Finney Farm Frequently Asked Questions
The truth is, we get a lot of questions. On a daily basis, our lives don't seem all that different or radical from most rural folks. We grow food, kids, relationships...we try to keep it simple and live a good life. The divergence occurs mostly in the ethics and ideals behind what we've got going on. Listed below are a handful of the more common questions, please feel free to contact us if you'd like more information.
What's the basic vision?
Finney Farm is an intentional community focused on education, sustainability, homesteading, and stewardship. We envision up to 10 adults plus children living full time on the farm in various private dwellings. We intend to grow as much of our own food as possible without having to clear our forested land which we hold as a nature reserve. We have a wide range of social and educational outreach components and participate a great deal in our surrounding rural community. The farm operates on a fairly low budget, and each resident makes a monthly financial contribution to cover our annual expenses. Through our homesteading efforts and affordability due to group contribution, we hope that individuals are able to eliminate wage slavery from their lives. We do not necessarily eschew working for wages, but we want it to be a choice--and for our members to have the opportunity to take paid work less often, and to create their own cottage industry endeavor if they wish. We want housing to be accessible and affordable; without bank loans and high mortgage payments which never go away. Finney Farm uses the permaculture model in our land use plan and utilized shared connections and resources whenever possible. We have a large commons area that includes gardens, orchards, outdoor structures including a barn and shop, a community house with an office/library/kitchen/bathroom, and more.
Your website mentions anarchism. Doesn't that mean bombs and black masks?
A publication from Crimethinc says "Anarchism is the revolutionary idea that no one is more qualified than you are to decide what your life will be." We like to be in charge of our own selves and we think we're pretty good at it. We would rather be able to choose how we live each hour of our lives, learn from and deal with the consequences of our actions, and be the masters of our own reality. So yes, it probably could mean bombs and black masks, but that isn't what we're doing here.
Sometimes we tell our kids that fair is everyone getting what they need, not everyone getting exactly the same. I think it's the same way with being an anarchist. Sometimes in order to get what we need, we might choose to let someone take a leadership role but because we are choosing this, it becomes a blessing rather than a burden...and it's fair. Large scale representative democracy doesn't really make the cut for us because we are pretty sure that none of the officials in state or federal government know us well enough to represent Finney Farm or make sure that we get what we need.
Living in a rural area, we find that our local community affects us a great deal. We place a high value on connection and accountability-two key elements for a flourishing society. We create our own reality of a healthy community environment by growing and distributing thousands of vegetable and herb seeds at no charge every year; by donating goods for local charities or fundraising endeavors; through hosting free community events; by doing our business locally and participating in local economy; by plugging in with labor, goods, and ideas for a variety of community needs, and by volunteering. A lot. We feel that we deserve a good life, so we aim to create it.
How do you make decisions?
We use consensus decision making. Generally speaking, we meet once a month for a business meeting and one weekend a year for our annual meeting. We use those opportunities to make decisions on everything, from the garden watering schedule to our annual budget. We have all received NVC (Non-Violet Communication) training which we find to be helpful in navigating the decision making process, and an asset in our daily lives.
Who's in charge?
Us. Finney Farm is egalitarian community, which means that everyone get equal rights and opportunities. That being said, we recognize that in order for us to reach our goals, it's not always in the best interest of the group to operate under the least common denominator. We see this a lot with communities like ours. A garden project begun by a group of individuals with experience ranging from absolute beginner to organic farmer with 20+ years of experience will get so bogged down in process and decision making because the beginners have the same decision making power as the farmer. We try to remember that our skillset does not define us and we try to keep our egos in check. At Finney Farm, the farmer would try to offer knowledge and be open to new ideas and the beginner would understand and embrace the role of an apprentice, with both participating to the best of their abilities and without holding up process.
We get a lot of praise for being more productive than most similar egalitarian communities, and we believe much of our productivity is due to placing the higher vision of the collective above individual tasks or activities. We might choose to have a garden manager, name someone to lead a building project, or allow one person to build a website...but we don't allow our roles to define us and make one person more important than the others. We are all equally valuable as people and members of Finney Farm and our roles are just a game we choose to play.
Do you have to join something in order to live there?
There three types of residents on the farm. Everyone must abide by the bylaws and policies of the community. Each resident is assigned a liaison who will assist them in acclimating to life at Finney Farm. Renters pay a monthly fee (currently $275 per adult) which typically includes the use of a private residence as well as electricity. Renters pay for their own cooking propane (about $15 a month) and provide their wood for heating--they are welcome to participate in our group wood harvest for a share. They might have access to the community house/amenities, and are encouraged but not required to participate in monthly meetings, farm chores, community garden, events. For those interested in more commitment, choosing to become a Probationary Member might be a good option. They essentially have the rights and responsibilities of a Member with a few exceptions. A person usually spends a year as Probationary member before applying for full membership.
Both Probationary Members and Members must attend monthly and annual meetings. They initially pay a two part monthly fee-a lease payment (currently $250 per adult) as well as an equity payment. Each member contributes an equity buy-in amount (currently set at 1000 hours of federal minimum wage) which is non-refundable. This may be paid in a lump sum but is typically paid over a period of time. The idea is that everyone will make an equal contribution to join the community (as the original members did when they initially purchased the land), which will serves as both an equalizer amongst members and provide a strategy to create an environment in which each person feels "invested" in the community. Probationary and full members make a labor contribution set at one hour per day, although we often clock well over a 100 hours individually each month during the growing season. Only full members may own or build a private dwelling, and only full members make block in consensus. Full members of Finney Farm are also board members of Salmonberry Community Land Trust, a non-profit corporation which holds the title to the Finney Farm land.
What's it like to live at Finney Farm?
Sometimes it's a veritable Shangri La and other times you're ankle deep in mud and conflict. So...pretty much like living anywhere else except that we find the blessing to burden ratio much in our favor. The land is gorgeous and lush, we have a lovely creek, an amazing forest, and beautiful gardens. We usually spend some time each day working outdoors throughout most of the year, most of us work for wages in some capacity (primarily self-employment/cottage industry), some of us unskool/homeschool our kids, we try to do what we love every day. We have very minimal electricity at each residence-typically 5 to 15 amps per household (most American homes have 200) but through conscious effort we're able to make good use of it and don't want for much if anything. We use root cellars for food storage, use gas or wood stoves for cooking, source our own firewood for wood heat, grow much of our own food, and generally have a pretty nice life. The cottage industry efforts on the farm currently include a handspun yarn company, woodworking/carpentry business, teaching, a book seller, and a few smaller endeavors including viticulture, soap making, sewing, and more. We live pretty rustically, without indoor toilets or showers. Each house has a water collection system and a gravity fed cold water sink indoors; the community house has a few more amenities. There are phone lines and highish speed internet available.
How do I find out more? Can I visit?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information or to schedule a visit. But...and we have to say this...we get a lot of inquiries. Which is great, but please know that one very busy person volunteers to answer all of the farm email. We may not always respond as promptly as we'd prefer. If you are interested in the farm, please take that into consideration and do not send multiple emails a day until you hear from us. This will not make a good first impression. Also, this same person schedules all of our visitors and is responsible for arranging their stay with the community. Please do not schedule a visit unless you are sure you can actually commit to visiting. Coordinating with the residents for one visit often means multiple conversations and working the the calenders of up to 10 adults. This can take A LOT of time, so we greatly appreciate your consideration before booking a tour/visit.