Emerald Earth is located in Boonville, California In Northern California, Mendocino county.)
They live on 189 acres. It is an entire cross-section of a small watershed, from ridge top to ridge top. A seasonal creek runs East to West through the middle. The North-facing slopes are mostly recovering redwood and tan oak forest, much of it very steep. The South-facing slopes are mixed oak/Douglas fir/poison oak woodland with large grassy meadows.
There are 8 adult residents, 4 couples, and each couple has one child.
The community was founded in 1989 when a group of friends from Berkeley found and purchased the land near Boonville in the Anderson Valley, about three hours drive north of San Francisco. This group called itself the Emerald Earth Laughing and Drumming Society and came together regularly for singing, drumming, and ritual, both in the city and on the land.
They spent a couple of years cleaning up the site and fixing the main cabin and other infrastructure, then five people moved onto the land in 1994. During this time, the non-profit corporation Emerald Earth Sanctuary was formed, and the land was deeded to it. After a while, most of this original community moved away, although several are still members of the Land Council. One member of the original group remained as the sole permanent resident for several years.
Mission: Their mission is to take responsibility as human beings to rediscover ways of interacting with the land in ways that enhance its ecological health, and they choose a lifestyle based as much as possible on biological power rather than chemical, more on social solutions than mechanical ones.
Social Dynamics: The adults are in their late 30s-early 50s and there are 4 children ranging from elementary to high school age.
The residents truly trust and depend on one another. And A few had jobs off the property such as collecting and selling wild mushrooms and seaweed for local restaurants, growing mushrooms, and one woman is an occupational therapist.
Each family has its own home. But the whole community spends most of their waking hours together. They eat lunch and dinner together every day. Lunch is usually leftovers from previous dinners. Then they make a delicious, fresh new dinner for the evening. The adults evenly rotate preparing the meals. They commonly shared responsibilities like tending the garden, caring for the children and the animals, repairing and building on the property. And they have frequent interaction in the daytime.
There are only 8 adults managing a working farm, young children running around and helping when they can. A couple broke up and they both moved out and two single men fell in love with people who didn’t want to live in such a remote location.
In the 90s, Michael G. Smith made Emerald Earth become world-renowned for his innovative natural buildings. If you are interested in natural building this Michael G. Smith is the name you need to know!
In the 12 years he lived there, he designed and helped to construct fifteen natural buildings ranging in size from composting outhouses to a 3,000 s.f. community center.
Every structure on the property is handmade from clay, wood, straw from the land and recycled materials.
99% solar power. Diesel generator for rare rainy days. All houses throughout the property are connected to one main solar power station.
This community has made a commitment to zero waste. They use only composting toilets.
They only purchase recyclable items and they compost and recycle everything.
Residents eat 95% out of their garden. They are growing several varieties of all commonly known western vegetables. They also have several blooming apple and pear trees. They trade and purchase from local, organic growers for nuts and cheese. The food was so rich with vibrant vegetables, fruits and fresh milk. Please believe us when we say you have not tasted food until you have tasted food this fresh.
We also ate all sorts of fermented vegetables. Beets, cabbage, carrots, etc. We want to note that every village we've visited has offered us and consumed lots of fermented veggies at every meal. And for good reason, the sour and sweet flavor of fermented food is delicious with just about everything you eat and they provide high-quality probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. It's also a great way to preserve an abundance of produce.
They had two dairy cows, a calf, and a bull, 70 chickens, and 2 pigs they provide milk, protein, and manure.
And they had 2 friendly kitties that provide friendship and they are pest exterminators.
Art & Music:
Art is incorporated into the infrastructure of all of their buildings.
There is a blessing song before every meal thanking all of nature. They do this so the little children can participate in the prayer. Dancing and drumming are common for their celebrations. As mentioned earlier, this land was originally purchased to be a meditative retreat for a group of drummers and dancers. According to the residents, the drumming and dancing slowed down significantly when the children were born and when some of the residents left due to time constraints.
Health and Wellbeing:
All the residents appeared extremely healthy. Of those I asked none had gone to any doctors in years.
They all practiced homeopathy and used herbal remedies when they had colds. Nutrient-dense food combined with lots of physical work in nature keeps all the residents fit.
The residents are invigorated by living in harmony with nature. They all got very emotional when they spoke of their closeness with the Earth and their mission to help it thrive. But the lack of help has left them overworked and all of them expressed a longing to play more.
Their goal in their charter is to peacefully and productively resolve conflicts. But we found the newest residents did not feel comfortable expressing their discontent. There was a weird scenario going on that the newer residents felt inferior because they don’t have the experience or knowledge of the longtime residents. And the longtime residents seem slightly irritated that the newer residents are not able to evenly pick up the slack because they lack the experience and knowledge. No one is at fault, they just need better communication and more help. We think having a specific trainer who can give the newer residents and volunteers the knowledge they need without slowing down the progress of the daily routines would relieve this burden.
The children are very knowledgeable about nature. They help care for the animals and tend the garden. They also help to repair the buildings and to create art and decorations.
The two 8 yr. olds, a boy and girl are just now beginning to go once a week to a Waldorf tutoring program. The parents noticed that neither of the children has any desire to read and as the years went by, the harder it became to get the children to read.
The most spectacular highlight for us at Emerald Earth was that they are close to 100% sustainable. The houses they created built are just stunning and so functional. They truly respect all life and acknowledge the interconnectedness of us all. It was amazing to see that this is possible and people are healthy and for the most part happy.
New Things Considered:
Clear, comforting communication with new members is key to keeping them. There is no replacement for this. If members do not feel comfortable, they are not going to give quality work, or they going to leave all together.
Purposely including fun and recreation into daily routines is a necessity. This is was the biggest contrast between the other villages we visited is that Emerald Earth included so little fun into their lives. The other villages had music pumping on the stereos, they had recreation areas for adults and children to play and run around in. Fun keeps people happy, content, and connected.