Maximus

by Raven Cotyledon

I first met Maximus because I was part of the Point A team trying to build communes in East Coast cities.  I wanted to do something in the Boston area (where I have lived most of my life), so when we were able to do a talk at MIT, and I sent out stuff to all the local co-ops, I was excited that we got a fair attendance from them.  I was hoping a co-op in the Boston area would be interested in becoming a commune. A woman in one of the local co-ops said she thought that she knew someone who might be interested in income-sharing. It was Maximus, and he was starting a co-op in Binghamton, NY. Since then, Maximus has lived at the Cambia community in Louisa, VA, and East Brook Community Farm in Walton, NY.

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Maximus

Maximus is a graduate student at Binghamton University studying evolutionary biology.  His focus is on communal living and his passion is making videos about it. He recently made a video about me and I am returning the favor here by making a blog post about him.

I stopped managing Commune Life about the middle of February last year and it drifted for a while until Maximus decided to take it over last summer. But Maximus had bigger plans for Commune Life than just the blog. He started a YouTube channel and a Facebook page and got people to help him build a social media presence as well as an Instagram site.  He also decided to create a Patreon page to help fund all this.

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I agreed to post once a month on the blog and was the only one who posted on it until I decided to return to managing the Commune Life blog in January.  Meanwhile Maximus had turned Commune Life into a small empire. Since I returned to the blog, Maximus and I have been working together on Commune Life, with me focusing solely on the blog, and Maximus working with others to keep the whole Commune Life entity going.

Recently, Maximus began putting the posts from the Commune Life blog up on our Facebook page which has driven up traffic on the blog. He has been strongly encouraging others to make videos and has gotten Rejoice and Julia to create them, giving some diversity of views of the communes.

Maximus and I were also recently down at Twin Oaks, mostly because we are on an FEC financial team together, but Maximus took the opportunity to create a video about the latest Twin Oaks hammocks product. Hopefully that will be up on the Commune Life YouTube channel soon.

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Maximus in front of the Twin Oaks dining hall

I have been saying that the communes are a force for social change. Maximus is documenting the process in great detail. Thank you, Maximus, for the amazing work that you are doing.

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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!

 

Maximus

Creating use value while making a living in egalitarian communities

sese-team-picutre

“If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment … all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The House of the Dead

I observe a lot of suffering related to senseless work. David Graeber describes the entire system of “bullshit” jobs that causes emotional suffering. The quest for sense and usefulness has attracted many to peer production projects and to intentional communities. It is one of the elements of the postcapitalist mode of production to enable people to contribute in a meaningful way, to produce use value.

In this article, I will present egalitarian communities, mainly Acorn community in Virginia to examine whether the postcapitalist mode of production in the physical world can be introduced by establishing intentional communities. It should be noted that the opinions presented here are not necessary those of the founders or members of the community where I have done research. I interpret my findings with regard to their significance for imagining the postcapitalist mode of production. Acorn community does not define itself as a peer production project so the following analysis is not an evaluation of the implementation of peer production theory into practice. It is instead an extrapolation from the practice to how peer production organizations in the physical world could operate in the current system and in the future. The main characteristics of this form of production are: 1) Self-selected spontaneous contribution of participants in the production process;{1} 2) creation of use value rather than exchange or market value, which results in free access to public goods; {2} 3) non-delegation and distributed coordination, in contrast to hierarchical state and market providers. The first article of this four-part series focused on the consequences of self-selected spontaneous contribution as a model of organizing production.

In this article, I will examine how producing use value can be translated into production in the physical world in the context of the constraints imposed by the capitalist system. I will describe how structuring production via intentional communities can generate use value at different scales: for members, for the communities movement, and for society at large. I also explore how the production of use value can be accomodated within the necessity to make a living in the present system and what role communities can play in the transition towards a system where work/working produces use value rather than exchange value? How to navigate the pressure to make a living? – this is the dilemma of many in the peer-to-peer movement. Some have already contributed to this subject: Las Indias in their blog post on the fear of selling out or Lars Zimmermann in his post on Sensorica. I hope that the examples described below will widen the range of possibilities that can be imagined.

The main tenet of the peer production model is that one’s self-selected contribution is motivated by the opportunity to pursue public interest. There is no expectation of reciprocity (access is not dependent on involvement in the production process) and the results are distributed for free. {3} According to Benkler and Nissenbaum, peer production is based on and will inculcate a new set of virtues such as self-selection and volunteerism, gift culture, and the will to contribute to a broader community. {4} Currently, most of the peer production projects in which use value is created in the form of open source and open access products results from the involvement of peers who have other sources of income than their involvement in peer production. However, the motivation behind the contribution to open source projects may be also influenced by the fact that many peers can expect a postponed monetary reward because their participation in digital peer production builds their reputation in the domain of software development. Skills development can be another reward. As long as remunerated work is necessary to sustain public benefit work, it will be difficult to see a pure example of peer production in which peers are solely motivated by the production of use value. Ignoring the material bases of survival for the contributors in a peer production project may have dangerous consequences for the entire project because it may induce motivations to overtake the project by its most active contributors. Therefore, organization models that make the for benefit contribution sustainable and meet the logic of survival are interesting to explore.

Acorn Community sustains its roughly 30 members through operating an heirloom and organic seed distribution business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (“SESE”), and through subsistence agriculture. The enterprise is an interesting example that integrates profit making into the production of use value.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the contribution to production is not entirely spontaneous because the members are obliged to meet 42-hour labor quota and because some members may resent people that do not contribute and consequently make it difficult for a free-rider to feel socially integrated. Therefore, the work in the community, especially within the labor quota, is motivated by self-interest, although less strictly than in the classical employment system. My interviewees mentioned that escaping the stress and anxieties of having a job in the capitalist system and sufferings related to having a boss and pursuing senseless activities were one of their main motivations for joining the community. Other individual motivations were to be able to live a healthier life and be part of a community. Many interviewees mentioned that their involvement is part of their pursuit of the struggle against capitalism. As one of them, a former environmental political campaigner, put it, he decided to shift from oppositional to propositional action. Many members see their lifestyle as an experiment that may inspire society to change. One needs to take a selection bias into account, though. The 15 individuals that I have interviewed may have agreed to be interviewed because they consider participating in the community a way of inciting a broader change. Therefore my project of spreading information and further analysis may correspond to their vision and motivation to participate in the community.

Acorn’s members do not receive a salary but rather are granted unconditional access to all the resources and services produced by the members and made available according to their needs (except for tobacco and alcohol). This is supplemented by a small monthly stipend that can cover needs that are not met by the community. All members have the same position in the community. This is one of the reasons why the community calls itself egalitarian. The enterprise produces use value by redistributing its income to all members of the community, even those who do not play a major role in the success of the business in a monetary sense, as is the case in the capitalist mode of production. Although I have not interviewed anyone who does not work for the business at all, in theory it is possible to do only domestic jobs, grow food for the community, and engage in other subsistence-related activities to fulfill one’s labor quota. Since there is no special reward for individual effort or skills, one can define their work as being closer to work for benefit rather than for profit. The system resembles what one could imagine as an advanced form of an unconditional basic income at a group scale with two modifications:

1) Access is conditional on overall conformity with the labor quota (some proponents of an unconditional basic income also are in favor of a social contribution quota).
2) In contrast to a monetary transfer, the same for everyone, almost all goods and services are freely available to all members. Actual consumption varies widely between individuals. The model looks similar to free public services. {5}

This model can be an inspiration in the discussion and imagining of how the production of use value could be imagined at a broader national scale.

Acorn business model: integrating exchange and use value

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, the enterprise run by Acorn community, is an example of how a profit making enterprise can produce a use value. The enterprise sells heirloom seeds and provides services helping gardeners grow and preserve them for the next season. They work with about 60 farms that produce seed for them, which they test for good germination, weigh out, and sell or freezefor future use. The seeds are chosen according to their reproduction potential, by which we mean that gardeners can reproduce seeds from the harvest instead of buying them every season. The enterprise conducts and publishes research on the varieties so that customers take less risks when planting them. The orientation on reproducibility of seeds and increasing food autonomy is certainly an alternative to the major seed distributors who have an interest in generating dependency on their seeds. Instead of creating dependency on their seeds, the enterprise focuses on widening their selection, currently having about 700 varieties in stock. As a result, its promotional activities increase the biodiversity in the region.

One can compare the business model to an open hardware initiative. Expertise and a product that can be reproduced are provided to the customers. However, the customer needs to pay for the material part of the product. This model, being very locally oriented, could be implemented by other enterprises. The promotion of heirloom seeds that is a part of the enterprise’s activity can have broader impact on the environment in the local area.

Benevolent investment: earn money to change the world

The profits from the business are invested in projects that have broader social change as an objective. The material and human resources of this thriving enterprise are invested in the replication of the model in different settings. It distinguishes them from charity funding, which often is oriented on short-term goals instead of sustainable structures that would improve quality of life. Examples of investments include expanding the infrastructure of the community and helping other communities expand creating a complementary network of egalitarian communities which have developed an internal system of labour exchange. One current initiative, PointA, which wants to bring the community-organization to urban areas and benefit from urban-rural exchanges illustrates how the community’s resources can serve to increase autonomy from market forces through sharing and exchanging.

Producing exchange value and participating in the market system may actually contribute to the sustainability of the communities, making more use value production possible. A member of East Wind community in Missouri, which runs an enterprise producing peanut butter, observed that the authorities probably do not bother the community because the enterprise is one of the major taxpayers in the locality.

One of my interviewees thinks that a complete withdrawal from the money system would be the ideal final stage in the intentional community movement because as long as the community takes part in money exchanges this sustains the system. Instead, by operating on “zero dollars” and by setting an example, undermining “faith in money” would contribute to its end. Certainly, this long term vision can be achieved by creating prefigurative practices of postcapitalist modes of production. Participation in them, despite being sometimes motivated by the advantages to one’s quality of life and not necessarily the pursuit of a social change, may be an opportunity to inculcate non-hierarchical organizationalstyles and develop skills needed to live outside of the employment system.

Communities may use their resources to have an impact on society outside their network. For example, Acorn has been involved in a lawsuit against Monsanto. The Midden, an urban egalitarian community in Columbus, Ohio, enables its members’ political involvement by sharing their resources and decreasing their costs of living. A member of East Wind community (another egalitarian community located in Missouri) would like to help the local town next to his community become a place where food is grown in public spaces and accessible to all. For this purpose, the community can donate seeds and help in setting up the initiative.

The same person wanted to become a biologist before joining East Wind community but he dropped out of his studies. Now he works on experiments with aquaponics and growing trees. It is a way of continuing his passion outside of the rigidities of science funding and the limitations imposed on researchers in academia (check, for example, the writings by David Graeber). Since the labour quota in this community is 35 hours a week and includes varied activities, some time and energy may still be left for pursuing passions and creating a use value.

Securing basic needs and freeing time for useful activities by organizing into intentional communities may be a response to the dilemma that the p2p movement is facing. When the contribution is directly linked to profit, this may influence the motivation and produce other disadvantages to the final product (see Zimmermann’s post). However, the movement needs to address the subsistence problem if it wants to thrive. So by rearranging the mode of production, the communities may be places for producing knowledge and science to develop more autonomy. That may be their transitional role.


Endnotes
{1} Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Expanded Edition (London: Athlantic Books, 2008), 36. Pekka Himanen, The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age (Random House, 2002).
{2} Michel Bauwens and Sussan Rémi, Le peer to peer : nouvelle formation sociale, nouveau modèle civilisationnel, Revue du MAUSS, 2005/2 no 26, p. 193-210.
{3} Lakhani, Karim R.; Robert G. Wolf (2005): Why Hackers Do What They Do. In: Joseph Feller, Brian Fitzgerald, Scott A. Hissam, Karim R. Lakhani (eds.), Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. Michel Bauwens and Sussan Rémi, Le peer to peer : nouvelle formation sociale, nouveau modèle civilisationnel, Revue du MAUSS, 2005/2 no 26, p. 193-210.
{4} Yochai Benkler and Helen Nissenbaum, “Commons-based Peer Production and Virtue,” The Journal of Political Philosophy 14 (December 2006): 394-419.
{5} I appreciate the comment of GPaul Blundell that helped me see the distinctions more clearly. The definition of public services in the model of unconditional basic income is one of the problems to be solved by the movement.

What is Acorn community?

Acorn community is a farm based, egalitarian, income-sharing, secular, anarchist, feminist, consensus-based intentional community of around 32 folks, based in Mineral, Virginia. It was founded in 1993 by former members of neighboring Twin Oaks community. To make their living, they operate an heirloom and organic seed business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (“SESE”), which tests seeds in the local climate and provides customers with advice on growing their own plants and reproducing seeds. Acorn is affiliated to the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, a US network of intentional communities that commit to holding in common their land, labor, resources, and income among community members.

Information on sources

I spent three weeks in August 2014 at Acorn community in Virginia where I conducted interviews with 15 inhabitants of this community (accounting for about half of the membership). The interviews will be used in my book analyzing a scenario of a postcapitalist mode of production from a personal perspective. It will be published in Creative Commons license. My research trip has been co-financed by a Goteo crowdfunding campaign. Some inspiration comes from four public meetings with a member of East Wind community, which I organized in October 2014, in Strasbourg, France. In total, 47 people participated in these events.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my interviewees, Couchsurfing hosts, and Acorn community for their hospitality and their time. The following people have contributed to the Goteo crowdfunding campaign: pixocode, Daycoin Project, Olivier, Paul Wuersig, María, Julian Canaves. I would like to express my gratitude to these and eight other co-financers. I would like to thank for the editing and suggestions from GPaul Blundell, communard of Acorn, instigating organizer of Point A DC.

Further publications

Another article on a Montreal-based enterprise where I conducted interviews for the book in progress can be found here: “There is such a thing as a free lunch: Montreal students commoning and peering food services.”A longer article on the same enterprise is published by a closed-access academic journal. Gajewska, Katarzyna (2014): Peer Production and Prosumerism as a Model for the Future Organization of General Interest Services Provision in Developed Countries Examples of Food Services Collectives. World Future Review 6(1): 29-39.

Please, do not hesitate to ask me for an electronic version at the address: k.gajewska_comm AT zoho.com

I have also published other articles related to peer production and unconditional basic income:

Gajewska, Katarzyna, “Technological Unemployment but Still a Lot of Work: Towards Prosumerist Services of General Interest,” Journal of Evolution and Technology.

Gajewska, Katarzyna, “How Basic Income Will Transform Active Citizenship? A Scenario of Political Participation beyond Delegation,” Paper for 15th International Congress of the Basic Income Earth Network, June 27th to 29th, 2014, Montreal, Québec.

About the Author

Katarzyna Gajewska is an independent (unpaid) writer and social activist. In her book in progress, she explores potential psychological consequences of transformation towards a postcapitalist mode of production in the physical world. Formerly an academic (precarious) researcher, she builds upon her scientific background in industrial relations and political science and incorporates other lenses in the analysis of a scenario of a potential future. She focuses on personal and daily life in order to stimulate collective imagination and democratic debate.

For updates on my publications, you can check my Facebook pageor send me an e-mail to the address to get updates by e-mail: k.gajewska_comm AT zoho.com

Katarzyna Gajewska is an independent scholar and a writer. She has a PhD in Political Science and has published on alternative economy and innovating the work organization since 2013. She is also interested in preventive health and emotional and psychological aspects of economic change. You can find her non-academic writing on such platforms as Occupy.com, P2P Foundation Blog, Basic Income UK, Bronislaw Magazine and LeftEast. For updates on her publications, you can check her Facebook page or send her an e-mail: k.gajewska_commATzoho.com. If you would like to support her independent writing, please make a donation to the PayPal account at the same address.

Creating use value while making a living in egalitarian communities

The Economics of Cooperation

The Economics of Cooperation

by Boone

At East Wind we reap the benefits of cooperation. Because we work together, we are able to achieve a lifestyle of leisure and comfort while spending far less money than the national average. Let’s get right into the numbers (the following numbers are based on our fiscal year 2016-17, specifically July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. As far as expenditures go, this year is representative of East Wind’s operating costs.)

Population:

It is probably impossible to come up with an accurate average population count at East Wind. Members leave East Wind and drop membership to pursue other opportunities, and new members are constantly joining. Members often leave the farm, sometimes for extended periods. At the same time, there are pretty much always non-members – visitors, and guests of members – on the farm whom we are feeding and clothing and who may or may not be contributing labor. To avoid even attempting to address this problem I will be using our population cap, which we were at for the year in question, of 73 members as our population count. This is slightly misleading as we do not have 73 full members and there are benefits such as full health coverage that only full members receive, but fairly accurate as most of the benefits of living at East Wind are shared by everyone living here.

Labor:

Click here for a full description of East Wind’s labor system. Something not mentioned there is the many vacations we East Winders enjoy. While our weekly labor quota is 35 hours per week, once a month we have a holiday, and quota is reduced by 8 hours for the week the holiday falls in. Members also get the same 8 hour quota reduction for their birthdays. Every year members get three weeks worth of hours (105) on their anniversary as a ‘paid vacation.’

As a community we worked 101,798.9 hours for this year. Bear in mind that the following does not truly reflect our average working week but instead is a rough approximation based on the idealized population of 73 members. As mentioned above, East Winders will leave the farm for sometimes significant amounts of time. Furthermore, outside of the winter months we always have visitors and guests here who contribute labor to our community. These caveats noted, our total hours divided by 73 members and 52 weeks works out to 26.8 hours per member per week.

Food:

I cannot even begin to describe how well we eat here at East Wind. Every night at 6 our cooks put out dinner for community. The deliciousness and variety is continually amazing. Our cooks serve all different styles of meals: Thai, Southern, Mexican, Indian, Italian, barbeque, or just good ol’ meat and potatoes. Lunch is often put out at noon, usually consisting of leftovers and maybe a fresh dish or two. We are also free to cook whatever we want for ourselves at any time. During the summer there’s fresh produce from the garden, and there’s always cold raw milk on tap and freshly baked bread to eat. We buy things to eat that we don’t produce ourselves such as avocados, pasta, fruits year round, and chocolate chips. Desserts often just appear on the serving counter at night. You have to eat here to really understand, but I’d say we eat better than just about anybody. And we do it while spending way less on food per person than just about anybody. Our successful ranch, dairy, garden, and food processing programs contribute greatly to this low cost, high quality food.

Food Costs for a year:

Buying food: $81,138

Kitchen Supplies: $3,770

Food Processing (meat and veggie): $2,362

Garden: $5,639

Ranch & Dairy: $25,005

Water: $207

Total: $118,121

Total food cost per person per month comes to $134.84

We are able to keep our food costs so low because we provide a good chunk of our food for ourselves, outside of the money economy. And we of course do all our own preparation. The following breaks down how much time we spend growing, preserving, and preparing our own food.

Kitchen = 12,826.3 hours

Food processing = 4,381.2 hours

Garden = 5,677.2 hours

Ranch & Dairy = 11,178.8 hours

Meal Preparation:

One of my favorite things about East Wind is that every single night I get to enjoy a delicious, fresh, home-cooked meal. Before living at East Wind I would cook for myself, but with hardly any variety because I am a lazy cook. Cooking for one or two just always seemed so inefficient. Here that’s obviously not the situation. If we say that East Wind prepares about eleven community meals a week (seven dinners and four lunches) then we only spend .3 hours per person per meal. That level of efficiency is only possible in cooperative living. I guess you could pop something in the microwave and have it be ready in less than 18 minutes, but there is absolutely no comparison between our freshly made, many-dished meals and frozen microwave dinners. This .3 hours per person per meal also includes cleaning and all the ancillary chores associated with maintaining a kitchen like stocking and ordering food (which would be shopping for those in the mainstream).

Food Production:

I asked our incredible Food Processing manager if she had any numbers on our food production for the past year, and boy did she.

Veggies:

The following list is what we put up from our garden production in 2016. We certainly consumed much more than this, but there’s no way to know how much. A key thing to keep in mind is that the following was produced by our gardens and food processing kitchen. Our veggies are of the highest quality. We use completely natural methods here at East Wind, and you cannot get any more local. We use nothing artificial; no fossil fuel fertilizers, no pesticide, no GMO seeds, etc.

  • 100 gal. Tomato Sauce
  • 25 gal. Pickled Peppers
  • 10 gal. Roasted and Tomatillo Salsas
  • A small chest freezer’s worth of Strawberries
  • Two large chest freezers’ worth of Corn, Okra, Pesto, Sweet Peppers, Eggplant, Summer Squash, and more
  • 100’s of lbs. of Beets and Carrots
  • 3,000+ lbs. of Squash and Sweet Potato
  • ~2,000 lbs. of Potatoes

Dairy:

We have a fantastic dairy program here and milk 3-6 cows twice a day, every day. Our cows are treated extremely well, and like our garden, are natural. They are grass fed and we don’t use hormones. This year, they produced ~34,000 lbs. of raw milk (~4000 gals.). We drink a good portion of this. What we can’t drink we turn into butter, cheese, and yogurt. In 2016, we made ~150 lbs. of the most delicious butter I have ever had. Our butter is a rich yellow, so different from what you can find in stores. We also produced ~1,500 lbs. of all different varieties of raw cheese. In our processing we use no pasteurization, which maintains all the healthy probiotics native to raw milk.

Meat:

Like everything else at East Wind, our meat animals are all natural and raised with love. We use no hormones or antibiotics, nor herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers on our pastures. Something that truly sets East Wind apart is our meat processing. We do everything ourselves. Our animals are raised, cared for, slaughtered, butchered, preserved (naturally, not artificially), and eaten all within a quarter mile radius. You cannot get more local.

We didn’t keep the most detailed records of our meat production for 2016, so the numbers that follow are averages.

6-12 Pigs @ 100lb. yield        900lbs. pork

2 Hogs @ 400lb. yield            800lbs. pork

3 cows @ 300lb. yield            900lbs. Beef

Eggs:

We have numerous egg layers in two mobile chicken tractors, and get an ample supply of farm eggs every day. The difference between our farm eggs and those we purchase is stark, the yolks of our farm eggs are a rich, dark, orange color, while those of our purchased eggs are a pale yellow. It goes to show that malnourished chickens produce malnourished eggs.

Medical Care:

East Wind provides medical coverage to the best of our ability for full members, including vision and dental. Our total medical expenditure came to $50,138. This works out to $686.82 per member per year. Compare this with the national average: “A 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that employer-sponsored family healthcare insurance premiums cost $17,545 annually, and the average worker contributed $1,071 for single coverage and $4,955 for family coverage per year.”

We also create a ton of our own medicine from herbs we grow in our herb gardens. These include salves, tinctures, tea blends, and more. Our healthy, active lifestyle further contributes to lower medical costs. Because we pay cash out-of-pocket for medical expenses we often get huge reductions in charges, as much as 40% off.

Energy:

Despite owning and running a nut butter business and factory, our per capita energy consumption cost is quite low. We heat a lot of our buildings with firewood which we harvest from dead standing trees. Only our business offices, factory, and certain member rooms (as well as hallways) have air conditioning.

Energy Costs for 2016-17:

Electricity: $35,571

Propane: $7,648

Forestry: $1,815 (2312.1 labor hours went into Forestry this year)

Total: $45,034

Total per person per month comes to $51.41.

Electricity consumption:

Total kWh for the year: 544,830

Per person per year: 7,463

National Average: 12,987 in 2014

Source: “Electric power consumption measures the production of power plants and combined heat and power plants less transmission, distribution, and transformation losses and own use by heat and power plants.“

It is worth noting that East Wind’s electrical consumption includes the energy consumed by our Nut Butters factory and yet we are still significantly below the national average. It is also worth noting that some of the buildings built here are not very energy efficient.

Nut Butters:

Our main community business, East Wind Nut Butters, made $630,000 in profit for fiscal year 2016-17. This amply covered our domestic costs. We put in 18,734 labor hours into this business, which works out to $33.63 per hour. Not bad for a bunch of hippies.

Total Cost of Living:

Factoring in the varied other costs that go into providing a high quality of life, we pay a total of $533.05 per person per month to live as we do. Included in that amount is each member’s Discretionary Fund, which is $150 a month. That number encapsulates every domestic expenditure: medical care, auto maintenance and gas, housing, food, energy, shopping, discretionary funds, phone and internet, etc. In short, we have an incredible quality of life for far less than most people spend.

Per capita, we each live on $6,396.58 a year, which is well below the national poverty line of $12,060.

Cooperation pays.

 

Post researched and written by Boone, lightly edited and formatted by Sumner. Pictures by Sumner and Fran.

 

The Economics of Cooperation

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

East Wind Community: Our Labor System

from the East Wind website, under Our Work

East Wind is a community fueled by the needs and visions of its members. The work here is incredibly varied. East Winders may participate in anything from agricultural work on the ranch, gardens, and in the woods; to childcare, cooking, food processing, and housekeeping in community; to office work or production in our factory, among virtually endless other possibilities. A great number of things must come together to keep a community of our size fed, clothed, sheltered, comfortable, and financially secure. We expect all members to contribute their fair share, taking age and ability into account.

EW Labor 1

Fran, Celina, and Lauren with newborn Izora Rose in the process of freezing surplus strawberries

East Wind minimally assigns labor to its members and each member is largely free to choose their own work. The exception to this is a rotating monthly assignment of HTA (hard to assign) labor, consisting of kitchen and dining hall cleaning duties.  HTA shifts are once a week for two hours, and there are about fifty shifts to complete each week which means that not every member will have an HTA shift every month. There is also an industrial quota set on a weekly basis which requires members to work a certain number of hours in our nut butters business or making rope sandals (the number cannot be larger than eight and is usually lower than four). East Wind Community and its businesses have no employees. Each member is an equal owner. There are a wide range of jobs within our businesses, including work in the factory (roasting, production, sanitation, etc), work in the warehouse (shipping and pallet repair), and work in the offices (general management, marketing & sales, accounting, etc).

Quota for all labor (industrial and domestic combined) is thirty-five hours per week or twenty-seven hours on holiday weeks (which occur once per month). Jobs like washing dishes, cooking community dinner, and childcare are credited the same as jobs like milling lumber, building a barn, or hauling comptoil. Members record their labor on a weekly “scoop sheet”, and all labor is then recorded in a digital database and publicly displayed. Elected managers may choose to not allow a member to claim hours under their labor area for an amount of time if they see the labor system being abused, but this is a very rare occurrence. Members are able to bank hours each week by working over quota, and these hours can be saved up indefinitely. For example, a member may work 50 hours one week and 20 the next to maintain an even labor balance.

EW Labor 2

Obviously, it is important that all members do their fair share and truthfully record their labor. This system sometimes creates problems when individuals are suspected of not honestly recording hours. Because there are only seventy five people living here it becomes evident when a member is having difficulty contributing. Through our Legispol policies, a member can be called to be transparent about their labor if enough members desire it.  If a member falls below -105 hours (three full weeks of labor “in the hole”), he or she will be taken to a meeting to address the problem. Though the system isn’t perfect, most of us love the freedom, flexibility, and independence it allows us. We are our own bosses, and we are free to choose the work that best suits us. Though it may be difficult for some newcomers to plug in at first, long term members are usually looking for help and are glad to direct visitors towards useful labor. Most find their own niche in community in due time.

East Winders are free to focus their time and energy in whatever ways they feel make the best contributions to community. Some East Winders choose to focus on a particular branch or projects that are of interest to them, while others prefer to vary their work day-to-day and offer a hand in many different areas of community. Some members prefer physical labor outdoors while some prefer to do work around the home and the office. This diversity of preferences and skills creates a good balance within community, and all work is equally credited and appreciated. Members are encouraged to pursue work that they enjoy and to take initiative in the areas that they feel comfortable pursuing. The unique talents, skills, and visions of East Winders can manifest in any form that we individually or collectively desire.

EW Labor 3Airik turning the compost piles

East Wind’s labor system allows self-motivated individuals to thrive. Most East Winders find work in community deeply satisfying, in contrast to employment experiences outside community. We are able to pursue our own interests and use our skills to better life for ourselves and our friends.  When our fellow communitarians put in a hard day of work, the results are visible, and we are all able to enjoy the benefits.  These benefits may be a hot cooked meal, a fixed automobile, or a successful business transaction. This daily sense of symbiosis, cooperation, and purpose strengthens our sense of community and our appreciation of the individuals we share it with.

EW Labor 4

East Wind offers individuals the opportunity to use their time as they please, so long as they put thirty-five hours per week into work that benefits community in an agreeable way. East Winders of all types- from machinists to cooks to gardeners- are able to do what they love and develop skills in areas of interest while contributing to the community as a whole. Maintaining an intentional community and providing for the needs and desires of seventy people isn’t always easy, but it’s a labor of love and a wonderful learning experience for all of us. East Winders over the years have displayed great self-motivation, ambition, and capability. The hard work and vision of East Winders, past and present, has made our community what it is today.

East Wind Community: Our Labor System