Emerald Earth is a rural intentional community in Mendocino County. Our key values include peace, sustainability, social activism, education, and consensus decision making. We believe it is our responsibility as human beings to rediscover ways of interacting with the land in ways that enhance its ecological health, and we choose a lifestyle based as much as possible on biological power rather than chemical, more on social solutions than mechanical ones. We are currently open to new members.
The community was founded in 1989, when a group of friends from Berkeley found and purchased the land near Boonville in the Anderson Valley, about three hours drive north of San Francisco. This group called itself the Emerald Earth Laughing and Drumming Society and came together regularly for singing, drumming, and ritual, both in the city and on the land. They spent a couple of years cleaning up the site and fixing the main cabin and other infrastructure, then five people moved onto the land in 1994. During this time, the non-profit corporation Emerald Earth Sanctuary was formed and the land was deeded to it. After a while most of this original community moved away, although several are still members of the Land Council. One member of the original group remained as the sole permanent resident for several years.
Starting in 1999, a new group moved onto the land. With their experience in sustainable agriculture and natural building, they began building cabins, planting trees, growing food, expanding infrastructure, and organizing work parties. We are dedicated to sharing knowledge, and each year Emerald Earth hosts hands-on workshops in natural building, permaculture, and medicinal herbs. See “Workshops” for more information.
Over the years, the number of residents has fluctuated between six and fourteen. For the last few years, the membership has been relatively stable and small, although some new members have joined and some have moved on. We currently have seven permanent residents (including two children) plus interns. Our ages range from 3 to 55, with a concentration in our late 30’s/early 40’s.
We have several kinds of regular meetings to take care of communication, decision making, and group process. At our weekly business meeting we discuss scheduling, work priorities, and other day-to-day decisions. We also have a weekly sharing meeting and a monthly all day process meeting to address emotional and interpersonal issues. Major decisions on policies, long term planning, membership, and budget are made by the Land Council, which meets four weekends a year. The Land Council is made up of resident members and some former residents now living off site.
Life at Emerald Earth requires a large amount of physical work including building, gardening, maintenance, chopping firewood, preparing food, caring for livestock, cleaning, and so on. We eat most lunches and dinners together, taking turns cooking and cleaning. Our diets center around traditionally prepared and processed organic whole foods, which are produced on site or sourced locally. Sometimes we have organized community work days, but much of the time members are working on various projects under their own initiative. Often people disperse to their private residences in the evenings. During the dry months (May-October) there are lots of visitors, events, and projects; winters tend to be much quieter. We like to celebrate Solstices, Equinoxes, and other special occasions with non-denominational rituals.
Although it is relatively inexpensive to live at Emerald Earth, the community so far generates very little income on site. Most members have worked at part-time jobs in the small town of Boonville (a 20-minute drive) or beyond. Some examples include: cooking, building, massage, consulting, teaching in the local school system, practicing Chinese medicine, or teaching natural building workshops. It’s important to us to maintain a strong social and political connection with the larger Anderson Valley community. Our main on site income source have been hands on workshops, drying seaweed (harvested at the coast), and raising livestock.
Links to other Intentional Community resources:
Fellowship for Intentional Community
Occidental Arts & Ecology Center