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An Intentional Community in Concrete, Washington: Marianthe Bickett ’15 at Finney Farm

I’ve spent the summer interning at Finney Farm in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountain Range in Concrete, Washington.

From their website Finney Farm is “an intentional community, a collective of anarchists trying to live the good life.” The farm began in 1989 when several activists, connected through groups like Earth First!, moved to the land and created a non-profit land trust with the property. The land trust now encompasses 100+ acres, most of which are beautiful moss-covered woods that stand in stark difference to the tree farms surrounding it. In the ~5 acres of cleared space there are annual gardens, lots of blueberry bushes, fruit trees, a food forest, ducks, chickens and bees. There are six adults and three kids who live on the property, plus a constant flow of interns, neighbors and visitors. The folks here are welcoming, inclusive, non-dogmatic, down-to-earth, and deeply invested in the farm, as well as the unintentional community surrounding them—this is not an esoteric bubble of idealism cut off from the reality of the world.

There are two larger houses and two cabins on the property, as well as a community house, which is used for meetings, Monday night dinners, food preservation, storage, a great library and living quarters with a kitchen for interns and visitors. There is no running hot water or indoor plumbing on the farm, minimal electricity, and everyone uses wood stoves for heat, composting toilets, and the creek for bathing. In the colder months, they fire up the sauna or use outdoor bathtubs. They make decisions through consensus, grow much of their own food, and work at a combination of off-site jobs, seasonal work and cottage industry that allow for the flexibility and freedom needed to devote time to projects on the farm and homeschooling their kids. They also run a seed-saving distro, growing a considerable amount of extra seed which they donate to food banks or give away at conventions and anarchist book fairs.

During the growing season, they host interns who exchange work on the farm for room, board and the educational opportunity. While I’ve been here, I’ve continued to build my knowledge of organic gardening and been exposed to some new stuff—canning jam and pickles, harvesting and curing tomato and cucumber seed, laying foundation, shooting a .22 rifle—which has been exciting. I’ve also been able to observe the nuances of communication that the Finney farmers utilize to orchestrate the many different participants in their wide network of community. It can be really tricky when there are so many different players in a collective project, all having different levels of investment and experience, but the folks here do it with grace and ease clearly honed from lots of practice. The complexity of fostering and maintaining long-term supportive relationships of all different types is fascinating to me, and I am always interested to learn how people manage this effort.

Finney Farm has been a lush home for these three months, and offered me a vision of a lifestyle that values and cultivates intimate relationships with the life around them, the fungi, trees, mountains, humans, birds, creeks, fish. More than training towards career or skills I can make a living with (although I now feel even more confident in my own farming skills), I see my time here as experience in all areas of life towards how I would like to live my own.

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