Red Earth Farms – Community light

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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:

Red Earth Farms

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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 was the Acting Head of Innovation for Gaia Education in 2017, is 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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