As our present socio-economic system breaks down, how can we create our own, more self-reliant communities? What types of communities can we forge that take into account our needs, goals, and resources? Below are two examples of ways to create Community, one rural, the other urban.
Increasing numbers of people are moving to rural places and either joining existing or seeking to establish what are often referred to as “intentional” communities. These communities consist of individuals that share a common vision in what they perceive as essential to create and sustain a healthy and vibrant life. They share costs for Community essentials, while providing land for housing, supportive social networks, and Food security. “Intentional” communities are often off-grid, with varying degrees of self-sufficiency. Housing options range from build-your-own individual structures to shared common dwellings. Typically, members “buy in” to a Community land trust governed by its members. Food is grown on-site through communal as well as individual agricultural plots, sharing equipment and labor. There are shared common spaces for social events and recreation.
The Farm Community in Summertown Tennessee
Illustrates one “intentional” Community that encompasses all aspects of a healthy local economy and a vibrant social life, including education and apprentice programs for its members. One of the many advantages of becoming a member of this type of Community is its supportive and nurturing environment, meeting the material and social needs of its members.
There is an online directory where you can investigate similar types of “intentional “communities, based on location, called the Foundation for Intentional Community at www.ic.org.
But what can urban dwellers do to forge essential networks and enhance Security in their local economies? What networks of support exist or can be created to increase Food security, provide education, and deepen social cohesion in an urban setting?
Urban farming and Community gardens are a great way to transform existing resources in an urban environment, converting the landscape in ways that nurture and support the entire Community. Urban farms offer hands-on participation; they foster Community values and education, increase and strengthen existing networks of social cohesion, provide tangible support through healthy Food, and create a vehicle for positive social change. Harlem Grown is an excellent example of this type of program and can serve as a model for other urban communities. Created in 2011, Harlem Grown is an independent, non-profit organization, whose mission is “to inspire youth through mentorship and hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition.”(www.harlemgrown.org) They renovate abandoned lots in Harlem, transforming them into thriving urban farms. Some are soil-based, others are hydroponic greenhouses, and others are school gardens. These farms foster a sense of unity, participation, and pride in the Community. They offer numerous Community events that encourage and support Harlem youth, which has a positive impact on the entire Community.
Urban farming is a great example of a Community-wide approach to generate positive social change while also creating a local source for healthy Food. Innovative and resourceful programs like this provide not only tangible support, but inspiration as well, much needed in challenging times.