While staying for a few days at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (see previous blog post here) in the rolling hills of remote rural NE-Missouri, I was invited to a visit and tour of the egalitarian intentional community of Sandhill Farm in exchange for some work in their veggie gardens (i.e. planting seedlings).
Sandhill Farm was started in 1974 as a “Back to the Land” initiative and as a commune (or egalitarian community) on approximately 140 acres of undulating hill country, mostly forest and partly fields and pastures. Sandhill was once a township some 150 years or so ago, but was abandoned when the railway line was built a bit futher to the south and only a small cemetery is a reminder that a settlement existed here in the past.
The idea of Sandhill Farm is to try to lead a simple and healthy lifestyle; creativity, ecological sustainability, nonviolence, personal freedom, honest communication, consensus decision-making and emotional support for others.
An egalitarian community (or also called by some a commune) works under the principle of sharing, like income, possessions (e.g. vehicles), housing, work, meals and chores, responsibilities and decision-making are done on full equality of all members. But the level of sharing varies between different communities elsewhere.
Sandhill Farm focus is to become largely self-sufficient particularly for supply of food, but also for other resources (like energy from firewood available from the forest).
The focus of farming at Sandhill is on a range of organic products including many types of vegetables, fruits, berries, and also crops like sweet sorghum (which is processed onsite to sorghum syrup (which is like molasses) ) and is the main income producer for the community, but also wheat, corn, soy-beans, and also harvest maple syrup and produce honey. Small livestock supplements what is needed including chicken, goats, turkeys (in the past) and goats (in the past) and a fish pond, and some members also hunt during winter to supplement their diet, even though there are some vegetarians and vegans in the community. Production (and processing) of food is in first instance for the community, but also either traded with other intentional communities (i.e. Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and Red Earth Farms as well as Possibility Alliance bit further afield) and also sold in nearby area to wider community.
The community is small and currently consists of 7 adult and 1 child and during the growing season usually also includes a few interns and possibly visitors, who help with work on the farm. Sorghum harvest (which is harvested by hand) is accomplished with help from nearby communities (a bit harvesting event every year bringing communities together). Also because of the small size of the community, members get the opportunity to learn and do a lot of the various things and tasks which need to be completed in order to run a diverse farm, without rigid schedules or rules.
The community is organised as not for profit community land trust and uses consensus based decision making with weekly group meetings. Which appears to work well with a fairly small group of like-minded people and community feels very relaxed, easy-going, calm and positive place to be and a very caring, supportive and fun place, loosely structures, with as few rules as possible, with compassion, kindness, tolerance and openness as well as strong emphasis on conflict resolution if and when those arise.
Residents live in 1 to 2 (depending on number of people present on farm) basic timber houses, and an old farmhouse (weatherboard) as kitchen and common space and office. The infrastructure has few what we would consider sustainability features (they have a rainwater cistern), but are also connected to the grid and use propane gas, but due to the lifestyle of the community their environmental footprint is low.
If you want to know and read more here are some links: