There once was a small village in northeast Missouri called Sandhill. In the 1960s it disappeared as it was incorporated in the town of Rutledge. In the 1970s, four people (two couples) were searching for land to start a commune and purchased a plot in Rutledge very near the Sandhill Cemetery (which is still there). They named the place Sandhill Farm.
It’s still there nearly forty years later. On Tuesday night last week, there was a ‘tri-community’ dinner at Sandhill Farm and along with that, we visitors to Dancing Rabbit, got a tour of the Sandhill community. Of the three communities here in Rutledge, this is the only one that’s an income sharing community. Unlike Twin Oaks or Acorn, it sounds like the income sharing procedure at Sandhill is rather informal.
Sandhill makes its income on what our tour guide called ‘value-added products’. He mentioned honey and salsa and other products like that but their biggest money maker is sorghum–which is used to make Sorghum Syrup, a natural sweetener popular in the midwest. They produce about 800 gallons of the syrup a year and sell it in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
The Sandhill community has never gotten very large. They currently have around six adults (and one child) and have had at most twelve adult members. They also (like the other two communities here) have a bunch of interns and work exchangers. Sandhill also participates in a lot of interactions with Dancing Rabbit and Red Earth Farms. To give one small example, there are a bunch of maple trees at Dancing Rabbit and last year someone tapped some of them and collected the sap. Since there wasn’t a facility at DR to boil it down, they brought it to Sandhill which has a ‘sugar shack’ which they use mainly for the sorghum, but they also boil down maple syrup. Sandhill was glad to boil the syrup down for DR (and they got paid in a small amount of the maple syrup).
A bigger example is that the very reason Dancing Rabbit is in Rutledge is because Sandhill was here. It’s fascinating to watch the interactions of the three communities and see how much they depend on each other. There’s another way of living going on in Rutledge, MO, and Louisa County, VA.
Quote of the Day: “We envision Sandhill Farm as a stable, progressive, fluid and vibrant community thriving in abundance. We prioritize building and maintaining the health of our members, systems and facilities. We hope to integrate more alternative energy, natural building, empowered health care and self sufficiency in our lives. Sandhill Farm, in cooperation with our friends and neighbors, will continue to expand and network a culture
of sustainable living in northeastern Missouri.” – Sandhill’s Vision Statement
New add note from the author: For a more complete history of Sandhill, check out Laird’s post on this blog: 40 Years in the Wilderness