Listening Tree Cooperative

Chepachet, Rhode Island, United States

  • Last updated: August 10, 2018 (2 seconds ago)
  • Listing created on: March 13, 2015

Mission Statement

We intend to regenerate community as we consciously choose to create a more sustainable way of life. We will experiment with self-organizing social systems at this time of energy descent, particularly in egalitarian ways.

Community Description

We are a small group that has just started a green cooperative homestead in Chepachet, RI. Two of us purchased a farm in June 2015, and are currently leasing it to the cooperative. When we find enough members and the co-op decides to purchase it, the owners will sell the property to the coop.

In order to balance the need for and efficiencies of community with the need for solitude and privacy, we are creating small, cabin-like shelters (including retrofitting existing outbuildings) for sleeping and other alone-time activities. We share one kitchen, and cooperatively prepare and serve dinner in the shared house to all residents on site each evening. The house also contains shared office/farm-work space, bathrooms, other sleeping rooms and a convertible guest room/yoga studio/meeting room. At this point, we envision a community of 10-15 residents will live on the farm eventually. The current septic allowance for this property is 10 people.

Key features include:

Regular community meetings and conflict prevention and resolution/management processes;
A participatory democratic decision-making process, with ‘sense of the group’ practices leading up to final decisions, the N Street method for contentious issues, and a “consensus minus one” decision rule;
Simple living, energy conservation and material cycling (e.g., compost toilets, rainwater capture, passive solar and super-insulated (e.g. passive house) buildings and renewable energy systems);
Growing food for the community (and others when excess), using sustainable farming, such as organic methods, permaculture, and wild-simulation propogation. Three market-farm partners currently share the site, with areas designated for them and for the co-op residents’ homesteading garden and animals and food forest;
New resident screening process and trial period;
Opportunities for agreed-upon community mind/body/spirit practice and also an acceptance of a variety of individual practices (yoga, meditation, prayer, etc.) or none;
Sharing responsibilities and work of the homestead, honoring the particular skills members bring to the community as well as sharing basic chores, etc.
Sharing many things, such as meals, a truck, appliances, kitchen, laundry, bathrooms, etc., to conserve resources and make community living more affordable than single-family housing. However, this is not an income-sharing community. Private ownership of cars and personal effects will be allowed and rules for borrowing established by each individual.
The cooperative as a whole will own and share the common house, barn, appliances, solar power equipment, tractor, many tools, etc. Rules about sharing will be developed through the group decision making process (see above).
A market farmer or farm family could buy a special share that designates a portion of the arable land for market farming, to be stewarded by the farmer(s) in a land tenure contract with the housing cooperative. See below for details.

Our community aspires to provide educational service to the state and beyond. We will promote and conduct workshops (e.g. deep ecology – the ‘Work that Reconnects’ – workshops, a permaculture charette) and host apprentices who will live with us for a summer or semester to learn community life, food and shelter provision and about local/global transition to sustainable living more generally. We may choose to partner with an existing nonprofit organization to help raise money, recruit apprentices, and provide high school or college credit.

We plan to ensure affordability and equality by setting up ownership as a limited equity co-operative. A limited equity co-op is an alternative legal ownership entity which allows people to buy into the property and own shares of the co-op and thereby be given rights to live there and use designated and shared space for living and working, while keeping equity earned at the level paid in vs. market price. This removes investment/speculation from housing and keeps it affordable in perpetuity. Purchasing or financing a share grants holders the right to live in and otherwise use the land and structures, but also to transfer this right by selling their share back to the coop. Unlike a condo, the co-op community has the right to vet new members when shares are transferred.

About

  • Type(s): Ecovillage (organized around ecology and sustainability), Shared Housing, Cohouseholding, or Coliving (multiple individuals sharing a dwelling)
  • Programs & Activities: School, Educational Institute or Experience, Volunteer, Internship, or Apprenticeship, WWOOF’ing, Guest Farming
  • Location: Rural

Housing

  • Status: We have land we have developed on
  • Area: 33 acres
  • Current Residence Types: Room(s) in a house or building, Rooms in outbuildings or in the big house; potential to build more minimal-impact cabins/sheds
  • Current Number of Residences: 8
  • Planned number of residences: 10
  • Planned Residence Types: Room(s) in a house or building, Yurt, tee-pee, dome, treehouse, or tent, Natural built structues, Retrofit or new low-impact cabins for bedrooms and office space
  • Housing Provided: Purchase, Rental, Work-exchange
  • Land owned by: A subgroup of community members
  • Additional Comments:

    This is not cohousing, but a housing cooperative, which shares one kitchen and several bathrooms. It is zoned single-family agricultural. Co-op members (resident shareholders) receive rights to use common spaces, most of the land in common, and a private space for sleeping and/or working. A farm share is also available for a market farmer, with a few acres of pasture/field to be dedicated to the market farm shareholder(s). Other land-based social enterprises may be negotiated with the community. The rest of the fields and woods will be shared by the community, with most in the state open space program (not to be developed).

    Rooms in the house are currently available for rent.

Membership

  • Adult Members: 6
  • Child Members: 0
  • Non-member Residents: 0
  • Percent Women: 50%
  • Percent Men: 50%
  • Percent Transgender: 0%
  • Visitors accepted: Yes
  • Visitor Process:

    We would like to meet interested people and give tours of the land after talking on the phone. We are hosting regular potlucks for interested people to get to know us and each other.

    Please do not drop by without calling first.

  • Open to new Members: Yes
  • Membership Process:

    Talk on the phone, meet, attend potlucks, fill out questionnaire, interview, trial visit, 6 month live on site (paying rent). Buy share to become full member for $1000. Member-owners are part owners of the coop, with the right to participate in consensus decision making about additional new members, household/homestead rules, bylaws, budgeting, etc.

    When cooperative decides to buy the land, the full share price will be approximately ($43,000) but may be financed with a down payment ($5000). Member-owners will still pay monthly fees for community expenses, insurance, taxes, etc. (and financing through the coop, if desired). Member-residents (applicants in the 6-month period,. renters and workshares) are involved in consensus process, but do not have

  • Additional Comments:

    Most in our group are “white” people and with that comes a legacy of colonialism, which we discuss openly and challenge in ourselves and society. We hope to be inclusive and not oppressive, and welcome challenges to our privilege and assumptions.

    We are feminists and egalitarians, and welcome queer and women’s leadership and participation (two of us identify as LGBTQ). The men renounce the privilege of their gender and appreciate the freedom for other genders and themselves created by the egalitarian structure of our decision making, and soon, ownership. The two of us with materially privileged backgrounds recognize and seek dialogue to transform the ramifications of that privilege, which made the purchase of Listening Tree feasible, while rooted in systems of domination and oppression. We are actively anti-racist, internally and in the world.

    The co-op is also kid-friendly and hopes to attract and will select for an intergenerational membership because we find the peer-group segregation in this culture (as in schools and day and senior care) to be one of the unspoken structural problems in the broader community.

    We are mixed-income/mixed-class, and are working to make financing available to people who want to buy shares. The shared-house-plus-individual-outbuildings design makes the community more affordable than single family, cohousing, and even multifamily units. Utilities are virtually prepaid in the form of the solar array; heat is primarily by wood collected from the property, with some electricity in outbuildings; eventually, most food will be grown by members for members, reducing living costs. Three of the founders have worked in affordable housing or energy and are deeply committed to innovating affordability methods.

Government

  • Decision Making: Modified Consensus (everyone agrees, with some exceptions or fallbacks.)
  • Identified Leader: No
  • Leadership Core Group: Yes
  • Additional Comments:

    Core group is the founders, and active for the formation period.

Economics

  • Join Fee: $1000
  • Dues, Fees, or Shared Expenses: Yes
  • Regular Fee per Month: $450
  • Shared Income: None
  • Required Labor Contribution per Week: 15
  • Open to members with existing debt: Yes
  • Additional Comments:

    Community economics are in process. Fees will be lower when more members join. Member-ownership purchase will be higher when the cooperative buys the property. Social enterprises/cottage industries can be set up my individuals or subgroups that would share that income. Enterprises exchange rent or goods with community for use of resources/space. This income pays down community expenses (not distributed as patronage).

Sustainability Practices

  • Energy Infrastructure: We use both systems.
  • Current renewable energy generation: 100%
  • Energy sources: Solar, Biomass, propane for cooking
  • Planned renewable energy generation: 100%
  • Current food produced: Up to 25%
  • Planned food produced: Almost All, around 90%
  • Food produced locally: From 50-75%

Lifestyle

  • Common Facilities: Common House, Garden(s), Greenhouse(s), Vehicle Share, Library, Workshop, Outbuilding(s), Swimming pond or pool, Tractor & Farm Equipment, Fire pit, Swingsets & play areas, Internet
  • Internet Available: Yes, community provides it
  • Internet Fast?: Yes, it’s fine.
  • Cell Phone Service: Good for most people.
  • Shared meals: Approximately all dinners
  • Dietary Practice: Omnivorous (plants and animals), Local (food sourced within 150 miles), Organic (no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers), Mostly Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free
  • Dietary Choice or Restrictions: Somewhat – there are some dietary restrictions or customs.
  • Special Diets OK: Sometimes
  • Alcohol Use: Yes, used seldomly, or ceremoniously.
  • Tobacco Use: No, this community does not permit tobacco use.
  • Additional Diet Comments:

    If possible, diet for shared meals will respond to the needs and preferences of those who join. Individuals may eat what they want beyond the shared meals.

  • Common Spiritual Practice(s): Ecumenical (accepts all religions or spiritual practices), Eclectic (integrates multiple religious or spiritual beliefs), Not a particularly spiritual or religious community, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Quaker, Native American, Paganism or Earth Religions, Mixed Eastern Philosophy or Practice, Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist
  • Spiritual Practice Expected?: No
  • Education Style(s): Up to each family or individual
  • Expected Healthcare Practices:

    We grow medicinal herbs, but not marijuana.

  • Healthcare Options: Up to each family or individual

Additional Comments

BULLETIN: Intentional Community Seeks Resident Farmer

About Us:
Listening Tree Cooperative is an intentional community in Chepachet, Rhode Island, about 30 minutes from Providence RI and Worcester MA. Formed in 2015, the community occupies 33 acres of field and woodland and owns one main house and several winterized cabins. The co-op’s owner-members will own the land and structures by each purchasing a $42,000 share of the cooperative. Like a mortgage, this $42,000 could be paid over years, with a $5000 down payment. Other residents (people who include seasonal volunteers and those who are interested in membership but aren’t ready to commit) pay rent and live alongside member residents. Owners also pay monthly fees, equivalent to rent, to cover costs of owning and maintaining property, such as taxes, insurance, maintenance, and improvements.

As a whole, Listening Tree Co-op believes in multigenerational sustainable living and espouses the principles of permaculture. Daily life at Listening Tree includes shared dinners and “community work” hours in the garden and food forest. Co-op residents enjoy working on projects like a medicinal herb garden, pasturing chickens, planting a perennial vegetable garden, building tiny cabins in the woods, doing carpentry projects, hosting workshops, and taking care of the cat, George. Most residents have jobs outside of the community as well. Currently, the cooperative is made up of 3 owner-members, 2 resident-members(renters), and 2 seasonal volunteers. Eventually, the cooperative is structured to have 10 members.

What we are looking for:
We are seeking a resident farmer(s) who will live at the community and farm some of the cleared acreage. The farmer will have the opportunity to become an owner-member of Listening Tree Co-op if they so desire. Otherwise, the farmer will be a resident-member. In either case, the farmer will have the freedom to run their farm business as a private enterprise. Listening Tree Co-op will not play any role in the work or business aspects of the farm, other than to ensure it complies with the written agreements on facilities sharing, tool sharing, insurance requirements, and organic methods or agreed equivalent.

Infrastructure:
Housing is available either in a small insulated cabin with electricity, internet, heat, and an outhouse; or in the main house where the bathrooms and kitchen are located.

The available farm fields are up to 3 ½ acres. Soil tests dating back 3 years are available. Approximately 2 of the 3 ½ acres have been used as a biointensive no-till organic vegetable farm for 3 years, and the other 1.5 acres have been used in conventional tillage organic vegetable farming.

The farmer will have access to
irrigation from an on-field hydrant, supplied by an irrigation pond with pump;
a 27HP Kubota tractor with bucket, York rake, moldboard plow, grader, deck mower, post hole digger, and harrow;
large storage shed;
gravel road to the field;
electricity at the field;
wash station with stainless steel sinks and well water;
workshop with woodworking tools;
garage bay;
barn attic with hayloft doors;
basement storage;
8×12 walk-in cooler.

These resources are managed with a shared maintenance schedule by community members and residents, depending on usage, and written agreement.

Please contact us for the fee schedule and to obtain an application. We will be reviewing applications until January 2019. Additional information about the community can be found at www.listeningtree.coop and www.ic.org/directory/listening-tree-cooperative.

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We are regenerating the soil, with an onsite worm composting operation, composting toilets with urine diversion, remediation of round-up poisoned soil, and moving toward carbon farming. We are in process of developing permaculture site plan and forestry plan, with an emphasis on improving biodiversity, medicinal plants, native plants, and ecological and regenerative design. We eat our weeds, but don’t grow weed: our focus is primarily transforming the land from a Christmas tree farm to food production, and living a low-energy consumption lifestyle (currently solar provides our electricity needs and we are moving to electric-powered machinery.

Community Network or Organization Affiliations

The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC)

Keywords

deep ecology, farming, permaculture, ecovillage, transition, the Great Turning,