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