Rural Intentional Communities

Learn more about rural intentional communities with this guide.

| June 2018

  • Rural communities can have homesteading, LGBTQ, spiritual, and/or eco-friendly focuses.
    Photo by Unsplash/Jon Flobrant
  • “Finding Community” by Diana Leafe Christian highlights appealing living alternatives for like-minded people who seek to create a family-oriented and ecologically sustainable lifestyle.
    Cover courtesy New Society

Finding Community (New Society, 2007) by Diana Leafe Christian 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. 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. This section shines on what rural communal living is like.

Homesteading Communities

Classic back-to-the-land rural homesteading communities focus on growing food and/or raising livestock, and practicing the necessary homesteading skills for living a self-reliant country life. In some homesteading communities everyone works on the land, for example, when the community has a farming or food-producing operation. In others, while people grow much of their own food onsite, they also earn income through their own small onsite businesses or by working in nearby towns.

The 11 members of Birdsfoot Farm live on a 73-acre agricultural property in upstate New York with woods, a stream, and community buildings. In their two-acre vegetable garden they grow certified organic produce for their CSA farm, local retail outlets, the local farmer’s market, and their own use. They also operate Little River School, employing three teachers and serving local students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Their vegetable business and Little River School provide income to some of their members, while others work in jobs off the property. As in many rural communities, Birdsfoot Farm members are active on social justice and environmental issues.

Sandhill Farm, in rural northeast Missouri, has 135 acres and 5 year-round members, assisted by many interns who live onsite during the growing and harvesting seasons. Sandhill Farm’s land includes gardens, orchards, woods, hayfields, cropland, bee yards, and pastures. An income-sharing commune, Sandhill members earn money by growing organic sorghum, soybeans, and herbs, and processing and selling sorghum syrup, tempeh, garlic, mustard, horseradish, and honey. They also generate an income by doing administrative work for the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), whose office is on their property. One Sandhill member offers group process consulting nationwide; another is an organic farm inspector. “We like to keep our lifestyle simple and healthy,” they note on their website. “We tend to work hard, especially during the growing season, and get satisfaction from providing for ourselves as much as we can while maintaining close ties with neighbors, friends, and other communities. Core values include cooperation, nonviolence, honesty, and working through conflict.”

The 7 members of Edges community, who live on 94 acres of wooded and cleared hills near Athens, Ohio, also grow and put up much of their own food from their organic gardens. And while community members do many homesteading tasks, including gardening, ordering community food, maintenance, construction, land restoration, and permaculture projects, many also have fulltime work on the property or offsite. One Edges member operates a successful renewable energy design and installation business; two others operate an onsite bed and breakfast and Wellness Center; and one is a psychologist at Ohio University. Other members work at a cooperative bakery in Athens, do book editing at home, or market ecofriendly air filters.

The dozen members of Windward Community, on 111 acres near Klickitat, Washington, raise fiber sheep and dairy goats. Part of their mission and purpose, notes their website, is to “interweave the skills of the past with appropriate technology to create a hands-on, back-to-basics way to practice right livelihood.”

7/18/2018 12:22:23 PM

Great article Diana, thanks for all the great information. A few questions come to mind though. It seems that the secular EcoVillages had a dozen or few people for the most part, and many seem to have dozens or even 100 acres. Would it make sense in a semi-rural EcoVillage to buy a small tract and then look to add more acreage later as needed, to reduce the financial stress while starting? What do you think of the Transition ( type of community, locally owned and sourced but individually owned? Thanks again

Pam Dawling
6/18/2018 3:47:15 PM

For people looking for current information on intentional communities, check out the website of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities There you can buy a Directory or search online for a community in the region you want to live in, or of a specific type. There is also a quarterly magazine, and a new book Wisdom of Communities: Volume 1 – Starting a Community, which is a compilation of articles in Communities Magazine over the years, about forming a new community. It is part of a 4 volume book series, Wisdom of Communities: Starting a Community Finding a Community Communication in Community Sustainability in Community Each book is over 300 pages and features over 100 of our best articles. I've been living at Twin Oaks Community in rural Virginia for over 26 years myself.



February 15-16, 2020
Belton, Texas

Join us in the Lone Star state to explore ways to save money and live efficiently. This two-day event includes hands-on workshops and a marketplace featuring the latest homesteading products.


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