Sunday, April 18, 2010

School of Living: Common Ground for Earth-Connected Living

Berry picking at Ahimsa Village Summer Camp, part of a 323 acre community land trust holding in central Pennsylvania.

Owner-built cordwood home and shoemaker's workshop at Common Ground community, an 80-acre community land trust holding in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

The School of Living began during the Great Depression on 40 acres of commonly-owned land in Suffern, New York, as a center for teaching homesteading skills to people seeking alternatives to the industrial economy. Founder Ralph Borsodi and partner Mildred Loomis shared a vision that families and communities could take greater responsibility for healthy living if they could afford access to the land and its bountiful resources. Over the past 75 years, the School of Living has evolved into a regional community land trust and educational organization that has acquired over 600 acres of land on 5 sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. The founders and current members believe that land is a Commonwealth which none of us truly own, and they are putting this belief into practice by ensuring that the land is held in trust as a community asset worthy of careful stewardship, not a commodity for private speculation and exploitation.

Residents living on the land have created their own affordable, naturally-built homes, grow much of their own food, and cut firewood and lumber for use in the communities. They regularly host workshops and events open to all, ranging from permaculture design and natural building to yoga and compassionate communication. As a community land trust, residents build and own their own homes (often without mortgages), and pay an affordable ground lease to the School of Living, which owns the common land. The lease extends for 99 years, and is renewable and inheritable, so residents benefit from rich forests, fields, streams, wetlands and groundwater without having to purchase them.

As it embarks on its next 75 years, the School of Living will continue its valuable work to educate and assist people in living close to the Earth and establishing decentralized, ecologically-sound, self-governed and humane communities (