Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Sweet Earth – Experimental Utopias in America

Friends and I have casually dreamed of creating a “compound” somewhere far away from the city. “Start fresh”, we say, “with a clean slate”. Not a “we’re heavily-armed and wear matching outfits” kind of compound, but a healthy hunk of acreage where we can collectively grow, brew, construct, and, most likely, have a rockin’ band. You know, back-to-the-land, but with homegrown food, Marshall amps and internet access.

As the bad news continues to flood in: recession, layoffs, food contaminations, corruption, greed, etc. , an “intentional community” is sounding better and better. Joel Sternfeld’s book Sweet Earth chronicles the stories of over 100 experimental utopias: from Biosphere2 and Shaker Villages to Oregon’s Alpha Farm and Ecovillages in Massachusetts and California. Many of the communities have run their course and expired, and some are continuing in one form or another. Consensus decision is a common theme among the groups that are thriving, and personality conflicts and real estate development are common among the communities that are no longer there.

It’s a good read, if a bit pricey, if you like heavy art books with lots of pictures. Happily, there is a lot of information online as well. is a rich resource of Intentional Community information. According to the site, the term intentional community includes any of the following forms of “compound”: ecovillages, cohousing, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives, alternative communities, and other projects where people strive together with a common vision. There is a search able database of existing and aspiring communities, a Wiki of how-tos, an events calendar, classifieds… tons of stuff here.

The Global Ecovillage Network is a resource site for Ecovillages internationally.

Living Routes is a study abroad program through UMass Amherst where one can study with and become a part of an Ecovillage. There are opportunities at Ecovillages in Australia, Brazil, India, Israel, Mexico, Peru, Scotland, Senegal and at the Sirius Community in Massachusetts.

Urban, suburban and rural – there are options for everyone. What are your experiences with intentional communities? Do you live in one now? Are you fostering a dream? Share your stories in the comments section, or on the community pages of


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3 Responses to “Sweet Earth – Experimental Utopias in America”

  1. […] the back-to-the-landers don’t stay out there in the wild. Sometimes they come closer to civilization and become […]

  2. […] Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America […]

  3. We live in an intentional community – founded in 1968 as a hippie commune, we’ve stayed together, aged, grown, new folks have joined (I arrived about 10 years ago). We love living in a group – I don’t know where else we could have the kind of intimacy with others and find the kind of support we get to have our relationship thrive!

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