shower at Emerald Earth

Membership

Information for Prospective Members

Thank you for expressing interest in membership at Emerald Earth Sanctuary! We love what we do here, and feel honored that so many intelligent, creative, and like minded folks seeking community are drawn by what we are creating.

Becoming a resident member of Emerald Earth community is a life changing commitment, and–due to the nature of how we live–it is really only right for a very small number of people. Life here is a home and a job, a familial relationship and a working partnership, a day-to-day grind and a spiritual practice.

Due to the current small size and intimacy of our community, we are seeking new members with a lot of both “hard” and “soft” skills – ie: can you wield an ax and practice Non-Violent Communication? Do you know how to bake bread and write a proposal?

Years of experience have shown us that many people we love, enjoy, and appreciate are not really a good fit for the rigors of this community at this time. Too often, we figure this out after a drawn out membership process, which can be painful for all involved and take an inordinate amount of community time and energy. We want the process to be full of joyful discovery, not sad realizations and unmet expectations.

Therefore, we have made this document to guide prospective members in understanding the realities and needs of the community as well as to guide us in assessing how well someone will fit in. All of the requirements below are based on our experience about what works and doesn’t work here. That is not to say we are unchanging – in fact we are constantly changing to meet the needs of the land and the residents here. However, to arrive expecting us to change significantly to meet your needs – or for you to change significantly to meet ours – is a set up for failure.

Emerald Earth has a large, beloved extended community of family and friends who visit regularly and support our vision and mission – most of whom would not be a good fit for membership here, at this stage of development. We believe that most people reading this document will find that this relationship would be more appropriate for them at this time.

NECESSARY EXPERIENCE

Once we are more established, we hope to be able to welcome people with less experience who have a strong curiosity and desire to learn. For the time being, however, what Emerald Earth needs are people who have already developed skills in all of the following areas.

Group Process – Most people from the dominant culture are used to living fairly autonomously, except in jobs or school where they’re told what to do. We are seeking individuals with experience working in collectives and/or community, have an ease in working in groups, know basic facilitation, understand consensus process, possess emotional maturity, and are able to hear and give feedback constructively.

Rural Living Experience – “Moving back to the land” is often romanticized. We love where we live and what we do. That includes beautiful sunsets and fresh garden vegetables as well as things like chopping firewood, weeding, humping heavy bales of hay, trudging through the rain at mealtimes, chopping, canning, and drying food, troubleshooting the water and electrical systems and getting the pickup truck out of the ditch. There are skills associated with these sorts of tasks that we expect new members to be familiar with and comfortable doing.

Interpersonal Communication – We all bring our baggage to the circle, have unproductive patterns of communication, and struggle to understand one another. The real question is, are you aware of it? Do you have the tools and desire to engage with us constructively in getting beyond them? Have you studied and practiced NVC or some other style of conscious communication with the goal of increased self-awareness and shifting from habits that no longer serve you?

Organizational Skills – EES is a 501-c3 non-profit which we run by consensus. Therefore, members need to at least possess basic skills in typing, writing proposals, email, organizing paperwork, etc.

ACQUIRED SKILLS

Your learning and “re-skilling” will continue throughout your time here, and we expect all new members to be willing and interested to learn and participate in our daily activities. We expect that new members arrive with well developed skills in at least one – preferably more – of the following skills. We are currently particularly seeking individuals with skills that have an * asterisk beside them.

  • Food Production – farming, gardening, animal husbandry, wild crafting
  • Non-profit management -organizational planning, fundraising, grant writing, outreach
  • Construction – carpentry, natural building, electrical, plumbing
  • Education – early childhood education, workshop instruction
  • Land Management – ecology, botany, zoology, land regeneration, forestry, pasture development
  • Handiwork – repairs, maintenance
  • Administrative – website management, computer repair, accounting
  • Food Processing – cooking, fermenting, food preservation, kitchen management
  • Entrepreneurial – business planning, marketing

FINANCES

We are currently not income sharing, nor are we funded such that we can employ people or cover their living costs. We don’t have established cottage industries that can employ new people. We are in an infrastructure development phase in which members are called upon to invest time to prepare the community for accommodating more people while still covering their own costs through outside sources of income. Once we are at critical mass in infrastructure and population, what we require of people in time and money may change.

The current structure is that we each pay an equal amount for food and other consumables (currently $290/month per adult, less for children) and a sliding scale land use fee ($125-$175/month) that goes to maintaining the land and paying for improvements. Members have and additional Land Council Fee of $50/month.

We choose to live a simple lifestyle, and aim to keep the financial hurdle to join the community low. However, we haven’t yet figured out how to have our work here provide for all residents or escape the monetary system completely. Therefore, residents need to have some savings to draw upon and/or a source of income sufficient to pay their bills. After the membership process – which takes a minimum of one year–new members also need to come up with the initial membership fee, which is currently $10,000. Payment plans lasting several years are possible.

As it is, most residents find it necessary to have employment outside of the community economic structure. Living a half hour drive from a small town is a limiting factor to holding down a job off site. Telecommuting is a viable option. Our neighbors sometimes offer lower-paying work. People who have tried to rely on sub-living wage employment tend to find it hard to meet expectations at EE and have high stress about money, especially if they are also attempting to save for their initial membership fee.

While a person may be able to handle living at EE with a small amount of debt or a student loan, the added need to generate income will increase the stress of meeting expectations of participation at EE. When a resident is late in paying monthly bills, it is a stress on the entire resident community, as we are financially interdependent.

What has worked best for people is to arrive with the membership fee already in hand, having at least a few thousand dollars in savings to rely on to get adjusted to life at EE and to weather lean financial times, and a source of income that brings in a high enough hourly wage that only takes minimal time away from EE responsibilities. Financial help from family or friends can also be helpful. What tends to work are ways of making money that can bring in sufficient income in 3 days or less of work per week, or less than 2 months full time, on or off site.

We do not see the current system as our ideal, and wish that we were able to welcome people with less financial resources. We have considered creating a reserve fund for people who need occasional help paying EE bills, but this hasn’t happened yet. At one point, a person with a high paying job worked full time so that others could devote more energy to EE activities. In the absence of such strategies currently, we will be reluctant to accept as a member anyone in a financially stressful situation.

Ultimately, we envision a variety of ways to make money on the land, via our non-profit, Emerald Earth Sanctuary, and by people generating income for themselves through enterprises that use resources of the land and advance the mission of the community. If you have skills and some capital to put towards a business – or an existing business in line with our values and mission that could work here – we invite you to come explore the possibilities. A cow herdshare, a school, and educational workshops are examples that have been established so far.

WORK FOR EMERALD EARTH

Emerald Earth is in an infrastructure development stage, and our current culture is that members work anywhere from 20-60 hours a week on community endeavors – fluctuating seasonally with more work happening in the warmer months. We do this work because we love it – it is our passion. We all have other things we do – music, art, sports, etc – however, community life, land stewardship, and homesteading take up the majority of our free time. If you want somewhere beautiful to live so you can focus your energy on other interests or develop a full time off site career, this is probably not the place for you at this time.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

It is important to know right away if you have or have had any serious physical or mental health issues. We live in a topography that is very hilly, with cold, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Due to the layout of our land, you will be hauling stuff around, up and down hills,on a daily basis, rain or shine. In our current state of infrastructure development, members must be capable and comfortable with sustained physical activity on a daily basis.

PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH

Psychologically, it is very demanding to be in daily social relationship and consensus decision making partnership with a number of people. This includes financial and other decisions which are normally quite personal and require a high level of trust and sense of safety. We find that this lifestyle leads to great personal growth and development. However, it is necessary to enter into this community with strong psychological health.

Despite what you may think of a “commune” in Mendocino County, we are not pot growers.  Sugar is usually not served in community meals. Someone will occasionally bring out a bottle of beer or homemade hard cider or wine for a celebration.  Whereas we don’t have any policies or guidelines around substance use, any regular use or abuse of drugs will become a community issue.

FOOD

Currently, we eat lunch and dinner together and buy/grow/wild craft most of our food collectively. We see food as medicine to nourish and promote health. Our culture is “food-centric,” and much of our socializing and activities center around meals. We strive towards a local, organic, nutrient dense diet. We rarely serve processed or refined foods on the community table. Meals include a vegetarian option and a dairy free option, but also always have a meat and/or dairy option available.

Because the community kitchen is the home and hearth of all members of the community, we strive to meet the needs of all residents at mealtimes. Therefore, if your preferred diet radically differs from what we currently eat, it could create a separation around meals and be challenging to integrate into this community. It would be hard to live here and eat lots of junk food or to be on a strict raw food diet, for example.

KIDS

As a community committed to making EE work for kids and their parents, maintaining a critical mass of kids is high on our list of preferences. Therefore, we are looking for families with children who share similar values and parenting styles, as well as non-parents who are interested and excited to be actively in relationship with children. We are currently homeschooling our two resident children, and strive to empower them by creating a safe and supportive environment for them to explore their interests. We avoid reward/punishment scenarios and respect our children as humans who have a lot to learn from us and a lot to teach us.

LEADERSHIP

As a person goes through the membership process, he or she is slowly integrated into the consensus decision making process. As residents, we share decisions and responsibilities. Unlike most ways of living, there is no boss, but rather a constant flow of information. Members need to take on leadership roles while receiving and integrating feedback and information. It is essential to develop “soft skills” such as conscious communication, teaching, facilitation, organizing, etc. We need people who are self starters and able to take on major roles and projects, yet who are comfortable with the amount of meetings we have and the consensus decision making process.