Sandhill Farm – Community intensive

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Some members also do some outside work in form of organic certification inspectors and/or active in a number of volunteer and outreach programs and not-for profit organisations (e.g. FIC, FEC).

If you want to know and read more here are some links:

Sandhill Farm

Fellowship of egalitarian Communities (US)

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Author: Peter Gringinger

Cultural Creative | Evolutionary Activist | Change Agent | Whole Systems, Transition & Regenerative Designer, Educator, Leader and Facilitator | Peter is a cultural creative, working as radical evolutionary activist and change agent through the use of whole systems, transition and regenerative design to provide support through integral and participatory facilitation for individuals, groups, neighbourhoods, communities and organisations to co-create and co-design our sustainable futures of regenerative and thriving cultures, places, environments and local but globally networked livelihoods. Peter believes in order to tackle and resolve the many interconnected issues and threats we are facing we need to take a whole and integral person and systems approach so that we can strive to (co)-create true sustainability and regeneration of our presence on this planet and to create health and wellbeing for all (humans and non-humans). We have to work on creating bridges between the various ideas and views of the world, to embrace the diversity and work through use of transformative innovation to shift us into a new worldview of cooperation, abundance regeneration and using transformative resilience for a just and equitable future founded on self-reliant local but globally connected communities. Originally trained as a geologist and hydrogeologist and obtaining further postgraduate training in renewable energy technology (geothermal) and in environmental sciences and engineering, he has worked as consultant to support clients in managing challenging environmental impacts from past commercial and industrial processes and facilities, including the assessment and clean-up of polluted soils and waters, environmental risk assessment & management, water resources and waste management. Peter has worked on projects across Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines, Austria, Italy and Iceland. His clients have included local, state and federal governments, organisations including those within the defence and private sector for the production and use of explosives/ammunitions and chemicals, infrastructure sectors of road, rail, ports and airports; private sector clients including manufacturers and petrochemical companies, as well as major property developers, financiers, lawyers, insurers and land owners, waste management companies including landfill operators. Hence Peter has extensive experience in Project and Program Management for small to large scale projects and programs. In recent years Peter has completed further extensive personal development, training and skills acquisition and capability in Sustainability, Permaculture, Sustainability and Integral Leadership, Participatory Facilitation, Applied Ecopsychology, Integral and Systems Thinking, Whole Systems, Transition, Sustainable & Regenerative Design, Ecovillage Design, and provides input and support for individuals, groups, communities and organisations for the co-creation and co-design of sustainable futures and provides advice for personal and organisational change and transformation. Peter is currently the Acting Head of Innovation for Gaia Education, a certified Trainer with Gaia Education, an active member of the Leadership circle of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Australia and a GEN Ambassador for Australia and on the National Committee of Cohousing Australia.

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