A Detailed FEC History: Part One, the ’60s and ’70s

by Raven Cotyledon

This is for commune geeks.  

Maximus put out a video of The Phylogenetic History of the FEC.  It was surprisingly popular. My one complaint was that it left out so many details.

Maximus shared with me the spreadsheet that his video was based on.  Using that, Kat Kinkade’s books, Laird’s blog, the Communities Directory, and my own memory of events in the 1960s, 1990s, and recently, I intend to put out a detailed description of the history of the communes and the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.

I will break it up by decades and publish one a month to keep it from getting too long and boring.  This part covers the 1960s and 1970s.

The 1960s

1967  Twin Oaks is founded.  That was fifty-two years ago and Twin Oaks is still going strong with nearly a hundred members. To put it in context, there were hundreds of ‘communes’ formed in the late sixties.  Very, very few of them are still around. Kat Kinkade attributed Twin Oaks survival to a combination of hard work, structure, and freedom, and getting big fast enough. She thought thirty people was “the minimum for security” and said that TO reached that in their third year.

wwork_laborsignupscotty-90-500-500-100
Signing up for labor in the early days at Twin Oaks

 

The 1970s

1970  East Wind was started. Kat Kinkade claimed that she “left Twin Oaks, taking two members and some visitors with me, and we set out to form a community that would be just like Twin Oaks in every way except one: We would never close our doors!”  East Wind is also still around with about sixty members.

dsc_5228-1024x683
REIM, one of the original structures at East Wind

1974  Sandhill Farm founded.   Laird Schaub described its founding this way: “In February 1973 I was in a public library and happened across the current issue of Psychology Today. It included an excerpt from a new book by Kat Kinkade, A Walden Two Experiment. It described the first five years of Twin Oaks Community, and it changed my life. …

“By the following spring, we had founded Sandhill Farm: four people willing to try to make that happen.
“Because Twin Oaks was the inspiration and because I’d already done a fair amount of work to reject materialism, we set up Sandhill as an income-sharing community, where all earnings would be pooled. The community still operates that way today.”

img_20160624_172209361
Sandhill

1976  The Federation of Egalitarian Communities was formed.  Laird’s description: “…five North American communities shared a dream of cooperation. As a result, representatives of these communities got together and founded the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.”  The first Assembly was in November of that year. Attending communities were Twin Oaks, East Wind, Aliya, Aloe, Dandelion, Genesis, North Mountain, and Springtree.

1977  There seemed to have been three Assemblies that year, one in February, one in October, and one in November. (At least, that’s what was listed.)   Aliya and Springtree seemed to have already dropped out. The February Assembly lists the population of the other communities at the time, Twin Oaks (72), East Wind (55), Aloe (6), Dandelion (13), and North Mountain (12).

conference_fec-1467-500-500-100
Undated picture of an Assembly at Twin Oaks

1978   On the other hand, there only appeared to be one Assembly in 1978, in July, with the same five communities.

1979   There were two Assemblies in 1979, one in January and one in August, and a new community, Los Horcones, came to the January Assembly, and the August Assembly saw Sandhill attending for the first time.   The August Assembly also listed community populations at Twin Oaks (75), East Wind (55?) [yes, that’s how it’s listed], Aloe (10), Dandelion (10), Los Horcones (12), and North Mountain (12). There was no population listed for Sandhill.

That was the beginning.  Only Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Sandhill are still around today and right now, Sandhill is struggling. But the FEC continues to this day, with new communities and new energy.

Next month, I will detail the FEC through the eighties with communities coming in while others leave or disband. It will probably have too much detail for most folks, but I find it fascinating to watch the communities and the organization as it grows and struggles. This is how we change the world folks, one small step at a time.

wtoaks9_kat_woody-106-500-500-100
Kat Kinkade and others harvesting corn at Twin Oaks around 1969 or 1970

(If you have any information about the early days of the FEC or its history at any period, please add it in the comments.)

____________________________________________________________________________

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:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • 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

Thanks!

 

Advertisements
A Detailed FEC History: Part One, the ’60s and ’70s

Warts and All

by Raven Cotyledon

I sometimes worry that this blog sounds too much like “Rah, rah, communes!”  I don’t want anyone to think that the communes are perfect or that we are trying to claim that the communes are perfect.

Far from it.  The communes are filled with people and since there aren’t any perfect people, there aren’t any perfect communes. It’s true that many of the communes have high aspirations but even if the people in them managed to perfect themselves, the boundaries between the communes and the rest of society are very porous, with folks leaving and new folks coming in all the time.

Almost any ill that you can find in society, you can find in the communes.  I have hung around at various communities long enough to see the problems and bad behaviors fairly close up.

 

wart
Diagram of a wart

I occasionally think about writing this and even giving some of the gory details so this blog doesn’t sound too idealistic and to balance things out, but I generally don’t because, first, it would make me very unpopular at what ever commune I talked about, second, because folks who are threatened by the very existence of our communes would publicize these incidents as a way to destroy our communities,  and third, none of these are anything that you can’t find in some corner of any city, or for that matter, almost any rural town.

So, if the communes share all the problems the rest of the society has, why put all the work into creating them?

My answer is that they are also doing some things that you can’t find anywhere else. For example, Twin Oaks does have their fair share of problems and even pass out a booklet saying that they are not utopia, but they also have nearly a hundred people who live communally and share way more than you will find almost anywhere else, and they have been doing it for over fifty years, and contrary to many people’s expectations, there is no dictator or group of people that run everything.

fj_greatdictatorreview
Charlie Chaplin as the Great Dictator

I say this because I saw something where someone commented on an article about Twin Oaks that any arrangement like that ‘invariably’ ended up with a small group running everything–and, honestly, Twin Oaks is a communist society, and the mainstream wants you to believe that a communist culture has to end up in a dictatorship. I can tell you that no one there would allow it.

I single out Twin Oaks because they are the oldest and biggest of the communes, but every one of the communes is an experiment, trying to live a different and better way. Some work (at least in the sense they last) and some fail, but each is a valiant effort and we can learn from each failure and each success about what is possible. And given the very fallible people they are filled with and the society that they are surrounded by, they struggle with all the problems you can name.

But I prize each of them, warts and all, because they point the way to another future. Another world is possible, and we are carving the way.

world

____________________________________________________________________________

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:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • 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

Thanks!

Warts and All

Gluten-Free Consent

I recently compared consent culture at Twin Oaks to my gluten-free diet. Let me explain…

Image result for hug me cake

So before I transitioned to a mostly paleo-ish diet, I was doing the general Standard American Diet (SAD) thing and didn’t really think that anything was super wrong because I was used to feeling a bit uncomfortable after eating. I thought that this discomfort was normal. Once I eliminated most processed foods, gluten, grains, beans, and dairy, I felt so much better and feel somewhat foolish that didn’t even realize that feeling better was a possibility until now. Avoiding these foods has also made me more sensitive over time to when I do consume them, either intentionally or accidentally.

This is similar to my experience with daily minor consent violations that are common in the mainstream and happen much less here at Twin Oaks. In the mainstream, the slight discomfort felt when someone pats you on the back without asking or touches your arm to get your attention when you’re not that emotionally close to them is normalized (and exacerbated by sexism). You don’t realize until it’s gone that you don’t have to feel that way because people aren’t supposed to do that. At Twin Oaks, I thought it was a little weird at first that folks would ask if they could hug me or give me a high five. But then, I began to appreciate that I didn’t have to have as many awkward interactions where folks (mainly cis men) randomly touch me unnecessarily while talking to me, expecting that I was “supposed” to be ok with it. I can breathe a lot easier knowing most people here will maintain good boundaries around casual touch most of the time. Knowing that this feeling of ease exists makes me more sensitive to the times when it does still happen. I get more upset now than I used to about people just going in for the hug or high five without asking me, will likely reject a visitor who casually touches folks without asking, and get more annoyed in the mainstream when I notice that this behavior continues everyday outside of our little bubble.

I’d like more people (especially women, trans folks, and non-binary people) to be able to move freely in the world without feeling mildly uncomfortable all the time (often due to the carelessness and/or entitlement of cis men). So let’s all try to be better at this since I think we can all benefit from transitioning away from the Standard American Diet of sexism and consent violations and into a world of trust and ease.

See the source image

Gluten-Free Consent

Comparing East Wind to Twin Oaks

by Raven Cotyledon

I visited East Wind community for the first time last month (December, 2018). From the beginning, I kept comparing it to Twin Oaks.

Although it’s probably not fair, there is some justification for doing this.  Among other things, East Wind was started by some folks from Twin Oaks, notably Kat Kinkade who discusses the founding of East Wind in her book, Is It Utopia Yet?  Here’s what she says: “I left Twin Oaks, taking two members and some visitors with me, and we set out to form a community that would be just like Twin Oaks in every way except one: we would never close our doors!”

East Wind is not just like Twin Oaks, but there are a lot of similarities.

img_0138
Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom (RB) is the dining hall at East Wind and it has some similarities to ZK, the Twin Oaks dining hall, including being often referred to by its initials.  It even has an O&I board (opinions and ideas) like the one at Twin Oaks.

img_0139
The O&I board at East Wind

I found myself continually comparing and contrasting.   For example, I liked the humanure (composting) toilets at East Wind better, but I thought that the visitors quarters at Twin Oaks were nicer.

img_0141
South Fillmore, one of the toilet buildings at EW

 

img_0143
The Man Hut, the male visitors quarters
East Wind also has a brand new laundry/shower building which is beautiful. There is no way to compare it to Harmony, which is an old building at Twin Oaks that has their laundry and a shower room. East Wind has a new building because their older facility burned down. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the new building, but it is truly lovely. 

Where Twin Oaks makes their money off of a variety of stuff, including hammocks and tofu, East Wind gets most of their income from their nut butter business, although they also make rope sandals.  Nevertheless, their industrial area looks similar to me to Emerald City, the industrial area at Twin Oaks.

img_0172
The industrial area at East Wind

Finally, I want to conclude with this sign, in the EW industrial area. I have nothing to compare it with, but I like the motto. Perhaps it says a lot about East Wind.

1546800045368_img_0163

____________________________________________________________________________

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:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft

Thanks!

Comparing East Wind to Twin Oaks

Communities Conference Workshops

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).  

big-meal
Cambia lunch

Saturday September 1st

9:30 to noon

1:30 to 3 PM

4 to 5:30 PM

Sunday September 2

9:30 to 11

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.

TO 50 group shot
Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary – Circa 2017
Communities Conference Workshops

Will your community survive an Exodus?

By Paxus of Cambia Community

exodus people walking.jpgOne 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.

exodus logo.jpg

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.

exodus people walking.jpg
When people leave en mass, the group changes and perhaps dies

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.

Exodus with wave.jpg

The Baltimore Free Farm, Acorn Community and Twin Oaks have all experienced an exodus of members and survived.  Other communities we will discuss did not survive.

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

Will your community survive an Exodus?

Meet the Communities

The most important part of the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is not the incredible collection of workshops.  It is not the rich Open Space offerings.  It is not even the Saturday night dance, which is reliably one of the best dances of the year at Twin Oaks.

The most important part is Meet the Communities.

Meet the communities - EBCF.png
The FECs newest member – East Brook Community Farm 2017

For the first couple of hours of Saturday’s program, each of the communities present send up a representative or three to introduce their community to the whole group for 1 minute.  There is a script of questions which representatives can answer, but there is a strong anarchist streak among many of these people and they often freestyle.

is it utopia cover.jpg
Nope – but we are still looking hard for it

Then participants of the event mill around the collection of picnic tables where representatives of the different communities are present longer and more personal presentations.  It is like speed dating, except it is better in every way.  People can meet people who live in these 40 or 50 different communities and try to figure out if any of them are a good match.

meet the communities - sky and victor.jpg
Conversation is the Key – Sky and Victor circa 2016

I have no idea how many people precisely found the community they want to live in at each years Meet the Communities. What i do know is that some of the most important community recruitment each year happens at this conference and this is one of our better tools.  If you have a community which is seeking new members, even if you can’t make the entire event, it makes sense to be there Saturday morning.

It might be just the most important place to meet new members for your community or your new home.

 

Meet the Communities