A small community like ours faces challenges in membership. There are a limited number of people who want to live in community at all, a fraction of those people wish to live in community in the PNW, a fraction of that group are looking for a community with our type of organizational and decision making structure, a fraction of those people are looking for a rural community doing the type of work we are doing, a portion of that group have the practical resources/skills to establish themselves here, and a fraction of that tiny group have enough commonalities on a personal level to find a good fit in this specific community. And even those folks who fit all of that criteria still have their own lives which can include job opportunities, new relationships, and other interests that may impact their ability to make a long term commitment.
Over the past several years, residency has changed a bit. Due to a variety of reasons, we find ourselves in a situation unique in the history of the project. Currently there is a high concentration of residents who are related to each other---two folks who were raised in the community (one born on the farm!) are currently resident adults with their own households and/or family. We now have three generations of Finney Farmers, which can be both lovely and challenging at times.
The original foundation of our work here is based on the premise that we will have a group of invested full members with a long-term commitment. In the nearly 25 years we (full members) been part of this project, the vast majority of residents did not fit this criteria. Most people seem to want less commitment and responsibility and aren’t very interested in the decision-making process or long term planning. One reason is that this type of living often attracts younger folks who (understandably) aren’t quite ready to join a project requiring deeper and longer term financial, emotional, and labor commitments. In the past 15+ years we’ve spent a great deal of effort trying to create space for these awesome folks who want to be part of the project in a variety of ways for a shorter term stay. But by continuing to live in accordance with plans, policies, and bylaws intended to serve a committed membership, we struggled to achieve an egalitarian balance because a small number of full members were carrying the weight of the community alongside short term residents who did not have the same level of responsibility, or labor/financial input. We continued to try new strategies over the years to mitigate this problem, which speaks to our deep belief in community and dedication to finding a workable solution.
In 2021, we are trying to consider sustainable strategies and taking a closer look at our structure. We are trying to keep in mind that in spite of ideas and efforts from so many people over the years, the resident group hasn’t actually matched the intended plan of a community comprised of full members in decades, yet residents have still been creating community and doing good work in the world during this time. We aren't sure if we'll have a resident opening in 2021 or what that looks like, but we look forward to the future of Finney Farm and building community.