Music is often an important part of communal living. Although, I don’t think that Sumner ever says it, at least one of the folks in this band is an East Wind member and I know that, at the time, another was part of the Oran Mor community. Are you up for a road tour?
by Raven Glomus
The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (otherwise known as the FEC) is a network that tries to keep the communes connected with each other. We have a once a month call where the delegates from various communes talk with each other. Last month, on the call, someone joked that the FEC currently was five folks, the same five folks (representing four communities) that had been on the call for several months. (Fortunately, this month, we had six folks on the call, including someone from a west coast community that hadn’t been on the call in several months.)
We generally have an assembly for the FEC every year (although, due to the pandemic, it may not happen this year). I was looking at the essay I wrote for the assembly that was held in December, 2018 ( published in January, 2019 ). I am struck by the number of attending communities that are now no longer with the FEC. Part of it was the demise of the three urban communes that were part of the FEC. But while the urban communes spectacularly fell apart, it feels like there are many rural communes that are just fading away.
I think that Oran Mor, where the assembly was held, is now down to one member and her family. Sadder to me is that Sandhill, which had been an income sharing community since 1974 and was one of the founding members of the FEC, is also down to two families and my understanding is that they are no longer income sharing. Ionia, in Alaska, is still around, but they no longer seem interested in the FEC. There are a few other rural communes that are still ongoing but, since they are in sparse to no contact with the FEC, it’s hard to tell what condition they are in.
The pandemic, of course, figures into this, but so does the regular boom and bust cycle of commune building. It seems like 2018 was the end of a boom cycle and we seem to be in a bust cycle now–with the pandemic on top of that. Twin Oaks, the biggest and longest running of the secular communes, is at their lowest membership in many years and, with the pandemic, they aren’t able to bring in a lot of new members.
Still, the term “low ebb” comes from a discussion about the tides, and describes the point where things are farthest out. What happens next is that the tide begins coming back in. Similarly, I have chosen to use low ebb in the title just because I think things will begin changing soon.
In spite of how it feels, the pandemic won’t last forever. The 2018 Assembly was not a happy occasion. Things were very difficult at both East Wind and Acorn Community. A year later, both East Wind and Acorn were on the upswing, while it was Twin Oaks that was having difficulties–and just before the pandemic hit, they started getting some new folks in. Here at Glomus Commune (formerly East Brook) we are having a very good year this year in spite of the pandemic. We have four income sharing members (the FEC now requires a community to have five in order to be a full member community) and I think that we might well have six income sharing members by the end of the year.
Finally, I think that in the long run, the pandemic may well benefit the communes. This seems true economically: Acorn’s seed business is booming and I also think that some of Twin Oaks and East Wind’s businesses have actually done better because of panic buying. More importantly, the FIC (Foundation for Intentional Community–the larger communities organization) reported a “sharp uptick” in searches for communities following the onset of the pandemic. People have been realizing the benefits of communal living and I would not be surprised if membership in the communes grows as the pandemic ebbs, and I also think people who have been thinking of starting a commune or community may well decide to just do it once they can.
I would like us to find a way of moving beyond the boom and bust scenario and figure out how to stabilize the communes, but for now, I think that it’s important to build and maintain what we have and look hopefully at the future.
Every communard at the FEC Assembly last December fell in love with Bam Bam–the deer living at our host community, Oran Mor. But no one could ever love Bam Bam more than the boy you’re about to meet:
by Raven Cotyledon
Oran Mór means ‘Great Song’. It comes from the Celtic creation myth of the melody that sang the world into existence and continues to co-create it.
Oran Mór community was founded in 2003 by two couples from East Wind who wanted to live a more sustainable life. Both couples are gone, but the community continues.
I visited Oran Mór in December when the Federation of Egalitarian Communities held their assembly there. It seemed a sweet place.
Current residents include Desiree, Carlos, Opa, Chris, and April, as well as goats, ducks, chicken, geese, guinea fowl, cats, and dogs, and a deer who has adopted them. Ish lives nearby and visits frequently.
Oran Mór community is still committed to living harmoniously with the land and each other. It’s very apparent if you spend any time there. I’m glad that I got to spend time with them.
Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!
Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:
- Acorn Community
- Compersia Community
- Cotyledon Community
- East Brook Community Farm
- The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
- Twin Oaks Community
- Tobin Moore
- Kai Koru
- Jenn Morgan
- Jonathan Thaler
- Nance & Jack Williford
- Julia Evans
- William Croft
- Aaron Michels
- Cathy Loyd
- Laurel Baez
- Magda schonfeld
- Michael Hobson
- Sasha Daucus
- William Kadish
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).
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:
The 67th annual (previously biannual) Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC) assembly was hosted by East Wind this year. In 1977, the very first FEC Assembly was held on East Wind’s land and forty years later both institutions stand as a testament to the durability of income-sharing and communal living. In mid March FEC delegates and people interested to visit East Wind traveled from Twin Oaks, Acorn, Sandhill, The Midden, and Sapling communities to review the state of the communes and plan for the upcoming year. Communities that wish to become full members of the FEC (known as ‘Communities in Dialogue’) that were in attendance included Stillwater Sanctuary/Possibility Alliance (La Plata, MO), Oran Mor (Wasola, MO), The Mothership (Portland, OR), Rainforest Lab (Forks, WA), Cambia (Louisa County, VA), Le Manoir (Quebec, Canada), and Ionia (Kasilof, Alaska). The Assembly consisted of five days of meetings, land tours, and social gatherings in the evenings. A number of topics were discussed, ranging from financial goals and better ways to support Communities in Dialogue to mediation workshops and how best to communicate the benefits of income-sharing.
The Assembly agenda flowed smoothly and a lot of ground was covered. The budget required a lot less time to finalize than last year and everyone was grateful for it. A new addition to the budget is ‘mini-grants’ which is a program that allows any member of a FEC community or Community in Dialogue to make a requests for small amounts of money ($50-$300) to make travel, education, and outreach opportunities become reality. The existing budget for full member scholarships was also approved and Joston of East Wind is receiving the first $500 grant for the budget year for an intensive permaculture training he will be attending next month right here in the Missouri Ozarks.
The FEC’s annual budget is paid for by member dues equal to 1% of net income for each full member community. In addition to access to the FEC funds for promoting the ideals income-sharing community, inclusion in the FEC also allows communities to become members of PEACH which is the catastrophic health insurance fund for East Wind and its sister communities.
The Assembly isn’t all meetings, of course. A tour of Oran Mor and a land walk at East Wind were some highlights of this year’s Assembly. Oran Mor is a Community in Dialogue that is about forty minutes from East Wind. They value living a low consumption life style and avoiding the use of fossil fuels. Last year, when East Wind ended its goat program the remaining goats were gifted to Oran Mor and they are healthy and happy. This year, in return, Oran Mor gifted East Wind with some of their ducks. Thanks Oran Mor!
This year the FEC accepted Compersia as a full member community. Compersia is an urban commune based outside of Washington DC. Steve, Compersia’s ever energetic and upbeat delegate, is excited to participate in outreach by getting people interested in income-sharing and communal living. He emphasized the fact that people with careers in an urban setting can mutually benefit from income-sharing and that communes don’t have to manifest in the form of ‘back to the land’ rural arrangements such as East Wind and Twin Oaks. Also during the assembly, Davi of The Mothership finalized a purchase of a neighboring house in Portland. They are interested in expanding and having the infrastructure for population growth. Urban and rural communes unite!
The Assembly was a great time to meet new people and strengthen the bonds between the FEC communities. Everyone can agree that East Wind was a generous host. Thank you to all the East Winders who served up delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners each day and made all our visitors feel welcome! As usual, the quality and abundance of food found in East Wind’s meals amazes everyone who visits. And of course, upon departure copious amounts of nut butters were distributed to be enjoyed by all of our sister communities. All in all, hundreds of pounds of almond, cashew, peanut, and sesame seed butter left East Wind’s warehouse to be consumed by our fellow communards across the continent. East Wind is grateful to be able to share such bounty. The next FEC Assembly will be held in Virginia on Acorn‘s land. Looking forward to it!
Post written by Sumner
Photos taken by Rejoice (thanks Rejoice!)
Here is one of our veggie gardens growing tomatoes, peppers, zinnia, amaranth, cucumbers, squash, lambs quarter, basil, sweet potatoes, melons, and a peach tree! We always practice companion planting and permaculture methods in our gardens.