Bitternut Homestead Urban Collective

Syracuse, New York, United States

  • Last updated: July 26, 2018 (1 second ago)
  • Listing created on: January 12, 2013

Mission Statement

Ecological Social Justice, Permaculture Kitchen Gardening, Community Development Projects, Progressive Political Organizing and Activism

Community Description

The Bitternut Homestead (named after the Native American Iroquois word Otisco, or Us-te-ke, meaning “bitter-nut-hickory”) is a 4 bedroom home in Syracuse’s Near West Side (NWS) just off of downtown. Syracuse is a city of 145,000 people, and the NWS is an urban community with high racial, but low economic, diversity – a median income of $25,653 exists in the bottom 3.5% of national zip codes.

The house at 717 Otisco St is a 100-year old renovated Victorian purchased in 2010 for $1 from Home Headquarters (HHQ), a local quasi-governmental/non-profit housing agency. The house had been vacant for 3-4 years at the time of purchase, and required new plumbing, electric, heating, hot water, structural repairs from water and animal damage, and major interior and exterior finish work. For instance, all window glass was broken and would be replaced while preserving the original wooden frames and sills.

Residents of the Homestead live and “act” together, a primary strategy for creating community. Desired shared chores include cooking, shopping, cleaning, trash/recycling, gardening, and other tasks including a spring and fall cleaning day, and a spring and fall gardening day. The grounds are landscaped according to Permaculture principles & design, the original owner Frank Cetera being a local Permaculture educator and designer. The Collective also houses the operations desk/office of The Alchemical Nursery, a non-profit organization working to create “Regenerative Landscapes and Lifestyles” utilizing strategies from the realms of Permaculture, mutual aid, eco-socialism, social justice, & ecovillage philosophies & methodologies; and this year hosted a campaign HQ office for a resident’s Green Party run for city council.

Natural building & simple living are also strategies being utilized. Heating is currently through electric baseboard heating for instance. Although electric heating is initially more expensive from the supply side, it was chosen because it is less expensive to install, allows zoned control in each room, can be supplied by solar panels in the future, can be secondary/supplementary only when wood burning appliance is installed, and to keep natural gas out of this “Anti-Fracking House”. Other techniques include interior natural clay plastering and homemade paints, hugelkultur garden beds made from downed woody debris, hand finished floors (scraping, sanding, treating with linseed oil), food fermentation and preservation.


  • Type(s): Shared Housing, Cohouseholding, or Coliving (multiple individuals sharing a dwelling)
  • Programs & Activities: Volunteer, Internship, or Apprenticeship, Permaculture Kitchen Gardening, Community Development Projects, Social Justice Activism, Progressive Political Organizing
  • Location: Urban


  • Status: We have land we have developed on
  • Area: 0.1 acres
  • Current Residence Types: Room(s) in a house or building, Tiny house
  • Current Number of Residences: 4
  • Planned number of residences: 6
  • Planned Residence Types: Tiny house, Lots to build on
  • Housing Provided: Rental, Work-exchange
  • Land owned by: Individual community member(s)
  • Additional Comments:

    Wood burning stove.


  • Adult Members: 4
  • Child Members: 0
  • Non-member Residents: 0
  • Percent Women: 50%
  • Percent Men: 50%
  • Percent Transgender: 0%
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Visitor Process:

    Contact us through or listed contact individuals to arrange for a visit. Walk-ins are welcome, but cannot always be expected to be accommodated if residents are busy with life. Visitors are also encouraged to come to regularly scheduled events for visiting such as potlucks or Permaculture/Natural Building educational workshops and hands-on work days.

  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Membership Process:

    Q&A via email, in-person or online verbal and visual conversation, visit to the house.

  • Additional Comments:

    There is a shared office for desk work space outside of your bedroom. Some off-street parking is available. Located on a city bus line. Interior bicycle parking available. Attic storage available.


  • Decision Making: Consensus (everyone agrees)
  • Identified Leader: No
  • Leadership Core Group: Yes
  • Additional Comments:

    The residents of the Collective are considered the core leadership.


  • Join Fee: $400
  • Dues, Fees, or Shared Expenses: Yes
  • Regular Fee per Month: $400
  • Shared Income: None
  • Required Labor Contribution per Week: 2
  • Open to members with existing debt: Yes
  • Additional Comments:

    Shared chores (indoors and outdoors), and quarterly work days. $400 monthly fee includes room, utilities, internet, use of all common spaces. Monthly shared food costs average an additional $120 ($30 per week).

Sustainability Practices

  • Energy Infrastructure: We use both systems.
  • Current renewable energy generation: Up to 25%
  • Energy sources: Solar, Clean Energy from the Grid
  • Planned renewable energy generation: 100%
  • Current food produced: Up to 25%
  • Planned food produced: Between 26-49%
  • Food produced locally: From 50-75%


  • Common Facilities: Common House, Garden(s), Workshop, Fire pit, Internet, office, attic storage,
  • Internet Available: Yes, community provides it
  • Internet Fast?: Yes, it’s fine.
  • Cell Phone Service: Good for most people.
  • Shared meals: About once a week
  • Dietary Practice: Local (food sourced within 150 miles), Organic (no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers), GMO Free (only non-genetically modified organisms), Mostly Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan, Opportunivore (dumpster diving, nature harvesting, etc.)
  • Dietary Choice or Restrictions: Somewhat – there are some dietary restrictions or customs.
  • Special Diets OK: Yes
  • Alcohol Use: Yes, used occasionally.
  • Tobacco Use: Yes, used seldomly, or ceremoniously.
  • Additional Diet Comments:

    Potluck dishes are encouraged to be vegan. Specialty personal items (alcohol, ice cream, meat) are not included in shared food pot.

  • Common Spiritual Practice(s): Humanist, Not a particularly spiritual or religious Community
  • Spiritual Practice Expected?: No
  • Education Style(s): Up to each family or individual
  • Healthcare Options: Up to each family or individual

Additional Comments

We have space for a trailer or tiny house parking or build-from-scratch on site, when our bedrooms are full, to expand the size of our community. Let us know if that is something you are interested in pursuing.

Photo Gallery

Community Affiliations

Bread and Roses Collective House, Celowy Home, Common Place Land Cooperative, New Environment Association


ecology, garden, urban, homestead, social justice,