The Fragility of Communities

by Raven

I’ve been hoping to have some of the folks in the communities that I’m going to talk about tell their tales, and I’m still hoping that will happen, but in the interests of transparency, I want to put out some of what is happening.

I’ve heard it said (and have said it myself) that 90% of new communities fail. It’s not a real statistic but it is an acute observation. Anyone working closely with community building knows the stories. (And it’s not that strange–I’ve also heard that 90% of new business fail.)

FNB benefit house show

Many communities fail because people have no idea what goes into building community. I’ve written a piece on this blog on one way not to build community. But even some of those communities that seemed carefully thought out, don’t last, for one reason or another.

At this point, three of the communes that have graced this blog are gone: Quercus, Sycamore Farm, and the Midden. The Midden lasted more than seven years (they bought a house in 2010) and only fell apart recently. (Note: Not completely accurate.  See my comment in the comments section.)  Quercus lasted (I think) less than a year. Sycamore Farm may have done the best of all–as their community fell apart another community near Twin Oaks and Acorn (called Sapling–we were never able to get anything from them) was also doing poorly. The founders of Sycamore Farm were able to take it over and it has become Mimosa. (As I said, I’m hoping the folks that were part of Quercus and Sycamore/Sapling/Mimosa can tell their stories. Folks involved have said that they’d like to, but communitarians are busy people.)

Sycamore Farm

A lot of this is simply the nature of building community. It’s just not easy–if it was, there would be ten times the number of communities that there are now. Community involves people and people are both wonderful and can be very difficult.

This makes things like Twin Oaks turning fifty a major celebration. I believe that Acorn will reach twenty-five next year and that’s amazing as well. It makes me appreciate both of them and other long lived communities such as Sandhill and East Wind. When you realize how fragile new communities are, you realize both how precious the long lived communes are and how important it is to keep working on building new ones.

The Midden

It takes courage to build new communities, but Twin Oaks, etc, wouldn’t be around unless someone made the effort.






The Fragility of Communities

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:


Baltimore Free Farm, Baltimore, MD:

Cambia, Louisa, VA:

Cambia 4

Compersia, Washington, DC:


East Wind, Tecumseh, MO:


las Indias, Madrid, Spain:


Living Energy Farm, Louisa, VA:


Oran MórSquires, MO:

Summer OM5a

Quercus (disbanded), Richmond, VA:

Porch music jam on our snazy palette-finished porch

Rainforest Lab, Forks, WA:


Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO:

Sandhill 1

Sycamore Farm, Arcadia, VA:


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


Twin Oaks, Louisa, VA:





A Cornucopia of Communes

SESE and Quercus

by Junior and Quercus

Quercus SESE 1

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has played a large part in the development of Quercus, providing an income stream that  encourages the community to expand. A focal point of that experience is the willingness and ability of established communities to help newcomers onto the stage.

Quercus SESE 2

Late this Spring Quercus set up shop in the Main office of SESE to bundle and ship Sweet Potato starter slips. This is the primary source of employment for Quercus in the month of June.  SESE has been a reliable source of work for Quercus since the community began in October 2015. Something we’re grateful for. Instead of being subject to some dark, corporate overlord – our labor goes directly towards supporting our friends and local co-operative business.

Quercus SESE 3

This particular worker cooperative can trace its roots to Twin Oaks. The original designers of the worker co-op community run industry model in this area.  Utilizing the skills of a group of people and allowing them common access and input cultivates an engaging, yet efficient work space that can even rival the old puritanical systems of hierarchy we’re so willing to subscribe to otherwise. And we’re not alone…

Quercus SESE 4

The massive co-operative businesses Mondragon corporation explores collective cooperation on a global scale. The relationship Quercus has to SESE is only a small component to a larger consciousness.

Quercus SESE 5

And together, we’re changing the world, by changing what it means to cooperate.

SESE and Quercus