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Twin Oaks

Intentional Communities



All for one, one for all!


Mmmm, fresh milk, cheese and yogurt-straight from the cow!
Inside the huge refrigerator were shelves and shelves of... cheese! And this was no pre-packaged Kraft cheese -- this stuff was fresh from the cow. A new friend pulled out some mozzarella she had just made and offered me a piece. I was mightily impressed.


Happy New Years!

I am visiting the Twin Oaks Community in Virginia, where people actually make their own tofu and cheese and grow their own vegetables. This community, like another one I visited in Tennessee called The Farm, are based on the idea of living cooperatively, and in harmony with the land.

To learn more about the commune movement, come along with me on a colorful magic schoolbus adventure back in time. Let's first go to the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco in the 1960s, where the hippie movement was in full force. A professor named Stephen Gaskin used to travel and talk about the hippie movement in 1969. Lots of people followed along on the journey in buses.

When he got back to San Francisco, he had 300 followers, and they all wanted to live together in a simple community out in the country. They bought some land in Tennessee and The Farm was started! Everyone threw their belongings into a collective pot and split up the work. Some farmed, some worked construction, others taught. Eventually the population grew to 1,500.

A bus from Stephen Gaskin's original caravan still hangs out at the Farm
People started communes like this because they wanted to make more personal connections with people around them, they didn't want to care about material things anymore, they were looking for spirituality, and some just wanted to get back to nature.

The Farm's Mushroom People sell shiitakes and other gourmet mushrooms
The Farm was an experiment in a new type of society. But in 1983, they ran into big trouble. They were $750,000 in debt. The big switch came when members didn't share money anymore. Now families have their own homes and their own money. Members pay dues, and community dinners are held every Thursday as a fundraiser for the school.

Each resident at Twin Oaks must put do 45.5 hours of work/week (but that includes everything from cooking and childcare to hammock weaving)
The Twin Oaks Community still shares the money they make by selling hammocks, tofu, and books. They also share housing, meals, cars, bikes, and clothes.

Vickie, a Farm resident, explained, "I really get to experience nature, all the life force, the energy. And the people -- it's like an extended family. I feel like I have sisters and brothers and my daughters have aunts and uncles. We care about each other."

As you can see, the ideas that originally brought people out to the communes -- returning to nature and rebuilding personal connections are still around today.

Twin Oaks was established in 1967
It's about being aware of our impact on each other and striving to create a sustainable and healthy environment.

So does this mean we should all move to a commune? I don't think it's necessarily the type of community that we live in, but our attitudes and behaviors that are important. Maybe making our own cheese and getting our sweaters from a shared closet isn't for all of us. But living together on earth is, so we better make the most of it. Just remember that our actions do have an impact and a little cooperation and kindness can go a long way.


Please email me at: neda@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Stephen - The summer Woodstock REALLY rocked!