My Journey Into the World of Intentional Communities, Part 3

This is Part 3 of 5 of an article series detailing my recent six-week visit to five intentional communities based in the D.C./Virginia area of the United States. Here’s the link to Part 4.

My Third Destination: Living Energy Farm – The Promise Child

Similar to my relationship with Twin Oaks as described in Part 2 of this article series, Living Energy Farm (LEF) is another community I had the opportunity to visit during my three-week visitor period at Acorn Community due to the overlapping nature of all the communities within the FEC. Every Saturday morning a member of Acorn named Sean, who is a joint member of both Acorn and LEF, travels to LEF to put in some hours on the project, and I was able to tag along one Saturday with another visitor at Acorn named Joe.

When we arrived at the parking lot of the construction site, there was nothing in view other than forest as far as the eye could see and a long paved dirt road intersecting through the middle of the land. Sean told Joe and I the structures and people working on the project were up ahead, so we set off on our walk on the long dirt road through the wilderness.

As we walked, Sean talked about the objectives of the project, as well as the history of its progress. We learned that LEF was only still in the beginning stages of development, and had only been around for about two years at this point. He said the goal was to build an educational center and community that is fossil fuel free and runs on natural, sustainable technologies, such as solar electricity, wood gas, bio gas, and very simple and low-cost organic materials, although during the first three years of development they have delegated to use fossil fuel machinery in order to implement the basic infrastructure of the project.

Once we arrived at the project site where the workers and structures were located, Sean pointed out a variety of fruit trees that had been planted along the side of road, as well as several other devices that were part of LEF’s infrastructure: a solar electricity-powered water pump, a solar oven, and a direct-drive solar electric energy unit. He also showed us a work-in-progress housing building that was being developed to use space heating via passive solar energy (the sun heats up the house and a layer a granite stone on the foundation stores it). It was apparently an experimental approach that they had never tried before, but it appeared to be coming along well. There was also a completed housing building with walls composed of straw bale that was well insulated and very cozy, along with a small structure that had a kitchen on one side and a work area on the other.

Sean advised Joe and I as we assisted with clearing a plot of land that was later going to be plowed for farming. A short while later, we were joined by three female workers who we had passed by earlier, and the six of us worked and talked together until lunchtime. About ten of us sat around the ramshackle outdoor kitchen as we ate a deliciously cooked vegan lunch of zesty-flavored rice, spinach, and black beans, and once we were finished, Joe and I went with one of the female workers to help with some brush clearing around the fruit trees, and then we departed down the long dirt road to the parking lot an hour or so later.

While I cannot imagine myself ever making the choice to “rough it” in the way these folks are doing, I was inspired by the progressive, idealistic vision of the project, as well as the passion, discipline, and lightheartedness in which the people went about their daily lives. It’s hard work laboring under the hot summer sun day after day, but I suppose when you’re doing something you love with people that you love, it makes all the difference in the world.

As far as the idea of pushing methods that use clean, sustainability energy goes, I completely agree with this initiative from an ecological and practical standpoint, but I think we still have a long way to go until this ideal becomes the standard across the globe. It appears LEF is one of the pioneers of this initiative, and I can only hope others learn from its example in the years to come—that is, if we even have a choice in the matter at all.

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