Before heading east I had the opportunity to visit the third intentional community in the rolling hills of remote rural NE-Missouri – Red Earth Farms. It is the newest community on the block and was established in 2005 on approximately 80 acres of land almost only a stonethrow away from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.
However, Rad Earth Farms is organised very differently from the other communities (i.e. Dancing Rabbit and Sandhill Farm (see previous posts), as they consider themselves a community of homesteaders. The land is divided up between the community members into blocks between approximately 5 and 20 acres size and each member (or member family) gets a plot of land allocated (decided upon in consensus). The community operates under the principle of
“Love the land; love your neighbors.”
Members choose how they personally want to pursue this mission. As a group they value diversity, cooperation, and nonviolence; make theirdecisions by consensus; and do their best to live with honor and respect for all the beings around.
Hence most dwellings are scattered across the land, located somewhere suitable within the allocated plot (leasehold) and much space inbetween. However, there is also a sub-community, which decided to build a bit closer together around a large pond. Currently there are 10 adults and 8 children living in the community and it is envisaged that the land could accommodate up to 20 adults (i.e. room for some growth).
Because it is a homesteading community each person/family is largely responsible for themselves how they would like to live and how to make their living, with an intent to live off the land as much as feasible and be highly self-sufficient. There are no rigid rules around how and what to build and what to do and people are largely left to do things as they please on their plot of land, but a land use plan for each and every plot of land will need to be approved by the whole community and has to comply with the land trust rules and bylaws (as said in previous posts the local county (aka council in Australia) does not have any building codes and not even a building inspector, so no real rules apply from the outside. And it is their desire to have more space for and between themselves.
There is only basic shared infrastructure like basic tracks to and from the dwellings. All people have their individual rain water collection system and pond, composting toils, greywater system and the community is off-grid, with some using renewable energy (solar and wind) and heating is largely with wood sourced from the site and some use of propane for cooking. Residents do not use washing machines (all washed by hand), of course no dryers. The community does not have any shared community facilities, but the land is owned in common through a NFP community land trust and land can be made available at very low costs for newcomers.
Due to small size of community decisions are made by consensus, but because of the character of community major issues arise less often.
Most residents grow various veggies, fruit, and some do more serious farming (including a larger polytunnel) also using some machines but still mostly for own use, like wheat, corn, soy. Most people keep some chicken and ducks, goats, sheep (the latter two also for milk but also meat) and horses (used to work the land), and also hunting (rabbits and deer) in the forest in winter is commonly done. Hey is harvested by cutting it by hand using Skythe. Full self-sufficiency has not been achieved (and is not necessarily the intent), but a fair bit of exchange and trade happens within the community but also nearby communities. Most residents do also some work outside the community (like education (e.g. one woman (Alyson) teaches for Gaia Education in Design for Sustainability, a course I am currently taking online). And there are ideas within the community to intensify outreach programs into the wider community also further afield to develop visitor programs particularly for school children in towns and cities for them to experience alternative ways of living, living with and off the land.
One interesting aspect is that each homestead (leasehold) conducts a detailed ecological Audit (like a footprint analysis) for the year, which is then compared within the community, to provide for input to continuous improvement of each households sustainability achievements.
Overall it is appears not very dissimilar to homesteading and basic simple living on your own land, but having a supportive and trusted network nearby, even though considered by residents a bit small. The lifestyle is very relaxed, laid back and slower country living with nature and the elements and a basic simple life which is fulfilling for the residents. Of course facing challenges within the community (at times overcoming conflict), lack of wider network and community (even though they are close to Dancing Rabbit and Sandhill), or issues of being accepted by the wider (obviously very conservative) community. As all communities they are always open to visitors (with prior arrangement) or on occasion for internships.
For more information about Red Earth Farm (including copies of legal documents, procedures and process documents useful for a small community) can be found here: