I am writing this article to remind you that it’s very important to dream and to wish for certain things. Advice: write down your dreams very precisely. Only when you can know exactly what you want, can you manifest it.
In September last year, Brandon, Dave and me moved to a small community farm near San Luis Obispo in California. After having explored different communities and farms in the US, we wanted to settle down somewhere. We wanted to see a garden grow on the four seasons, and also wanted to put down roots somewhere and to be part of a collective adventure.
Write your dreams
During our exploration trip, we volunteered in many different places. We usually spent 2 or 3 weeks in each place. We learned a ton from all the projects we stayed at: their creativity and also their defaults (!). It was halfway between a benchmark and an initiatory journey 🙂
We started to write on the same google doc. We noted ideas we had during our stays, and bigger dreams. When we were in the car, in between destinations, we would debate about the things we thought we should keep in our « future community ». We were envisioning it as a place to live, work, play and farm. We were very serious about this document and kept working on it for months. It became our « pleam » (a concept Brandon created : plan + dream).
We had a very clear vision of this « pleam »: a small community / farm near the ocean with animals to take care of and a garden to experiment in permaculture, fruits trees, bees, renewable energy. We would invite artists and biologists, organize educative workshops and have movie projections. We all wrote it down in the doc. It’s still there.
When we finished our exploratory trip, we sent a lot of emails to different communities found on Intentional Community.org. We met the owners over skype, exchanged a few emails to make sure we were on the same page, and go! We packed the car and moved in to a place we had never seen before.
We had also noted that our future community will be a gathering place where people meet, share and learn. We wanted to integrate mindfulness, meditation and yoga to our collective living, as well as caring for the environment and all the livings.
We didn’t know yet the luck we were going to have. We found Steve, a professor in religious studies and incredibly skilled builder / maker / carpenter / contractor. His partner Kayou is a state park historian and yoga certified. Both enjoy good wine, good food and love animals (they’re vegetarian!). They teach us how to make cheese and wine. They have their own small vineyard (we picked the grapes last week-end!). The community was founded in 2012 and is a small homestead with 4 goats and 25 chickens. It’s also a gathering space for neighbors from the canyon and even towns around. People come here for lectures, pizza parties (in the cob oven) and debates. We felt so welcome right away, it was amazing.
« Peace, Love, Lavra. » And thank you universe 🙏🏼🌞
It was crazy to discover how similar this place was to our dream / pleam… For example: Brandon has in mind to have a big yoga room that will also be used for aïkido, meditation and movie projections. I thought it was awesome but I was afraid it was too ambitious of a goal…
And yet! That’s exactly what Steve and Kayou did, they transformed the garage into a yoga / movie / lecture room. A few weeks after we moved in, we went to pick some grapes to a nearby ranch. There we met Brian, an awesome farmer and builder, who’s also extremely talented in aïkido, and who loves to share his knowledge and have a lot of fun.
My wildest dream was that the community would be really near the ocean, at biking distance ideally. Biking from here to Grover Beach takes 30 minutes. I couldn’t be happier than that. Another funny coincidence is the random presence of turtles everywhere at the Lavra: on the walls of the house, in the garden, and even in the pound! Apparently, all those turtles were already there when Steve and Kayou bought the place. Turtles were here before us and before them… It’s a significant sign for us, since Brandon and I met « thanks to the turtles » when we were volunteering to protect them in Cabuyal.
The good life
During several months, I woke up every morning amazed to be here, I couldn’t believe it. I lived in a little peaceful sunny paradise, surrounded by great people, plants, animals and fresh delicious healthy food. We took on new routines while discovering new stuffs every day. The morning routine is always the same: feed the chickens, get the eggs, milk and feed the goats, water the plants. Only after that do we take our breakfast.
Having a garden and animals is magic. With little money, you eat like a king (or a queen!) everyday. Working becomes food without having to spend money (or almost). Things grow, they get harvested, given, cooked, processed, eaten and shared in a true dynamic of abundance. Yields ask for humans to be creative and find new way to accommodate their harvests.
The economic balance is the trickiest thing to figure out in a community. Though it is vital for functioning sustainably. Steve and Kayou both have full-time jobs and two incomes. They rent some pieces to tenants (we have 3 now, with 2 being very nomadic). They also rent spots on Airbnb during the week-ends. On the long term, they’re investing in the place so it could become a « farm stay » showcasing sustainable living and homesteading. They will also soon have the farm ready to host weddings. For those who want to get married in a small farm!
This balance in between expenses and incomes makes it possible for them to host us as farm managers. They also give us a monthly budget for the garden and the animals. We work 20-25hrs per week, in exchange for living in the main house. We don’t pay rent or utilities. We take care of the animals and the garden everyday. They let us choose when we want to work and give us a great freedom in the ideas for the garden and the landscape. We help them on various projects of upclycling and construction to make the place more beautiful and practical. On dedicated weeks, we host volunteers (wwoofers) who come help on the farm and learn new things. e’re also a non-profit so we can host workshops and events, and accept donations.
I can’t believe how many wonderful and incredible people we’ve met here in only one year! They are all so unique and talented. Our community neighbors that I consider now like my extended family: Steve, Kayou, Jnan, Isaac and Doug. And amazing friends who live here and share big dreams about permaculture, community and a regenerative future. They are committed and passionate gardeners, farmers, environmentalists, entreprenors, designers, educators. The Central Coast is a beautiful area that is still well preserved and cared for. Brandon, Jessica, Rustin, Amélie, Jesse, Rob, Adam, Sophia, Rob, Gary, Erica, Tree, Larry, Steve, Kelpful : i love you ❤
Creating a « collaborative farms » network
In this experience, you live with other people and give your time to serve collective dreams. Each person counts. We don’t have the same talents or skills, that’s why it’s great to learn it from other people, and to contribute to inspiring projects that are good for humans and for the ecosystems.
My dream is to connect different farm communities through a kind of time-share. Members of the network would travel in between the communities around the world. You could go live and work in a different community than yours, learning new things and meeting new people. It would be a way to go on holidays while volunteering to improve those sustainable communities.
The goal is to generate abundance at a local scale, instead of feeding the threat of global scarcity.
There are many interesting ways to develop local regenerative agriculture, that enhances both the life of people and biodiversity. Some are experimenting with « incubator farms », where big farm property provide space and ressources to develop new sustainable activities and businesses.
Last week-end, we started our PDC (Permaculture Design Class) in Santa Cruz. It’s so awesome to discover a new community and to meet like-minded and enthusiastic people. I can’t wait for more collaborative projects and creative ways to lift everybody up with the same energy. We need new ways to balance work and life, to feed and heal ourselves while preserving and renewing our natural ressources.
… Anyway, when we were writing down our pleams during the road-trip in the car, we hadn’t imagined that we would use it to transport goats! Hi Anne-So 😉
Neither did we imagine that our neighbors would have a sail boat they would take us on to go whale-watching (they are quite a few whales cruising in the bay).
Cheers to dreams and to this first year here !
- Find intentional communities : Intentional Communities
- Collaborative farming : https://farmlandaccess.org/collaborative-farming/
- Article : « The Co-op Farming Model Might Help Save America’s Small Farms »
- Article : « Renewing a Vision for Rural Prosperity »