Just outside of Richmond, Virginia, down a long and winding road shaded by dense greenery exists a world entirely different than the one that you and I inhabit. The world of Twin Oaks.
One of the longest-running intentional communities in the country, Twin Oaks is part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, a group of seven intentional communities scattered across the country with the common goal of creating an environment of equality, cooperation, non-violence, and ecology. The 90+ community members that call Twin Oaks home live on 450 acres of beautiful Virginia land (“beautiful” doesn’t actually even begin to describe it), existing in harmony with each other and the natural rhythms of the world that surrounds them.
I’d venture to guess that most of us — at one point or another — have daydreamed about leaving it all behind in favor of a simpler life, there may even be some that have considered it seriously. Few however are brave enough to actually act upon that dream, but that is exactly what the founders of Twin Oaks did 47 years ago. While many communes founded around the same time crumbled around them, the Twin Oaks community stretched its roots deep into the ground, cultivating a solid foundation with a carefully structured work system that now includes hammock making, seed growing, and an extremely successful tofu business.
Knowing that I’d be visiting Richmond, I booked a tour with a couple of friends and drove out to Twin Oaks on a rainy Saturday afternoon to see it for myself. Arriving under cloudy skies, we were greeted warmly by our tour guide, Wizard/Kenrick (some members choose to keep their original names, some rename themselves, while others — like our guide — choose something in the middle), who would lead us and a few visiting members of the nearby Acorn Community around the property. The grounds were indeed gorgeous, my favorite part being the gardens, which somehow managed to look completely wild yet perfectly maintained all at once. The work at Twin Oaks is shared, as is all income and most possessions that exist outside of personal spaces, which means very few cars (the community shares a fleet of vehicles), and a great deal of solitude (at least on a rainy day). As we wandered from building to building and along forest paths, the thing that struck me the most about Twin Oaks is how much it resembled the place where I grew up: that natural connection to the land, the almost off-the-grid-ness of it all, and most importantly the community. (And in a much more literal, startling sense, it really did physically look like where I hail from). While I may not be running off to join a commune anytime soon, there is much to take away from even a short visit. Those ties to nature and community should be fostered and cared for and existing with intention is something we could all do more of, whether we’re living beneath the same roof or living alone in a brick row home.
If you’re ever in Richmond, I highly recommend scheduling a tour to see this beautiful place, I can almost guarantee you’ll leave feeling inspired. Be sure to read more about Twin Oaks and use their store locator to find out where to buy their unique, extra-firm tofu.
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What a life! Gorgeous photos.
Ah. The simple life. Would be a refreshing change!
i loooove twin oaks. literally the BEST tofu around and they even make beautiful hammocks!
Amazing article! I love to hear about intentional communities – its a dream of mine! Can I ask Julie what community you grew up in? Love your posts!
Ah, love Twin Oaks! I live in Charlottesville, VA, and have come into contact with many folks who’ve spent time living on the commune. What a wonderful and fairy tale-esque place; a place for intentional and mindful living. So glad you got to experience it. Hope you got to try their tofu too – it’s quite unique!
Wow, what a surprise to have Twin Oaks pop up on my blogfeed! I lived there and many friends still do. I love how you captured the detail of the land and surroundings in your photographs. There is so much more to say about living in an intentional community like Twin Oaks, the connections between people, the freedom of the culture so you can relax into being who you are (or for many, figuring out who that is), the varied worklife, the wild parties and the tensions of working out the big decisions together. Twin Oaks represents what is possible for all of us. We can all learn a lot about how to live lighter on the earth, be freer and live a juicy life from Twin Oakers. I love that the Free People blog is delving into topics like these. Love from a rainy day in NZ. x
I made the handles on most of those wheel barrows.