Visiting Communes

by Raven MoonRaven

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might be intrigued by various aspects of communal living, or maybe even what goes on in a particular community.

I ended an article that I wrote here a couple of weeks ago with the thought: “If this sounds exciting, you could contact any of these communes and visit or even join.  You could be part of the experiment.”  I still think visiting communes—or even better joining one—is a great idea.  But there is an etiquette to visiting communities.  And even if you’re thinking of joining a commune, it’s a really good idea to visit and check the place out first.

First rule of visiting any community:  Call, write, or email them first!  Do not simply show up at a community!  Communities are people’s homes.  Most of them like visitors but they really don’t like unannounced visitors.

I’ve visited Twin Oaks and Acorn many times and have done really short visits to Living Energy Farm, Sandhill, and the Stillwater Sanctuary/Possibility Alliance.  Each of these places has a different protocol for visiting, although it always starts with contacting them.

Twin Oaks has detailed instructions on their web page for ways to visit and what you need to do.  A quick way  to visit Twin Oaks is to go on their three hour Saturday tour.  Even for that, they have specific instructions to follow–beyond reservations, they ask things like requesting that people not wear perfume or cologne.  They ask a five dollar donation for the tour.

TO Tour
Folks on a Twin Oaks Tour

Twin Oaks also offers a three week visitors program.  This is a very structured program.  They have a sliding scale for the program, from $50 to $250, and visitors are expected to work while they’re there (something that’s true at most egalitarian communities).  In return, you are part of a group of visitors that all arrive at the same time and usually leave together.  Visitors are housed in a lovely little cabin (simple but adequate) and are given many tours and orientations.  It’s a well thought out program.  Anyone wanting to join Twin Oaks is usually required to go through the visitors program during which you are evaluated for membership.  (As far as I know, all the communes have a membership process.)  Twin Oaks also occasionally takes interns—usually during the late summer to help set up conferences that they hold.  Even interns are required to do a three week visitor program first and are evaluated before being accepted as interns.  Twin Oaks is currently looking for new members.

The Acorn Community also offers a three week visitors program.  While they do have tours, their visitors program is the main way to visit, either out of curiosity or because you’d like to join.  Their program is a lot less structured than the Twin Oaks program.  Visitors are expected to work and are invited to be part of many community activities.  Acorn asks $75.00 for their three week program.  If it is mutually acceptable, the visitors program can be extended into a three to six month internship.  Again check their website for more details.  (A personal recommendation:  If you want to do the visitors programs at both Twin Oaks and Acorn, I suggest you do the Twin Oaks program first–especially for folks who are trying to understand how communes work.  The Acorn program is much more hands on and suited to people who are very self-motivated.  I do think that you would learn a lot by doing both programs; it’s just that starting with the Twin Oaks program would help you ease into it.)

Acorn starters
The crew that started Acorn

Living Energy Farm, Sandhill, and the Stillwater Sanctuary all have internships and Sandhill also hosts visitors.  For Living Energy Farm or Sandhill, go to their website where they have an email address that you can contact them at.  The Stillwater Sanctuary doesn’t have a website or email address, but the Federation of Egalitarian Communities has a site for them where there is a mailing address for them.  You can send them a letter and they will respond.  Both Living Energy Farm and the Stillwater Sanctuary are demonstration sites about how to live without and beyond fossil fuels.

I will also mention East Wind community, which I have never visited but is a large communal situation in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri which is supposed to be very beautiful. They also have a three week visitors program and you can find out more about it through their website and contacting their membership team.

FEC Assembly 2016
Communards at the FEC Assembly 2016

The newer communities in the Ozarks of Missouri (Oran Mor), Louisa, VA (Sapling and Cambia), Richmond, VA (Quercus), Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD (the Baltimore Free Farm), may also be open to visitors–again, you should contact them if you are interested.

I would strongly encourage you to visit one or more of these communes.  You can learn a lot about communal living from reading this blog, but you could learn a lot more by visiting.

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Visiting Communes

7 thoughts on “Visiting Communes

  1. Philip Wilson says:

    I understand that most communes don’t want people to just drop in. Most explain that on their websites and other publications. I was hoping for some other “do’s and don’ts” beyond that. If you ever write an essay with that information, I think it would be useful to many of us who already have visits to various communities scheduled.

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  2. I realize that the ‘don’t just drop in’ info is extremely basic, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think about that.

    Beyond that, I have mostly provided contact info and a few tips, because each community has its own list of “do’s and don’t’s” and should provide them to scheduled visitors. My only other suggestions, if you’ve already got visits scheduled, is offer to help out when ever you can, ask lots of questions, don’t make assumptions, and, above all, as a visitor don’t try to tell the community the way that they ‘should’ be doing things. (Again, very basic but you’d be amazed at how many visitors will tell a community that’s been running for decades how they should do stuff.)

    The point of the orientation programs that many of these communities provide is to give you the information you need to be there.

    I hope you enjoy your visits and you should let us know what you learn.

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  3. Hi,

    I’m not publishing your comment for two reasons–first, this isn’t a tour guide, we are not set up to evaluate communities, and second, I don’t think that Black Bear Ranch is an egalitarian, income sharing community (what we are calling a commune) which is what this blog is about. You might want to contact the Fellowship of Intentional Communities (at ic.org) which deals with all different kinds of communities.

    Thanks,

    Raven for Commune Life

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