This case study is presented in order to help educate the Intentional Community Research and Development group. The primary source of information is the Earthaven website itself.
Earthaven is an ecovillage outside Asheville in northwestern North Carolina. Earthaven considers itself a developing ecovillage and intentional community. In my research so far, however, it appears to me to be a fairly mature community in many ways.
"Our mission is to create a village which is a living laboratory and educational seed bank for a sustainable human future.
Our vision is: “In the midst of planetary change the Earthaven experiment helps inform and inspire a global flowering of bioregionally appropriate cultures.”
We hope to become empowered, responsible, and ecologically literate citizens, modeling bioregionally appropriate culture for our time and place.
We value sustainable ecological systems, permaculture design, elegant simplicity, right livelihood, and healthy social relations.
We are spiritually diverse.
We have both vegetarians and omnivores; some members raise livestock."
Founded in 1994, Earthaven consists of about 60 people (50 living on the land) and:
- 329 acres
- Roads, footpaths, bridges
- Ponds, constructed wetlands, forest, gardens
- Off-grid power systems
- About 30 buildings, passive solar & mostly natural materials, including
--- Council Hall
--- Kitchen-dining room
--- Many small dwellings & several homes in several "neighborhoods"
--- Natural building school
- Several small onsite businesses
- Training on starting and designing ecovillages and more
The plan is to have about 150 people living in 56 homesites.
- Consensus decision-making process
- Council and committee structure
- A homeowners assocation (nonprofit) owns the land and assets. Thus, the community owns title to the land.
- Land purchased with private loans from members; almost paid off.
- Members pay share of the cost by leasing homesites from the community; 99-year, renewable, transferable leases.
- An independent-income community (each member is responsible for earning her or his own living.)
- Income and Expenses described separately below.
Interested in developing its own "village-scale economy", Earthaven encourages its members to:
- Make a living in the village (or by telecommuting to outside jobs)
- Hire each other when possible
- Invest in each others homesite projects and businesses
Earthaven plans to create a credit union someday "through which we could deposit funds and make loans to our members for homesites, home construction, on-site business development, and so on."
Current small ecologically sound businesses:
- Permaculture plant nursery
- Carpentry and home construction
- Fine woodworking
- Lumber sales and installation (harvested onsite)
- Solar system installation
- Alternative Electric and water systems
- Energy efficient appliances
- Plumbing and electrical installation
- Promotional Design and Layout
- Candle-lanterns and other wooden craft items
- Bio-optic holography
- Massage, Reiki, Jin Shin Jyutsu
- Private earthaven tours
- (At least eight) Consultants provide courses (and consultation) in permaculuture design, natural building, creating new ecovillages, herbal medicine, and women’s health
Many members cobble together various part-time incomes from on- and off-site activities.
Some members also earn money by renting their properties.
Offsite member businesses include:
- Asheville Integrative Medicine
- Ecozoic Resources Book Sales
- The Learning Community School
Non-recurring income: Joining Fees and Site Fees
Recurring annual income:
- monthly dues and fees from non-member residents;
- annual dues and fees from members
- fees from special events
- agricultural lease fees
- electricity sales
- grants and donations.
The community also generates income from tours (public, private & group), camping, and meals, as well as classes and "Live and Work" exchange programs, internships and apprenticeships. Some of the tour, class, intern- and apprenticeship fees go to the members providing them.
Annual Operating Expenses: Property taxes; insurance; repair and maintenance of community buildings, roads, bridges, equipment; promotions; administrative costs of committees (such as office equipment and supplies, printing, photocopies, postage, food for workers in work parties, and any paid services); and services from independent contractors for administrative, bookkeeping, and legal, and accounting work.
One-time Expenses (Capital Expenditures): Clearing land; building new buildings, roads, bridges, power systems; improving/remodeling old ones; buying new equipment; repaying debts for infrastructure built by members on Earthaven's behalf
"We’re seeking emotionally mature, cooperative people of all kinds to join us in creating our ecovillage dream — including (but not limited to) entrepreneurs, organic growers and raisers of livestock, people with mechanical and engineering skills, healers, artists, and families with children."Earthaven does a have a membership Covenant and Liability Waiver and offers several types of membership:
- Supporting: pay $10-$20/mo. Includes 1 wk camping per 6 mos., and discounted thereafter. Newsletter, Calendar of events, and Council and committee minutes. Can attend Council and committee meetings as an observer. They can live at Earthaven temporarily as a non-member resident.
- Exploring: pays all non-member resident fees & community service obligations (4 hrs/wk) plus $100 month (applicable to full membership). After a year: (1) apply for provisional membership, (2) seek a different status, (3) request an extension (for extenuating circumstances), or (4) leave.
- Provisional: "a six-month or longer period during which a Supporting Member can better understand what Full Membership in Earthaven means, and community members can get to know and assess the Provisional Member better." Provisional members pay:
----- the one-time joining fee of $4,200 (periodically adjusted); may pay in installments.
----- Annual Dues and Fees of $774
- Full: you can live at Earthaven (or can live elsewhere); you can hold a homesite; and you can build a home on your homesite or a small hut in the Hut Hamlet. If you’re an active member, you have full decision-making rights in Council and committees. Full members must:
----- Contribute 1,500 hours (or their monetary equivalent) in the first ten years of membership, with fifty hours a year minimum.
----- Annual Dues and Fees of $774
----- Facilities Use Fees: $100-$200, depending on use.
----- Vehicle Fee: $100 ($50 for small vehicles—ATVs, motorcycles, golf carts).
----- Upon becoming a full member, a person must either join another member's site or pay the site fee for their own site. In the latter case, the new member may take several years to choose their specific site. (periodically adjusted)
----- Site Fee: (several timing options)
---------- $21,000 for a Full Site, for up to four adults, plus any children, or
---------- $12,600 for a Compact Site or a Double Common-wall Site, for up to two adults, plus any children, or
---------- $10,500 for a Single Common-wall Site, for up to two adults plus any children.
This part can get a little complicated, because many members go through phases in living arrangements, from renting, to buying to building, etc. And there are neighborhood factors, as well. The construction costs are borne by the member, and there may be expenses to tie into neighborhood infrastructure.
- Associate: "same as Full Members except that (1) they cannot hold a homesite or own any buildings at Earthaven; (2) they can choose to pay their joining fee in installments of $100 a month; (3) they cannot block or stand aside from community decisions; and (4) they do not have rights to distribution of assets in case of dissolution."
Note: Dues, fees and community service requirements begin to apply at age 18. Children living with a member do not have these obligations.
"The Land Use and Common Rights Agreement (LUCRA) of Earthaven Association requires that if we disbanded as a community and sold the property we’d set aside 1% of the proceeds to go to a new ecovillage effort. The portion of the sale income derived from the land value would be divided among all site holders according to fractional ratios of their site holdings (full, compact, or common-wall sites) and the amount they originally paid as Site Fees. All the rest of the proceeds, from the value of common buildings, bridges, equipment, and other assets, would be divided equally among the members."
The Earthaven website also has a blog.