On a recent afternoon, Rich Wilber stood at the window of his nearly finished home looking over a muddy February landscape. He saw the fruit trees and berry bushes; naturalized pollinator plantings and tidy garden rows; and neighbors grazing on ripe fruit—all of which are in the plans for his community, but not yet reality. It takes vision and heart to see a lush green landscape in the middle of a construction site.
Fortunately the members of Rocky Corner cohousing have an abundance of both. As they look over their 33 acres in rural Connecticut, the vision is clear. “Creating an edible landscape, regenerating soil, and increasing biodiversity are goals that are part of our vision statement,” according to Rich. The edible landscape interspersed with their 30 homes and large common house will enable them to live sustainably. The permaculture plan includes a working organic farm that can provide produce for common house meals; and each household will have access to a large garden plot. This will be a place where all the residents of the land—people young and old, animals and plants—thrive together.
Part of thriving is commitment to a collaborative lifestyle that leaves space for plenty of individual preference. Many members are eager to get their hands in the dirt. They can’t wait to plant seeds that will grow with their community, and they know that they will have some neighbors who aren’t able to get into the dirt or just don’t want to. “That’s fine,” says Beth Bradley, Rich’s nextdoor neighbor. “We want everyone to gravitate toward what they love—and once in a while clean a toilet.” Their shared work agreement is a guideline for how many hours are needed from each person.
They point to their longstanding study and practice of sociocracy as a source of their overall success. They like that the work is distributed among small, efficient circles with defined authority, making it possible for everyone to speak and be heard in every round; and they believe they make better decisions than they would without it. “When we have a decision that we thought was pretty good, and someone objects, we work through it; and we always end up with a better decision,” says Beth. Sociocracy has already led to a culture of working hard to create the community together.
As in most cohousing neighborhoods, the common house is the center of activity. Maker spaces designed for arts, crafts, and woodworking are planned. Rich looks forward to swing dancing in the dining room. Beth can’t wait to be leading everyone in singing songs she has written. Residents will use a commercial kitchen for common meals and can rent it out to create food products to sell.
Rocky Corner folks have had a vision to create housing for different income levels. Thirteen of the 30 homes are income-qualified affordable units, subsidized by a $2.6 million dollar grant from the State of Connecticut. Those homes are reserved by people of all ages with limited incomes. Even the buyers who are paying market rate prices realize that cohousing is benefiting them financially. Energy-efficient houses, shared vehicles, food from the land, and more ways of sharing will keep money in many pockets.
With 18 homes nearing completion and 12 more planned, Rich and Beth are eager to meet the rest of their neighbors. As committed buyers arrive, funds become available from the bank to start the next building.
In the meantime, they are waiting for topsoil to be spread and plotting where to plant the trees and perennials they will bring with them from other properties. It’s an exciting time as they watch their community take shape, already enjoying strong bonds and shared vision for stewarding this land and nurturing one another. If you’d like to join them, you can find everything you need to know at www.rockycorner.org