A Cornucopia of Communes

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:

acorn-family-portrait

Baltimore Free Farm, Baltimore, MD:

https://i1.wp.com/www.baltimorefreefarm.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Untitled-1-copy.jpg

Cambia, Louisa, VA:

Cambia 4

Compersia, Washington, DC:

First1

East Wind, Tecumseh, MO:

ews2

las Indias, Madrid, Spain:

LIWint5

Living Energy Farm, Louisa, VA:

LEFEH1

Oran MórSquires, MO:

Summer OM5a

Quercus (disbanded), Richmond, VA:

Porch music jam on our snazy palette-finished porch

Rainforest Lab, Forks, WA:

rfl

Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO:

Sandhill 1

Sycamore Farm, Arcadia, VA:

s-farm4

The Common Unity Project (TCUP),  Gitxsan Territory, Hazelton, BC (Canada):

tcup8

Twin Oaks, Louisa, VA:

ZK

 

 

 

A Cornucopia of Communes

Baltimore Free Farm: An Oasis within Baltimore

by Cel

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.

BFF
Not Baltimore but something green and beautiful growing out of the ruins of a troubled city

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 collective@baltimorefreefarm.org.

Baltimore Free Farm: An Oasis within Baltimore

Horizontal Housing Co.

from the Baltimore Free Farm website

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.

Untitled-1 copyIn 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 horizontal-housing@baltimorefreefarm.org to get involved.

Horizontal Housing Co.

Baltimore protest update

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.

 We also passed several burnt out businesses, such as this CVS, only heightening our state of apprehension.


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.


Above military personnel can be seen in their omnipresence behind Twin Oaker Edmund.

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.

 A photographer scaled the metro  station for a better shot, triggering a flood of people who also wanted a better view.

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.

Baltimore protest update

A Reflection on Community

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?

Dawn

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.

A Reflection on Community