National Geographic : 2005 Aug
If most meetings at the East Wind commune typically draw about 10 people, why did more than 50 come out of the woodwork for this one? "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. After posting complaints on the bulletin board, members scheduled a meeting to find a cure for this chronic pain. Every community has its problems, of course, but it's hard to visit East Wind without high expectations. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains on 1,000 acres of land, this commune bills itself as an "intentional commu nity" that strives to be egalitarian, noncompetitive, nonviolent, and "an ally of our bioregion and planet." Members use first names only-often ones they've made up, like Pilgrim and Simple. They eat organic fruits and vegetables from their garden, where some labor in the nude. And they run a business making nut butters-peanut, almond, cashew, macadamia -that annually generates $500,000 in profits. The money is pooled and pays for everything the residents share, including food, clothing, child care, and transportation. If this sounds like hippie heaven, East Winders are quick to set you straight: This is not utopia. The fact that a capitalist enterprise is supporting a socialist commune is an irony not lost on East Wind's founders. "We thought we were going to change the world," says Deborah, 56, one of a group of friends who left Bos ton in 1973 to create East Wind. Back then it was still possible to believe a socialist revolution was sweeping the globe. "The east wind is prevailing over the west wind," said Mao Zedong in 1957, when he was chair man of the People's Republic of China. His vision of socialism blowing away capitalism gave East Wind its name and helped inspire its mission: To create a place where people get what they need, give what they can, and don't obsess over accumulating stuff. Sitting on the front porch of Rock Bottom-the What creates community at East Wind? Everything from member meetings (above) to a very profit able nut-butter business to a willingness to share food, clothing, housing, money, and even a spot to tuck a toothbrush (below). "My mom thinks this is a cult and wonders why I don't want any thing," says Taeo, 38, one of East Wind's new est members. "But I do: I don't want anything to change"