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Please purchase a subscription to read our premium content. Members of a tour group examine a grain bin that has been converted to a dwelling at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, a village in northeast Missouri, on June Construction in the community must adhere to the village's ecological covenants and sustainability guidelines, so Dancing Rabbit structures are built with sustainable materials, such as straw, reclaimed wood and other reclaimed materials.
Clouds roll over a house built into a hillside at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri on June The partially subterranean home is nicknamed the Hobbit Hole by residents because of its similarities to the home of Bilbo Baggins in J. Tolkien's novel "The Hobbit.
Tree limbs and grass cover the roof of a house at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri on June The community's residents have chosen to use a variety of des and construction techniques in building their homes, although all of them use sustainable materials. One of the village's ecological covenants requires that all of the electricity used at the village come from sustainable sources, such as windmills or solar cells.
Residents at the village follow sustainability guidelines, such as reliance on renewable resources. Richard Knapp separates wheat kernels from their beards, a protective outer Alternative Lifestyle in Missouri., at his farm near Columbia on June Knapp grows wheat and vegetables at the farm and also mills his own flour. Richard Knapp checks the consistency of flour coming out of the mill at his farm near Columbia on June Knapp grows wheat, fruits and vegetables at the farm in addition to milling his own flour.
Dry goods sit on a counter in one of the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage kitchens on June Many of the homes at the village were built without kitchens, so several residents form collectives where they share the duties and resources required for making meals. There are more than 50 intentional communities in Missouri, some sustainable ecovillages, some religious communities and some egalitarian communes. Intentional communities are formed around a vision that all members agree upon, such as religious or spiritual views.
The communities shown are featured in the story. Intentional communities began with Plymouth Colony in the s, evolved into communes in the s and became the environmental-minded ecovillages of today. Init was converted into a comfortable duplex in this rural hamlet near Rutledge, Missouri.
Known as an intentional community, Dancing Rabbit is a collection of distinctive living quarters, gardens, common spaces and pastureland. Down a dirt road, an old school bus has become a modest residence with a wooden porch and attached greenhouse. Across a narrow footpath, a two-story log home showcases a living roof — rye and wild grasses insulate the place. Renewable energy, collaboration and organic food production contribute to that vision, adopted years ago by its residents.
Dancing Rabbit is one of more than 50 intentional communities in Missouri and at least 1, in the United States. These communities, much like communes 50 years ago, are organized around a set of principles that define their lifestyle and unify their members.
Some communities are based on religious beliefs, while others — called ecovillages — are grounded in sustainability. Still others hark back to the egalitarian culture of communes in the s and '70s. The intentional communities in Missouri reflect those cultures, but most fall under the headings of ecovillages and egalitarian communities.
Egalitarian communities retain many of the characteristics that distinguished the cooperative lifestyle of communes. Members share nearly everything, including land, labor and income. Ecovillages began to flourish in the s and are grounded in the modern environmental movement. Today, nearly ecovillages in the U. Sustainability and cooperation are both essential to the success of an ecovillage, said Bob Rouse, a retired sail maker from Houston who moved to Dancing Rabbit in Religious communities, like the Plymouth Colony in the s, were among the first intentional communities in the United States, according to Alternative Lifestyle in Missouri.
Love Brown, an anthropology professor at Florida Atlantic University and the author of "Intentional Community: An Anthropological Perspective. Among the early nonreligious communities was Brook Farm, an agricultural and egalitarian venture in Massachusetts in Inspired by the transcendentalist movement, the farm community sought to balance leisure and labor but ran into financial trouble six years later.
Communes gained a fair amount of notoriety in the s for the widespread reports of sex, drugs and general idleness. East Wind Community in the Missouri Ozarks, however, has steered clear of most messy interactions. Founded init has become one of the more successful communes in the state. Young environmentalists in the s began building self-sustaining communities based on renewable energy, natural building materials and a lighter dependence on the earth's resources. Dancing Rabbit is one of the largest and most well-known intentional communities in Missouri.
The founders were three students from Stanford University who moved in the '90s to the northeast Missouri property where land was abundant and cheap. Another community, Sandhill Farmwas already established there, and two more — Dandelion and Red Earth farms — would arrive later. When Rouse arrived at Dancing Rabbit's acre spread in Scotland County, most of its 15 members were living in tents.
An old trailer served as a community meeting place, and the pre-existing buildings — a hog barn, two grain bins and a tool shed — had long been disappearing into the overgrown foliage. The founding members had set-up a nonprofit land trust where anyone who s the community can lease land for pennies.
They own anything they build on it and can lease the property to newcomers, but the land stays forever within the community as an affordable commodity. By the second year, only four of the original members remained at Dancing Rabbit. But interest and membership soon began to grow, and the ecovillage has stabilized at about Bythe community building was completed with heated floors, a battery station — the source of most energy then — a wood-fired boiler for hot water, computer room, library and kitchen.
Alternative building techniques were tried: timberframe, cob — a clay, sand and straw mixture that can be molded into walls — and waddle and daub, an ancient technique of woven wood covered in plaster. The houses are clustered on just a few of the acres, and members can rent additional land for cultivation. Dancing Rabbit has two types of land use — agricultural and garden space. Garden space is leased at one-tenth of a cent per square foot per month. The plots are small and typically devoted to growing produce.
Agricultural land is leased at one-hundredth of a cent per square foot per month. It is deated for raising small livestock, starting an orchard or growing crops such as grapes in a small vineyard. The Milkweed Mercantilean inn and restaurant, sells drinks, baked goods, specialty preserves and canned pickles to the public every day but Wednesday. On Thursdays, the restaurant offers homemade pizza. Milkweed Mercantile is owned and run by a resident couple, one of many opportunities available to village members.
Some staff the inn, while others run the honor-system grocery store, the laundry, the library and various food co-ops. A of members are also employed elsewhere, either online or in town. Members can the co-ops for a small fee. Although many things are shared, the community operates more like a small town than a commune. The ecovillage is governed by covenants, a set of laws and regulations established by members throughout the years.
Other than that, we are all different. It can be financially draining to build a home, which might take more than a year to complete, he said. Although growth at Dancing Rabbit has slowed, interest in intentional communities continues to build in Missouri.
Knapp, 72, has fantasized about starting an intentional community since his younger hippie years. He bought a piece of land along Black Branch just outside Columbia intending to grow organic wheat. He wanted to provide income for a future community on the property, as well as add more food sustainability to the area. Five years ago, he started Central Missouri Grains for Food.
The business has seen good years and bad. Clover's Natural Market and Lucky's Market both sell his flour. He also sells through the online farm-to-table grocery service, Pick A Pepperand has customers in St. He tried the local farmers markets but said it became too expensive for him to set up a booth every Saturday. On a recent humid day earlier this summer, Knapp was eager to talk about his operation as he walked around the small plot of land. He explained which of the tall grasses are rye, which are turkey red wheat and which are weeds.
He pointed out the dozen or so rows of vegetables and fruit trees he's also planted. Some are nibbled by deer, but others have done well this year. He said everything he grows is done organically, and he used green building techniques in his barn and greenhouse. But he wants more than an eco-farm. He thought he would eventually find like-minded people to build homes, help with the business and create an egalitarian community.
Most of the inquiries are from idealistic young people who have no money and think contributing their labor will be enough, he said. There also isn't much demand for organic wheat in Missouri, he discovered. He gets by on his farmers-market earnings and online sales. Meanwhile, this year's wheat harvest is just ahead, which requires the help of friends and strangers alike. He found a fellow wheat grower on Facebook and others have offered to help as well.
Any sort of cooperative venture is attractive to me. Others share Knapp's dream of building an intentional community in Missouri and elsewhere. But there has been a definite resurgence. These movements emerge when change pushes some people to leave the mainstream and develop an alternative lifestyle around their own vision. Communes in the '60s sprang from deep distrust of the establishment during the Vietnam War era and the civil rights movement.
Likewise, the environmental movement was built around the dissatisfaction with abuse of the earth's resources. That movement has since expanded to include sustainability, the foundation of ecovillages, Brown said. All communities need income, and every intentional community in Missouri dabbles in banking and business.
Dancing Rabbit accrues money by leasing land to members. It has an internal bartering system and its own currency, called ELMs. Sandhill Farm near Rutledge sustains itself on sorghum syrup and other farm products. The community has always had an agricultural slant, said Mica Wood, a seven-year resident. Members rely more on food sustainability than energy sustainability. The Shepherdsfield Community near Fulton, which is rooted in Christian teachings, sustains its community through dog grooming and landscape services, as well as a bakery, butcher shop and other small business ventures.
Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott. Infographics editor and reporter, Fall Graduate student in news reporting. Reach me at or alexaahern mail.Alternative Lifestyle in Missouri.
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