Kevin Hayden – TruthisTreason.net
Originally posted August 17th, 2011
For years, I’ve been involved in various circles of organic gardening, local produce, food co-ops, alternative architecture, and local currencies. It’s been a passion of mine for quite some time. In 2008, as I was campaigning for Ron Paul’s Presidential bid, I stumbled across a small website that was offering an experiment in alternative housing, garden co-ops, and liberty-oriented living. What does that mean, you ask? I wondered the same thing and looked into it more.
At first, I expected this to be some crazy commune idea and I instantly conjured up images of people living in run-down RVs, huts, and wearing lots of tie-dye. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not my idea of an ideal neighborhood or living experiment. But their website was geared towards liberty lovers and self-reliant people in west Texas, so it couldn’t be too bad.
A brief excerpt:
The process involves forming a co-op of people buying “shares” in the community and these people would be granted land use at a minimum of 1 acre per share, for as long as they homesteaded the land. The community would be privately held by the co-op to establish private property rights for the general community, thus preserving the community is 100% freedom and liberty lovers.
The community votes on all community efforts, such as utilities, gardens, etc. However no one is forced to consume these utilities and or pay for them, ie: people can be off-grid on their share of land. This is in line with the Libertarian ideals that you’re free to live your life the way you want and not be forced to do or pay for other people’s lifestyles that you may or may not agree with.
Pretty interesting concept, I thought. As I stated, I’ve been involved with local food co-ops and community/urban gardens before, where members own a “share” in the farm or garden and in exchange for that “share” or monthly financial dues, they receive X amount of fruits and vegetables, similar to a owning a share of a company when you purchase its stock.
It’s a fascinating way to build large infrastructure or sustainable operations while not having large amounts of capital. It is also refreshing because it directly stimulates the local economy, if it didn’t already create a micro-barter economy by its very creation, along with promoting freedom and liberty, intellectual brainstorming, and a unique, new form of living.
Imagine this, if you will, because there are several scenarios and ways this could play out and this is merely my initial thoughts, out loud and on paper:
Either a single person or LLC purchases 10 acres of land and then sells 1 acre shares of it for $1,000 to 9 other people for a total of 10 land owners, counting the purchaser. These 10 people then form a quasi-neighborhood council, or similar. They define goals, objectives and common rules that receive unanimous support and lay out plans and ideas for community use. Some of these might be a neighborhood garden in which people can either work for a share or simply pay for their share if they are interested in receiving fresh foods.
Organic Foods and Gardening
By working the garden and earning your share, it allows lower-income individuals to still have access to fresh foods or perhaps, retirees or free-spirits who only want a part-time job or similar. It literally creates a job for someone who then receives compensation in the form of a share. A micro, local economy has just been born. Furthermore, surplus produce could be taken to a Farmer’s Market and sold for community profit or future improvements to the co-op garden. The co-op could also use waste products and turn them into other valuable products, such as ethanol, compost fertilizer, livestock feed, wine, visitor apprenticeships and more.
The idea of utilities is an interesting one, mainly because I am a fan of alternative energy ideas. The entire co-op could have local access to the electrical grid via traditional means, however, it is left up to the individual land-share owner if he wants to connect to it and carry that expense himself. The land-owner committee could also then decide to build a “local electrical grid,” made up of wind turbines or solar panels, perhaps hydro-electricity depending on the terrain and landscape as a joint venture for those who are interested.
Let’s assume that only seven of the ten land-owners want to take part in this project due to financial reasons or simple non-interest. Those 7 land-owners pool their money together in a business-investment fashion and purchase the equipment to be able to distribute it to their respective plots of land from an agreed upon, centralized location on the acreage. The beauty of alternative energy allows it to be built in increments, or modular fashion. Every few months, as group finances allow, the “local off-grid Grid” could expand and eventually begin selling excess electricity back to the actual energy company or selling (at a fair price) to the other 3 land owners should they suddenly become interested in taking part in the power generation project.
Obviously, another project example that I’m sure most of the land-owners would want to take part in would be digging a water well for the “neighborhood.” This would make it incredibly inexpensive for everyone to have water access and provide for the garden or farm co-op.
Another benefit is the freedom to choose what your house, homestead or living complex will look like. Some basic rules could be developed, or if not unanimous, allow personal liberty to reign and the creativity to flow! Shipping container housing is quickly becoming the new fad, along with contemporary, modern tiny homes. The internet is filled with stories, blogs and pictures of unique, alternative architecture, including TruthisTreason.net!. Homesteading is really catching on with freedom-lovers and especially the emergency preparedness crowd.
Group-owned buildings are another project example, such as storage sheds, a “common house” for meetings and dinners or even a rental to visitors who want to apprentice on the farm, learn about the neighborhood, etc. This style of co-operative living, while not “communal,” and not so “hippie’esque,” provides for maximum freedom and liberty while taking part in something radical and pioneering. Self-sufficiency, sustainable farming and freedom from many of the regulations experienced in day-to-day living can be fulfilled due to the entire “town” or neighborhood being private property and under the direct control of its land owners and keeping it under a group LLC, or Limited Liability Company. (Lawyers, I’m not real savvy when it comes to legalese, so please correct my terms if necessary!) The purchasing of land just outside of dense, urban areas often offer eased building codes or none at all, which helps to maximize personal and community liberty and gives each individual the freedom to design their house as they see fit or within the accepted and agreed upon guidelines of the neighborhood council.
It’s part Intentional Community, part Sustainable Farm, Organic Garden, Off-grid Electrical Plant, Co-op Living Village, with the benefits of Private Property and shared major expenses while maintaining Libertarian’esque lifestyles and avoiding the community-oriented socialist/communist sort of villages that most think of when they hear this talked about. If you’re a fan of Ron Paul, freedom, liberty, deregulation, personal responsibility, farming and gardening, community living, self-sufficiency or perhaps preparedness, I would really like to hear from you! If I get enough responses or comments, I might actually look into this as a viable idea.
Recently, there have been headlines of several millionaires investing in the idea of Liberty Islands situated in international waters as an experiment in freedom and deregulation. Tells me that I’m on the right track, as I had this same idea ten years ago, however, multi-million dollar islands are a bit out of my financial reach and would require a minimum of 500 Liberty Lovers to pitch in on the cost, instead of the easy-to-manage ten member neighborhood, or similar. Who knows, though? If a place truly existed as described above, I believe it could easily serve as the model for future “neighborhoods” of local economies, employment and living and could be scaled larger to accommodate 500+. In fact, if it did grow in size, the group could always write a charter for incorporation and become a recognized “town” within its respective state. However, that approaches a blurry line between playing Political Mayor and City Council as opposed to the hearty, liberty-oriented neighborhood council.
This sort of experiment would certainly not be for the faint of heart or entered into lightly. Instead, it would require lots of planning, discussion, and meetings, but certainly attainable.
A wonderful excerpt from Sustainable Living, Liberty and the Pursuit of Urban Farms -
Libertarians often straddle radically different, sometimes seemingly opposed, stereotypes. We are simultaneously atomist rugged individualists and slaves to the anonymous division of labor found in modern cosmopolitanism. This seeming paradox is reconciled in our simultaneous love of political localism and integrated economics, self-sufficiency and the contemporary blessings of a thriving voluntary community. And as admirers of both the frontier and the integrated city life, we can see much to relate to in the urban homesteaders and their hybrid lifestyle of city-slicking, strenuous agrarianism.
The urban farmers too suffer from being pigeonholed as the type you’d find in quasi-socialist hippie communes. Their community’s language and cultural habits can be jarring to a free market radical, but they need not be as dissonant as they first sound. When a libertarian hears the term “sustainable living” – another common theme in urban homesteading – he might first think of the central planning-nightmare called “sustainable development” or EPA-mandated encumbrances on his track housing. But we can as plausibly interpret the meaning to be: “freedom from the vagaries of the public utilities system and state-subsidized mass agriculture.”
Even in the larger sustainable living communities, we see a diversity of social organization. “Most cohousing communities with gardens use organic gardening practices, but just as the culture of cohousing groups varies widely, organizing and running a cohousing garden is a highly individualized project,” writes Jenise Aminoff in the Fall 2010 issue of Urban Farm magazine. Indeed, while voluntary communalism is totally compatible with libertarianism, even shameless capitalists can find much to love. Eno Commons, “a suburban cohousing community on the outskirts of Durham, N.C.,” initially ran its “garden on a standard allotment model, where each unit was assigned a garden plot,” but this led to problems: “there was a disconnect between a small handful of people doing work but the whole community picking,” explains garden manager Katherine Lee. And so what did they do? Aminoff explains:
“Last fall, Lee proposed a radical change: a market model. With Lee as the manager doing most of the gardening work, residents now pay for their garden produce. On the night of the community’s weekly common meal, Lee harvests the garden’s produce and brings it ‘to market’ in the common house.
Here are some books, from an article I wrote years ago on the subject of Intentional Communities, Eco-Housing and Co-op Villages:
Developing Sustainable Planned Communities by Richard Franko, et al, 2007. Get practical how-to information on designing and developing attractive, profitable, and environmentally responsible planned communities. This book includes 10 case studies of successful projects in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia
Living Green: Communities that Sustain by Jennifer Fosket and Laura Mamo, 2009. Social issues are, and need to be, a central part of environmental and economic sustainability efforts. Using stories of extraordinary communities across North America, Living Green showcases the socialside of living green. The book features communities that explicitly integrate social and human factors into their design and planning, and examines the impact living in these communities has on personal health, well-being, and the capacity for pursuing sustainability. It includes interviews with developers, architects, and residents, highlighting personalideals and efforts to pursue a sustainable lifestyle. The book’s three parts explore: How community is central to sustainable living in everything from cohousing to communes; Communities that specifically integrate green building design components with social justice politics such as racism, poverty, and urban alienation; Housing options geared toward mainstream living that offer individual choices to those who wish to live green.
Finding Community: How to Join an Ecovillage or Intentional Community by Diana Leafe Christian, 2007. Finding community is as critical as obtaining food and shelter, since the need to belong is what makes us human. The isolation and loneliness of modern life have led many people to search for deeper connection, which has resulted in a renewed interest in intentional communities. These intentional communities or ecovillages are an appealing choice for like-minded people who seek to create a family-oriented and ecologically sustainable lifestyle-a lifestyle they are unlikely to find anywhere else. However, the notion of an intentional community can still be a tremendous leap for some-deterred perhaps by a misguided vision of eking out a hardscrabble existence with little reward. In fact, successful ecovillages thrive because of the combined skills and resources of their members. Finding Community presents a thorough overview of ecovillages and intentional communities and offers solid advice on how to research thoroughly, visit thoughtfully, evaluate intelligently, and join gracefully. Useful considerations include: Important questions to ask (of members and of yourself); Signs of a healthy (and not-so-healthy) community; Cost of joining (and staying); Common blunders to avoid. Finding Community provides intriguing possibilities to readers who are seeking a more cooperative, sustainable, and meaningful life.
Co-op Villages by Jack Reed, Jen Chendea, Jim Costa, 2007. I highly recommend this book! – Very seldom does one hear about a viable plan to transform the planet and to address all its problems. Co-op Villages: The Next Evolution offers such a plan, a plan that could change everything. The authors trace the challenges we face to the legacy of the everyone-for-themselves paradigm that has ruled this planet unquestioned for thousands of years. But what if we instead choose to have this planet work for every one and for all life on the planet? The heart of this book lays out that vision. The basic building block that is needed is how we live together and relate together in Community, and the authors meticulously describe how that would look in a Highest Good for all model. Envision a world that enjoys the latest technology, yetrespects the natural resources of the planet and keeps them intact. Imagine living in a diverse, sustainable Community where everyone is well cared for, with all their needs being met. This is not a Utopian fantasy. This IS the next evolution-literally a blueprint for transforming our world through realistic and practical solutions to the present-day political, environmental, economic, and social problems of the entire planet. This book details how a village could house 500 persons on 500 acres to live sustainably forever, while providing all food, utilities, medical coverage, transportation, advanced education and jobs for its residents for life. For more details see www.co-opvillagefoundation.org
Ecovillage: Ecovillage, Intentionalcommunity, Sustainability, Social network, Sociology, Anthropology, Anarcho-primitivism, Bioenergy village, Bioneers, Cohousing, Communities Directory by Frederic P. Miller, et al, 2009. Ecovillages are intentional communities with the goalof becoming more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Some aim for a population of 50-150 individuals because this size is considered to be the maximum social network according to findings from sociology and anthropology. Larger ecovillages of up to 2,000 individuals exist as networks of smaller subcommunities to create an ecovillage model that allows for social networks within a broader foundation of support. Certain ecovillages have grown by the nearby addition of others, not necessarily members, settling on the periphery of the ecovillage and effectively participating in the ecovillage community (see, for example, Findhorn). Ecovillage members are united by shared ecological, social-economic and cultural-spiritual values. An ecovillage is often composed of people who have chosen an alternative to centralized electrical, water, and sewage systems. Many see the breakdown of traditionalforms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles, the destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl, factory farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels, as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster.
EcoVillage at Ithaca: Pioneering a Sustainable Culture by Liz Walker, 2005. In a world filled with stories of environmentaldevastation and social dysfunction, EcoVillage at Ithaca is a refreshing and hopeful look at a modern-day village that is taking an integrated approach to addressing these problems. This book tells the story of life at EcoVillageat Ithaca, an internationally recognized example of sustainable development. It transports the reader into the midst of a vibrant community that includes co-housing neighborhoods, small-scale organic farming, land preservation, green building, energy alternatives and hands-on education. By integrating proven social and environmental alternatives into a living model, EcoVillage at Ithaca provides a rare glimpse into one possible-and positive-future for the planet. EcoVillage at Ithaca delves into the heart of the lived experience at this innovative community. It provides a warm, personal and reflective look at what it is like to create a sustainable culture. The book tells in-depth stories about an integrated way of life: Running a family farm; Creating invented celebrations”; The poignancy of a home birth, as well as a conscious death; Community work parties; Dramatic examples of personal transformation. At the same time, as one chapter states, “This is not Utopia,” and the struggles and conflicts inherent in any community endeavor are not glossed over. Human scale, accessible and inspiring, the example of EcoVillage at Ithaca will help readers imagine fresh alternatives to “life as usual.” It will appeal to all who are hungry to learn about successful working models of a more sustainable approach to living with each other and the earth.
Ecovillages (Schumacher Briefings) by J Dawson, 2006. In the last twenty years ecovillages — local communities which aim to minimise their ecological impact but maximise human wellbeingand happiness — have been springing up all over the world. They incorporate a wealth of radical ideas and approaches which can be traced back to Schumacher, Gandhi, the 1960s, and the alternative education movement. This Briefing describes the history and potential of the ecovillage movement, including the evolution of the Global Ecovillage Network and the current developments in both North and South. The threads that are brought together in Ecovillages include: * Learning from the best elements in traditional and indigenous cultures; * Alternative economy: community banks and currencies, and voluntary simplicity; * Designing with nature: using permaculture design, eco-building, small-scale energy generation, waste-management, low-impact transport systems, etc; * Organic, locally-based food production and processing; * Reviving small-scale participatory governance, conflict facilitation & social inclusion as well as reviving active inter-generational community; * Creating a culture of peace, and holistic, whole person education. In an age of diminishing oil supplies, the Briefing examines the lessons that we can learn from ecovillages about how to live in a more ecologically sound and sustainable way. In an age of diminishing oil supplies, the Briefing examines the lessons that we can learn from ecovillages about how to live in a more ecologically sound and sustainable way.
The Cohousing Handbook : Building a Place for Community by Chris ScottHanson, Kelly ScottHanson, 2004. Cohousing offers an end to the isolation of the single-family suburban home. Balancing community and personal privacy, cohousingis a chance to create a modern village in an urban or rural setting. Residents own their own homes and can gather in common areas to share meals and socialize. An increasingly popular form of housing in both Europe and North America, cohousing addresses and alleviates many of the demands and pressures of modern life-everything from day care to aging at home is easier with the help of your neighbors. The Cohousing Handbook covers every element that goes into the creation of a cohousing project, including group processes, land acquisition, finance and budgets, construction, development professionals, design considerations, permits, approvals and membership.
Designing Sustainable Communities: Learning From Village Homes by Judy & Michael Corbett 1999. The movement towards creating sustainable communities has gained increased prominence with approaches such as New Urbanism, yet there are few examples of the successes. This text offers an analysis of one such example: Village Homes outside Davis, California. The area offers features including extensive common areas and green space; community gardens, orchards and vineyeards; narrow streets; pedestrian and bike paths; solar homes; and an innovative ecological drainage system. The authors were instrumentalin the design of Village Homes and draw extensively on their practical experiences, as well as examples from a number of other sustainable village projects, to deliver a comprehensive analysis of the process of designing and building sustainable communities.
Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves by Kathryn McCamant , Charles Durrett , Ellen Hertzman, 1993. Alright, you tried living in a commune in the 1970s, and people kept borrowing your toothbrush and leaving dishes in the sink. Then you set up house by yourself and felt lonely. You got married, started raising a family and ended up feeling isolated from your friends and the rest of the community. You go to work, wave to your neighbors over the fence now and then, and think there must be more to life than this. There is: a whole new concept of building a neighborhood and sense of community. This is the story of how and why cohousing works, and how to go about making it happen for yourself.
Intentional Community: An Anthropological Perspective by Susan Love Brown, 2002. Although anthropologists have studied intentional communities in the past, they have seldom exerted a concerted effort to evaluate the intentionalcommunity in terms of the anthropologicallanguage of cultural change. Drawing from the work of Victor Turner, Gregory Bateson, and Anthony F. C. Wallace, Intentional Community examines historic and contemporary intentional communities within the United States, leading to a better understanding of these communities, the larger nation-state of which they are a part, and the ways in which the two interact. Applying classical anthropologicaltheory to elements of western society, the contributors discuss how the individuals function; the ways in which these communities come into being and disappear; the various forms these communities take; how their members reinterpret features of the larger culture; and the ways in which outsiders relate to people within them.
Ecovillages : A Practical Guide to Sustainable Communities by Jan Martin Bang, 2005. Ecovillageshave arisen around the world in response to the social fragmentation of modern life and its alienation from nature. They provide a variety of ways of living in community with others and with nature and are linked worldwide through the Global Ecovillage Network. While interest in this approach to sustainable living is rapidly increasing, there is relatively little literature on the topic and none that brings the design principles of permaculture to bear on the successful design of these communities. Ecovillages explores the new departures in personal, social, and ecological living represented by this phenomenon. This book explores the background and history to the ecovillagesmovement and provides a comprehensive manual for planning, establishing, and maintaining a sustainable community using a permaculture approach.
Natural Building: Creating Communities Through Cooperation by Timothy Rieth, 2008. The book is an illustration of a successfully built naturalbuilding, including the necessary human element. The book takes the reader through the entire building process for the folly, and with text and photographs documents the experiences of dozens of students and instructors as they created the small, naturalgem of a building during a single summer. The processes and materialresult of this adventure are well documented, but the authors also tried to document what is harder to transmit: the creation of a strong social bond between all of the participants – students, teachers, the owner, residents of the town and the land itself. This intangible result—the creation of a community or tribe — is perhaps one of the greatest benefits of such an event and program.
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