Born on a commune


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I found a big ragweed in an alley once, and showed it too my dad, thinking it was weed. But he set me straight (he used to spray weeds for the county and has a degree in forestry of all things.)

To be fair though, they do look similar, and in Kansas marijuana does tend to crop up where ever. Farmers find it all the time.

Some of the coolest people I’ve met here in the SF Bay Area, leading the way in pioneering online and real-world community, turned out to come from experience in community/communal living at the Farm and elsewhere.

Some alternative views on the Farm’s history shows up in the WIthin Reach movie and the forthcoming “40 Years on the Farm,” as well as last year’s “Birth Story.”

In my work helping people organize cohousing neighborhoods that will persist through changes in leadership and serving members at all phases of life, I’ve found certain patterns that keep showing up. Finding the right balance of privacy and community is one of these; providing easy exits and market leverage (i.e. access to conventional mortgage financing by working with the system enough to be treated like any other condo) is another - although this approach needs to be balanced with creative approaches to promote financial diversity and access.

Many key elements of this social/communications/group leadership “Pattern Language” is reflected in the Group Works card deck and the Group Pattern Language Project, a CC-licensed open source collaborative venture of community facilitators that created it. If you build a community culture that makes it easy for people to care for one another, everything gets easier, including going beyond what seems possible with the ordinary tools at hand.

PS Did Vanity Fair get Boing’d? Pages are currently unreachable w/multi redirects. Once they’re back up, here’s a 2007 piece they ran on the Farm.

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Now I want to know why they were growing rows of ragweed. Did someone have a grudge against an allergy sufferer?


It’s a strange article because the way the author describes The Farm you’d think it was a major part of her childhood. But about two-thirds of the way into the article she mentions that her parents left when she was two. So it basically played no role in her conscious memory.

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I think that’s because BoingBoing introduces this as an article about “growing up on the Farm.” In fact, it’s an article about the way the author’s life and the lives of her parents were impacted by the Farm.

I think a big piece of the puzzle with the Farm is that it attracted too many people unable to make a meaningful contribution, and not enough people with viable, necessary skills. I think this is a problem common to communities formed around charismatic personalities.

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I’ve heard from a friend who grew up on the Farm things that make it sound like it attracted too many people that thought ideals would feed them and be self-sustaining and not enough folks that had any practical or business sense. Eventually, the Farm restructured itself (something almost all these discussions miss) more along the lines of a co-housing group because it had to do that or completely fail.

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