are mostly happy that I found a lifestyle that works for me.