National Geographic visits the Communes
The media is a bit unsure what to do with the communes and National Geographic is no exception. After being specifically asked not report on an expulsion meeting that was happening in 2005, the Nat Geo reporter lead their story about East Wind Community with the incident they had agreed not to mention.
“Well,” says Kara Jo, an East Wind resident for nine years, “people always show up for a lynching.” She’s kidding (mostly). Yet when a majority of the commune’s 75 free-spirited residents appear in one place at one time, something clearly is at stake: Yarrow, 26, has been getting drunk again. He’s failing to meet his labor quota; he’s smashed up a communal car; and he’s ticking people off
East Wind received an advance copy of the article for fact checking and freaked out. The commune threatened to sue over the authors claims that the community was a revolutionary communist group which was a clear exaggeration. Nat Geo changed the article before publishing but left in the lead on the expulsion meeting.
In 2011, photographer Sarah Rice showed up at Acorn. She was not with National Geographic when she arrived and she started taking pictures of Acorn which pretty much everyone loved. She returned a number of times over the last 6 years and was generous with her gifted work.
She worked with National Geographic on a recent story. This time the story about commune life was quite idyllic. After i read it i wanted to move there.
Time moves at a different pace on the farm and though hard manual work is expected, members are encouraged to explore whatever makes them curious. One woman took it upon herself to learn how to raise and slaughter turkeys and ducks, while another learnt how to build a garden that holds rainwater. No idea is considered “stupid”; all thoughts are nurtured and supported. “It’s interesting to see what crazy projects people want to explore when they have the freedom,” says Rice. One person made a ‘goat circus’ as part of their annual founding celebration; which consisted of a series of platforms for goats to climb, constructed purely for entertainment.
I wish this were all true. Ideas that are “stupid” get shot down all the time at Acorn (though lots of crazy things do get consideration and some get implemented). But the hyperbole of the article does catch some essence of the place. And unlike the piece on East Wind, this new article is appreciative and respectful.
As a story teller, i have to be forgiving about the medias tendency to frame us in extremes. Now i am going back to my place where time moves at a different pace.