Today, Saera Hanlon, Joy Auciello and Katie Gartner, board members of Sunflower Village, hosted an info session for prospective Villagers.
Saera, founder of the Village, introduced herself noting that as a young person, she thought she wanted to pursue a career in education until she went to college. After thinking it over she had a surprising revelation: “I realized that I wanted to live in a medieval village with modern technology.”
She set out to get her modern village, but not knowing anything about intentional communities or tiny houses, she began talking with the people around her about it. She did have a few critical understandings of how to establish village life as she set out on this journey toward the formation of the Sunflower Village. One of her core beliefs is that while people have so many diverse ways of living, human culture is inextricably linked to land and to community.
“Sometimes when we talk about ‘community’, we think about it as a social thing, or sometimes as a spiritual thing, but for me it comes back to economics. The same goes for land, we might appreciate it for its beauty, but it does connect to economics in a very important way,” she explained.
So what’s the connection from Village life to economics? Saera explained that in 2017, the average person is living under risky economic circumstances:
“We are encouraged to think of ourselves as consumers instead of producers. We talk about what people are buying and what people are willing to pay for things, rather than looking at people as capable of making things. I think about that shift in thinking about ourselves—how we can transform ourselves into producers thus increasing our independence.”
Rent and home ownership are also huge costs for people at this point in time. The risk and instability created by rent costing a third or more of a person’s income, or the enormous mortgages taken on by families does not leave room for savings. There is also, she says, a pressure for people to be mobile and “follow the jobs or follow the education.”
Sunflower Village plans to lessen the burden on its Villagers by sharing land, labor, income and other resources in order to create economic stability, strong local networks, and working relationships in the place where we live. Village land, perhaps acquired via land trust, will be owned by and accessible to the whole community. Small homes and tiny houses can be built by individuals on the land, which will allow for people to have customizable private homes. But to foster community ties and skill sharing, common houses and spaces will be central and open to all Villagers.
“Ultimately it will come back to the people involved, but the goal is for people to pursue meaningful work while contributing to the community. It’s also really important for Villagers to be able to develop skills related to living in a rural environment. If we are able to do more things ourselves and if we have more skills in general, that will improve everyone’s situation.”