Here is the workshop and partial presentation schedule for the upcoming Twin Oaks Communities Conference. The below links are to blog posts on these elements. There is a posted full program (with short descriptions for every workshop are in the newly published program).
Saturday September 1st
9:30 to noon
1:30 to 3 PM
- FEC Panel
- Holistic Planning and Decision Making
- Could your community be 100% energy self sufficient
- Art as Strategy for Creating Community – Damanhur approach
- Creating Unity in the Communities Movement
4 to 5:30 PM
- POC Panel
- Why are you fundraising?
- Building Community thru Song
- Designing Community for Seniors
- Communities building cooperatives
Sunday September 2
9:30 to 11
- Diversity in Recruiting
- Ecovillage Design
- Consciousness in Community
- Surviving Exodus in Community
- Nomadic Communitarians
There is still time to register for this amazing event. Twin Oaks Community is hosting this event in central Virginia Aug 31st thru Sept 2. There is also great Labor Day (Sept 3) program at Cambia Community, less than one mile from the Twin Oaks Conference site.
One of the interesting new workshop topics for this years Twin Oaks communities conference (over Labor Day Weekend) is the Exodus Panel, which will be moderated by Taylor Kinniburgh, a member of the Baltimore Free Farm:
Panel Discussion on Surviving Exodus
Sunday, 9:30-11:00am, Registration Tarp
How can intentional communities survive a membership exodus? This workshop will carve out space for community members to share their experiences, learn from other communities, and develop strategies to overcome the challenges of member- ship overhaul. The panel will consist of experienced community leaders that have dealt with exodus to varying levels of success. Failure to deal with member exodus can lead to the collapse of a community, but it take more than recruiting new
members to take on this problem. Communities need to be self reflective about why the exodus took place and this panel hopes to guide participants in how to do that analysis.
Come with me on a thought experiment.
You knew it might happen. In the worst case the conflict within your community could blow things up seriously. Now several of your members are leaving and the future of your community is in doubt. Often people within the communities movement say “No one is indispensable” as a secular mantra for communities shifting to cover important jobs left vacant when an important member leaves. But when several people leave? Well, this is likely no longer a true maxim when the number departing is larger than one.
Certainly, some part of the response of the group left behind must be soul searching. “What did we do that was wrong? Could we have taken better care of the group? What have we learned from difficult circumstance and can we create new policies and practices to avoid it happening again?”
But after this important self reflection is completed, there will likely be a need to re-assess if the mission of the community is still the same after the exodus. It is possible that the new group of members have a somewhat (and potentially quite) different vision of the future community. While difficult work, this can be very satisfying and healing to the group remaining.
There is still time to register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference over the labor day weekend (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) in central Virginia, 45 minutes from Charlottesville and 55 minutes to central Richmond or RSVP on Facebook
May is the month when the organizers for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference ask people to think about Labor Day weekend. Specifically, we ask people what types of workshops they might be interested in offering at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference (TOCC). These come in two broad types.
Fixed Time Workshops: This is the collection of 16 (or sometimes 20) workshops which are selected in advance and are all relating to intentional communities. We are exploring different themes and it is likely we will choose a couple of them. If you are interested in presenting on an intentional community related topic we would encourage you to submit this workshop proposal form. The deadline for proposals is May 31st. These workshops happen Saturday, Sept 1st and Sunday morning. Workshop presenters who are selected for these fixed time slots will get their registration fee waived. And if you are coming from NYC metro area (or south of there) you might be able to come on our totally groovy bus.
Open Space Technology Workshop: There are way too many clever and interesting people at the TOCC to not provide a forum for them to demonstrate or propose their own workshop even if it has little or nothing to do with community. The problem (from an organizers perspective) is which ones do you choose? Fortunately, this problem has been well worked by others and there is a democratic, self selecting mechanism called Open Space Technology. These workshops are giving Sunday (Sept 2) midday into the afternoon and typically we do between 10 and 20 workshops ranging in size from 25 participants (like at a urban squatting or polyamory workshop) to just a couple of excited participants (bird watching or Python blockchain programming).
Even if you don’t want to offer any workshop there are three types of people who might want to come to this annual event, which often has over 150 participants and 40 plus communities represented:
- You want to find an intentional community to move into
- You are starting a community with friends
- You live in a community and are looking for new members
If any of these three things is true for you, then you can register for this event here. If you want to see who is already coming and who is interested go to the Facebook event (35 attending and 215 interested so far (May 1), and we have just started our outreach).
Recently, a good friend of the community, Wolvie, came to buy the school bus and take it back to New Orleans, where they live. They also ended up staying for 10 days to help us complete some pretty urgent house projects, such as fixing the slate roof and putting up ceilings where the roof hole had caused water damage.
Wolvie, being a queer person themselves, wanted to hire a local work crew of queer, trans, and POC. They said they prefer to work with cool folks and wanted to prioritize people who generally have harder times getting a decent paying job. We put out a call into the networks, and got a solid handful of rad folks to get the work done. They did a FANTASTIC job. One member of our team was Wripley Bennet, of the Black Pride 4, who is an organizer with BQIC (Black Queer Intersectional Columbus). Check out all the solid organizing work BQIC is doing here. Wripley writes, “It was amazing to be doing work in my old stomping grounds, with a community that has always done such extraordinary work. The work was hard, but filled with laughs and pizzammmm…pizza. I got to know one of our talented youths during our time, “V.” And Wolvie was patient and kind with on-site training with the work. It’s was the perfect example of ready work for our folks. Same day work same day pay, in a respectful and affirming environment. We need more of that!”
This is the essence of community building, IMHO. Identifying needs in the community, and collaborating to get shit done. Back in the day (maybe 9 years ago??) Wolvie was one of the founding members of the Baltimore Free Farm, a collective land project that provides huge amounts of free food to the surrounding communities. The Midden (which is the fertile soil out of which CoCoHo is growing) used to be in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities with BFF, so we were sister communes. The work Wolvie did for us on the house was above and beyond anything we could have hoped for. They wanted to help us make our space a viable community, even as we transition away from being an income-sharing urban commune, and towards become a housing cooperative.
I am blown away by all the good work, friendship, and community building that happened during the last 2 weeks. We worked hard, blasted music and sang along, and each learned at least one new skill. So much gratitude to everyone who contributed to making this possible. ❤️ Queer Crew For the Win!
Pictures of most of the communities featured in Commune Life over the last year. (All communes are in US states unless otherwise noted.)
Acorn, Mineral, VA:
Baltimore Free Farm, Baltimore, MD:
Cambia, Louisa, VA:
Compersia, Washington, DC:
East Wind, Tecumseh, MO:
las Indias, Madrid, Spain:
Living Energy Farm, Louisa, VA:
Oran Mór, Squires, MO:
Quercus (disbanded), Richmond, VA:
Rainforest Lab, Forks, WA:
Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO:
Sycamore Farm, Arcadia, VA:
The Common Unity Project (TCUP), Gitxsan Territory, Hazelton, BC (Canada):
Twin Oaks, Louisa, VA:
It is no secret that Baltimore has problems. It is a city with a long history of extreme racism that haunts every street. It is a city filled with poverty. The elite and the oppressed live on top of one another. Tensions escalate quickly. The militarized police, who blatantly defend the privileged, have been known to seed eruptions of violence to justify their own atrocities –as was the case during the Baltimore Uprising. Humans are set up for incarceration because they happen to be poor and not white. Some are murdered –often by the police. Vast neighborhoods are without access to food beyond what can be purchased at a corner store or liquor store. The job market is hard to enter beyond minimum wage. Countless homes are left vacant while the homeless are denied space. Shelters can be as dangerous as the streets. Despair is common.
Yet, there are tiny oases in Baltimore. Here, the pain that hangs over the city is dampened slightly. These are a few passionately run non-governmental organizations and collectives. These are some of the few places where the disadvantaged can experience kindness and be treated like humans.
In the western corner of the Hampden neighborhood, lies one such oasis. In this oasis is a garden filled with green veggies, tomatoes, berries, grapes, carrots of many colors, and more such delights. There are community plots for rent. There is a section for experimenting with urban permaculture. There is a warehouse full of concerts, Food Not Bombs, and other events. There are houses occupied by a growing intentional community. This oasis is the Baltimore Free Farm.
The group of friends who founded BFF knew nothing of the intentional community movement when they first dreamed up the project. They had not heard of Twin Oaks, Acorn, or any of the other older communes. The idea of formal consensus was foreign. Income sharing was unheard of. Yet, when they were laid off from their construction jobs, the original BFF members came together to build a garden, and around that garden they built a community.
They chose a small patch of vacant land just far enough from Hampden’s famous Avenue to be out of gentrification’s reach –at least at the time. It was covered with weeds and trash. The soil was poor and toxic. Together, the four friends cleared the land and got to work on the soil. To protect the land they worked on, the friends began camping on the property. They were soon joined by more friends. Eventually they moved into the abandoned houses down the hill from their garden space. They began to renovate the spaces –albeit very crudely — and built a culture together. Accidentally, they had formed an intentional community.
BFF has come a long way since then. The Baltimore Free Farm is now a community in dialogue with the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. As a result, BFF is in the process of becoming income sharing. The eventual dream is to have a community business to support all of the members. Yet, BFF is also engaged with interaction with the broader Baltimore community thanks to the very public warehouse space. This makes BFF a very dynamic community that attracts diverse perspectives.
As with many urban communities, it is easy to become involved in political action within the city. Much of BFF’s work centers around food justice –an important goal in Baltimore. BFF hosts three days of Food Not Bombs a week. BFF also hosts a weekly food give-away called Food Rescue Day. Several individual members are also part of groups like Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).
Baltimore Free Farm is incredibly exciting. BFF’s unintentional beginning is a poetic expression of the hunger for community in our world of increased alienation. It is a dynamic, multifaceted place that is somehow cohesive. It will be exciting to see how BFF grows.
For more information, follow Baltimore Free Farm on Facebook or email the community at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Horizontal Housing Co. is a non-stock corporation formed by members of Baltimore Free Farm in 2013. Because Baltimore Free Farm is a project under the umbrella of the 501-c3 organization Fusion Partnerships, it cannot collectively purchase property. The sole purpose of Horizontal Housing Co. is to purchase property for utilization by Baltimore Free Farm members as either gardening space or housing.
In 2012, our good friend and Baltimore Free Farm member Paul Pojman passed away, leaving behind a house which BFF collective members lived in but did not own. Working in conjunction with Paul’s family members and NASCO, an organization which helps co-ops and housing collectives purchase property, Horizontal Housing was able to purchase this property and continue housing several BFF members on campus.
In addition, Horizontal Housing was able to purchase two lots from the city that are a part of Baltimore Free Farm’s gardening space. Like much of Hampden, these lots were under threat of housing development before Horizontal Housing was awarded the rights to purchase the land and it will now remain part of our garden for many years to come.
Our goal is to create an intentional community housing project here at Baltimore Free Farm. We are working to join the Federation of Egalitarian Communities and we hope to be fully income-sharing by the end of 2016.
In 2015, we purchased a vacant home and now we are fixing it up! We need your help! No matter your level of experience in construction or power tools, we can use all hands on deck, and we’ll teach you the basics. Are you familiar with Baltimore City building codes? We would love for you to be our consultant! We can’t pay much, but could barter with vegetables!
Any way you can support us, be that labor hours, material donations, making lunch for the crew etc., we would be so glad to hear from you! Email email@example.com to get involved.
The Baltimore Free Farm put out a call for help from nearby communities to help cook for the protests and marches against the murder of Freddie Gray. Acornistas, Twin Oakers, the Wingnut Collective, affiliates of New Community Project, The Keep, and several other collectives responded by sending several cars and vans crammed to the gills with people, food, equipment, donations, and prepared food from those who couldn’t go.
As we entered the city of Baltimore, we were greeted by the foreboding sight of the M&T bank stadium serving as a stand in military base, with army jeeps, military personnel, helicopters, and jail buses filling it.
Once we landed at BFF, we immediately begun hauling in our goods and set to work cooking. We cooked hotel pan after hotel pan of vegan food to bring to the marches that afternoon. With our food lined up and ready to serve, throngs of hungry demonstrators came to refuel.
We got word that there were at least a hundred cars stopped in the road about a quarter mile away. Soon thereafter, the streets started to pour with protesters in a march. Lots of solders with automatic weapons.
As we marched through baltimore, people congregated at their stoops or out their windows, some looking, some cheering on. Cars honking, drivers raising fists, eliciting renewed cheers and pumped fists to the air from marchers. A Boltbus drove by honking wildly, followed by a dump truck drive, similarly showing solidarity.
So many people responded to the request to help cook bring so much food that all the ovens on site plus the wood fired pizza oven have been in use almost nonstop. We even set up additional counter space and some propane cookers, as seen above. Today we have already served meals four times, with one more serving for curfew breakers later on tonight.
Above, people have gathered once again the raise their voices in chants, at the corner of North and Pennsylvania, the site of former racial profiling and police brutality.
Below are a few signs that caught my attention.
by Cel Free Farm
I live in an urban community called the Baltimore Free Farm. What does that mean? I gaze over our three row houses and community garden. Chickweed spills over the sides of an herb planter. I think back on my community’s less than intentional start and natural evolution into an intentional community. I am proud of the progress. The memories of our origin still leave a mark on us as we move to a quieter, gentler culture. They represent lessons learned. Life here is complicated and beautiful.
For those of us who are new to the intentional community movement, an intentional community is a residential group brought together by a shared vision. Many would argue that intentional communities are as old as humanity. They come in all shapes and sizes. They form around a variety of ideals from religious ones to secular political ones. Of course, here I am most interested secular egalitarian communities. These are communities that structure themselves to encourage even distributions of power and greater inclusivity. This is done by adopting democratic or consensus based decision making structures to include the widest number of voices possible. Many communities adopt partial or full income sharing to equalize income generating and important non-income generating work. They strive to be living, working examples of a need-based economy. Many communities come together around a variety of issues. Some focus on food access, sustainability, or a combination. Others focus on issues around gender, relationship, racial, physical, neurological, or other forms of diversity. There are even communes that focus on helping other communes build themselves.
Whether the idea is new or old, I find it helpful to remind myself what draws me to this way of living. I like to compare a commune to a very well thought out art piece. Like an art piece, an intentional community presents a possibility; a fresh perspective. Here is a little living example of how a truly egalitarian world would look. Here is proof that it is possible. Here is an example of the many ways we can organize ourselves in an egalitarian manner. There are sustainable farms and small urban gardens. There are even nomadic cyberpunk communes. What new forms could a commune take? How many other possibilities are there?
There are, of course, the struggles we all go through as well. Conflict can develop between members even in the most carefully constructed systems. As much as we try to prevent it, there will occasionally be members who attempt to dominate others. We can receive criticism from other activists about our involvement in other forms of activism and our perceived or real inclusiveness. Money and other resources can become tight. Legal problems can develop. Communards are not immune to the range of human experience of birth, death, love, loss and the like. People have stilled end up hurt, sad, and lonely. We are far from perfect. It is important to remember that perfection is not the goal. Progress is.
The troubles of the outside world still loom in the distance. Police and military machines still spread violence. Prisons still overflow. Capitalism still pits us against each other. Power is still concentrated in the hands of the elite. Revolution after revolution replaces one dictator with another. Climate change is still underway. Local and national laws can change for the better or worse. The homeless still starve on the streets just for making the wrong mistake at the wrong time. Bigotry and hatred still exist. Violence still exists in its many forms. Inequality is still rampant and institutionalized.
As challenging as life can be, I cannot help but still feel hopeful for the many new communities springing up globally. Each one contributes to this movement meaningfully. The urban communities are clearly visible in the wider community. The rural communities provide models for sustainable agriculture. Old communities show successful approaches to common problems. New communities represent fresh possibilities. Let’s keep supporting each other until we no longer can. Let’s keep expanding until it is no longer possible. Let’s keep working on ourselves until there is no one left. Even if the world is doomed, let’s keep trying until the end.