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The Twin Oaks Community is an egalitarian intentional community that consists of approximately one hundred people. The community is located on 450 acres in Louisa County, Virginia. Twin Oaks was founded in 1967, which makes it one of the longest lasting community living establishments in the United States.
Currently, Twin Oaks is accepting applications for entry into their community; could this be an opportunity for you?
Twin Oaks Community History
Twin Oaks Community was founded in 1967, on an area which was once utilized as a tobacco farm. Eight individuals got together and established the settlement, neither of them had farming experience. They founded the community under the inspiration of the B.F. Skinner novel, Walden Two, which describes the behaviorist utopia the famed psychologist idealized. As time passed by, the community abandoned its behaviorist approach in favor of an egalitarian principles.
One of the founding members was Kat Kinkade, Kinkade was an author who penned two books about the community. Her first book was A Walden Two Experiment; The First Five Years of Twin Oaks Community, published in 1974 and Is It Utopia Yet?: An Insider's View of Twin Oaks Community in Its Twenty-Sixth Year , which was published in 1994.
According to Kinkade, during its first years, the community suffered high turnover rates and they had an issue sustaining their income. The community was ridden with members who were lazy, there was no structure and freeloaders took advantage of the community and its resources. Eventually, the Twin Oaks began to turn itself around, they held stead-fast to their egalitarian principles and the community became a success.
Kathleen "Kat" Kinkade (December 6, 1930 – July 3, 2008) has since passed away from metastatic breast cancer, she was cared for at the end of her life by members of the Twin Oaks Community, and the establishment still stands and flourishes to this day.
How the Community Sustains Itself
The original organizational structure modeled itself after the labor credit system found in B.F. Skinner's novel, a modified version of that structure exists today. Credits are "standardized" and each community job is valued equally in terms of credit hours.
The basic necessities of life are provided to each member, from housing, clothing, and food to child care and health care. In exchange for their basic needs being met, members are expected to work a 42 hour week.
The work is divided between income generation, via a hammock production operation and a soy products cooperative that produces non GMO tofu, and domestic work that needs to be done, such as cooking, cleaning, chopping wood and providing child care.
From their hammock and soybean operations, the community earns more than half a million dollars each year, and the profits are used to sustain the needs of the community members. Theirs is a unique communistic lifestyle that survives through the use of capitalism.
A typical work week is broken up into different activities and tasks, so that no one has to spend all of their time doing repetitive tasks. There are no managers, supervisors or time clocks, everything works on the honor system - so far, the system is working well.
Most of the duties the members perform is designed to help the overall community, and members repeatedly state their work is more fulfilling than the mindless toil the participated in before they joined Twin Oaks.
Excess weekly labor can go into a member's vacation earnings, and members can choose to work outside of the community and contribute financially therein. Each member is also given personal spending money from the community.
Daily Life of a Twin Oaks Member (Twin Oaker)
Twin Oakes members or Twin Oakers live in dormitory style fashion, every member has their own private bedroom, but they share public spaces. The viewing of live television is prohibited, but movies and taped television programs are allowed. They have access to the Internet as well as to public computers.
Twin Oakers are fond of gatherings and creative events, so dances, musicals, and literary groups abound. The members' religious preferences are as diverse as any other community, and there is no emphasis placed on any one particular church or type of church. In fact, no one has to attend any form of religious services if they do not choose to do so.
Equinox and Founders Day celebrations, Thanksgiving meals and Pagan handfastings (commitment ceremonies) are common in the community. Political and anti-oppression activism is encouraged and everything is represented, including anti-racism, LGBTQ support and women's rights.
They operate a clothing library, they share a fleet of vehicles and they hold all resources in common, except for their personal belongings. Members consume considerably less gasoline, electricity and natural gas than their surrounding neighbors and as such, it is a model of sustainability.
The community prides itself on the knowledge that it is not a "perfect" society. Visitors are made aware of the imperfections by a guide book titled, "Not Utopia Yet." There is little to no privacy for members, and it is a common occurrence for them to go a little "stir crazy" with feelings of confinement.
Members also have very little opportunity to build up a savings account or any sort of real equity in anything. The annual turnover rate is approximately 20%. Thus far, there have been no complaints of ill treatment or shady operations.
How to Become a Twin Oaks Member
At the time of this writing, the Twin Oaks Community is currently accepting applications for membership. This is somewhat of a big deal, because the community usually maintains a waiting list.
In the past, new members would be accommodated by building new housing, but the only way to get in today is when/if existing members choose leave the community.
Those wishing to become a Twin Oaks member will first need to schedule a three week visitation period. This visitation period allows the members to to interview the applicant, and vice versa. The fee for the three week visitation is a sliding scale fee, which can run anywhere from $50 - $250; there are provisions for those who cannot afford the lower end of the scale.
At the end of the three week period, applicants spend at least 30 days away from the community to allow for their minds to clear and to think about the experience, opportunity and obligation.
Applicants take part in the community work, they are housed in the 6 bedroom 2 bathroom visitor's complex. In general, an applicant needs to be mentally and physically fit to operate in a contributory society, cultural respect must be given at all times, children are welcome.
As you can see, membership at Twin Oaks might be the perfect solution for an egalitarian-minded person who's seeking to find a place in this world. If you decide to apply to become a member of Twin Oaks, please drop a line and let us all know how your visit turned out. In the meantime, stay tuned for the next community living profile...
© 2019 Rachelle Williams