Twin Oaks Community
Twin Oaks Community
Twin Oaks Community is an ecovillage and intentional community in Louisa County, Virginia. It is a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Founded in 1967, it is one of the longest-enduring and largest secular intentional communities in North America. Its core values include nonviolence, egalitarianism, feminism, and ecology.
Twin Oaks has roughly 100 members. People interested in joining Twin Oaks attend a scheduled three-week visitor period. During this period, visitors tour the community, attend orientations on different aspects of life at Twin Oaks, and work alongside members. Unlike most co-housing situations, there is no cost to join the community, nor any rent or ongoing costs associated with living there. Basic necessities—housing, clothing, food, health care—are all provided to members in return for their 42 hours of work.
Some labor is directed toward generating income, and the rest consists of domestic work like gardening/food production, cooking, bike repair, building maintenance, cleaning, and child care. Most Twin Oakers perform a wide variety of tasks each week instead of spending all of their time in one labor area. Members can also choose to work outside of Twin Oaks. The income from this labor may go to the community, although some portion of it can go into a member’s “vacation earnings.” Excess labor done in a week accumulates as vacation time.
Though live television viewing is prohibited, Twin Oaks’ members have access to the Internet as well as to public computers. Members can also watch movies and tapes of TV programs. People in the community often gather for other recreational activities such as dancing, meditating, discussing literature, staging musicals, and playing board games.
Twin Oaks members are religiously diverse. The membership includes Christians, Atheists, Pagans, Buddhists, and more. The community hosts Pagan handfastings, Equinox parties, and Thanksgiving dinners, and it celebrates June 16—the anniversary of its founding—as a holiday.
Residents live in dormitory-style living quarters spread out across the community. Each member has a private bedroom, but shares public spaces.
Member turnover is no longer as high as it was in the community’s early years, and many Twin Oaks ex-members live in the nearby towns of Charlottesville and Louisa to maintain ties to the community.
Twin Oaks’ 42 hour work week is divided between domestic and income-producing labor. Twin Oaks operates several community-owned businesses, including Twin Oaks Tofu, Twin Oaks Hammocks, and Twin Oaks Book Indexing. Additionally, members grow seeds for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. From these sources, Twin Oaks generates $600,000 per year. This money pays for community upkeep and goods that cannot be produced on-site, and each member receives a monthly stipend for personal use (i.e. to purchase items that the community does not provide). In news segments, Twin Oakers often attribute the longevity of the community to its engagement in capitalism through its tofu and hammocks businesses.
Twin Oaks and the communities movement
Twin Oaks has helped establish three sister communities: Acorn Community, about 7 miles (11 km) away from Twin Oaks, Living Energy Farm also in Louisa County Virginia and East Wind Community in south central Missouri.
Twin Oaks also hosts annual intentional community gatherings which are cosponsored by the Foundation for Intentional Community. The Communities Conference and the Women’s Gathering both take place in August every year.