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(How) do most people in intentional communities / ecovillages earn money on the side?  RSS feed

 
Rosa Bo
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Hello there,

As the title states, I'm wondering whether most people in intentional communities / ecovillages earn money on the side - and mostly, how? I assume that these people (most of them) don't live completely without money, because there isn't really a different way to access / buy health care, internet, phones, computers, fridges, etc... Unless you would give up all that, people need to earn money in some way.

Can anyone tell me more about this? I've been very curious to learn how much money people living these sorts of lives use on a monthly basis. And how do you earn it? E.g. a job in the area, an own local business, an own internet business / freelancing, etc...

Thanks!
 
Zenais Buck
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Location: PNW
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My community is more of a 'neighborhood'; we all live in the middle of nowhere and share certain community elements, but each owns their own parcel outright. Due to the remote/rural nature of the properties we share similar difficulties with generating income.

About 30 years ago, one of the neighbors started a local Spring Fair. This takes place inside a building in the fairgrounds, and booth spaces are sold to local craftspeople. The neighborhood runs amazing concessions from the kitchen in the building (think grass-fed burgers, homemade pie, lentil burgers, grilled salmon). PNW entertainers play thoughout the day, and so people are willing to pay a decent admission price to stroll the booths, watch the shows, and then sample the food. We try to enhance their experience by adding strolling entertainment (vaudeville) throughout the building. Community residents can have a booth space for free. People who work (admissions, set-up, kitchen, etc.) keep track of their hours, and then the profits are split up at the end of the fair.

It is a lot of work, but around here nothing much is happening in March, so it covers a income gap time for the community. It is also a great place to network ( we have added a farmer information area, where local farms advertise for their upcoming CSA season for example). It has also become a neighborhood reunion of sorts, with past residents traveling back for the weekend.

Perhaps something like that could be started in your area?
 
Zenais Buck
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Location: PNW
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Hmm, I see I did not answer your question properly.

In my neighborhood, the only fixed costs are taxes for our individually owned property. The rest is up to you. If you want electricity, you have to build that infrastructure for yourself. Some residents therefore have huge power systems, while others are content to have none at all.

We do jointly maintain a common road: those that have money contribute to purchase of gravel. Those that do not have money or choose not to spend it offer their labor.

In the past, the neighborhood has worked as a group on financial ventures: the above mentioned fair, one guy started a tree-planting business that hired neighborhood folks, another resident is a painter and hires neighborhood folks (I worked for him one year, my husband worked for him as well at a different time).

A few residents drive to town daily to work 'regular' jobs. Most don't, as the living expenses are so low that you can work on seasonal projects to generate enough income for the entire year.

This works because we each own our own place, and mind our own businesses. We do have weekly volleyball games, monthly potlucks, we work on each other's properties for work parties (building our pond, fixing a bridge, painting benches for the volleyball court area). We also have lots of parties, and neighbors constantly visit each other. There is very little turnover of residents; and we have several three generation properties. Lots of babies! We have Christians, Buddhists, atheists, and others, we have poor and well-off, vegans and carnivores, hippies and democrats and republicans, and we have several ethnic groups represented...

I guess it is more like a bizarre Mayberry than a intentional community- that is probably why it works so well and has lasted so long.
 
Rosa Bo
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Thanks for your comprehensive reply!

It sounds like a really nice (and smart) approach, organizing such a fair!

It's also pleasantly surprising to read that all this works with every family living in (on) their own property, while there is still a lot of interaction / friendship between residents. That's just how I like to see it. Most ecovillages' / intentional communities' residents seem to live as one large family, as even household facilities and meals are shared on a daily basis. For me and my partner, that wouldn't really work out, especially since we plan to raise children at some point. I guess we have a certain independence threshold that most intentional communities / ecovillages don't reach.

I'm from the Netherlands, and I'm afraid that my own little country does not have the space for a similar community / neighborhood. It's really urbanized here, which makes land a sparse resource. There isn't really 'unoccupied' nature; the few natural areas and forests that exist are protected by the state and merely used for recreation - which is probably good with such a high population density. Well, there are some houses, but you would have to be incredibly rich to live in one (i.e. villas). That's also why I'm now doing research about ecovillages and opportunities in other European countries.
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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I've spent much of my adult life in a couple of communities, and have visited several more. I found that the social scene is connected to economics; at least while one is young and healthy and things like medical expenses can often be ignored. At one community which was large and vibrant (~30 long-term members and often half as many more short term volunteers and visitors), and had several on-site businesses which I would occasionally help out in, and a common economy.....there, I actually found it hard to spend the weekly stipend allotted to everyone. (This was in large part due to my own commitment to frugality and on-farm diet). At the second commune, which was much smaller (max of 8 people, and fewer visitors), even though there was plenty to eat and I was able to build a cabin for $50; I found myself wanting/needing more social life, and so needed more money for the upkeep of a vehicle, internet and phone, and several social events/gatherings per year. This community also ran a landscaping business, in which I could participate as an employee from time to time. But I also did odd things on the side like selling wildcrafted mushrooms, surplus fruit once some trees grew to size, and a few teaching gigs once I'd saved enough to take a PDC.....
 
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