A School of Living Land Trust Community



We began as an extended nuclear family of three households, meeting to explore and create a cooperative land trust community. Having several decades of various homesteading and community experiences among us, we shared ideas and looked at rural land in western Virginia. In 1980 we committed ourselves to this endeavor by purchasing a parcel of land in Rockbridge County.

We started with 47 acres of hilly farm land with a bold spring, a pond, and a few falling down buildings. The open land was overgrown with thorny vines and small trees. There was no electricity nor roads. It was beautiful but we had lots of hard play ahead of us. Since then three more households have joined us, with some of them coming from previous community experiences.

In 1987 the land was put into a regional community land trust with the School of Living. Four parcels of land have been bought totalling 80 acres with less than 10 acres usable for agriculture, the rest being forested mountain land. It is situated 16 miles southwest of Lexington, Virginia and about 45 miles northeast of Roanoke, Virginia.

We have cooperatively developed roads, water, electricity, gardens, a swimming pond, pavilion, a shop-shed barn with transitional housing above and, with the greater community, a community center. Individually we have each developed our own personal homestead area.

We intentionally wish to remain small, to perhaps double our present size, but we stand ready to help others establish separate communities, preferably in the local area.

Some of the challenges we now face are that we are just too busy, that we need to improve our communication and listening skills, and that we need to clarify and prioritize our personal and community objectives in an all too full life style.


  1. To establish a small cooperative intentional community.
  2. To live in harmony with nature.
  3. To maintain a conscious balance between the personal
    and social needs of people.
  4. To educate and empower ourselves and others by using
    the techniques of non-violent conflict resolution.


Individuals are accepted into membership by consensus or failing that, by a 3/4 vote of the membership after a 6 month to 2 year Provisional Member status. We limit ourselves to considering two prospective new households at any one time. At this time, we are not accepting new members.

We have very limited living accommodations and expect people to find or negotiate their own temporary lodging. Also, we have no provisions for people to earn their livelihood while here, though with our gardens we can help out on food requirements.

Some independent financial capability will be necessary to build a modest home. At the present time an up front non-returnable fee of $1500 per adult is required upon becoming a member and a monthly fee of $100 per household which includes land tax.

Our cooperative orientation and earth friendly life style has taught us that homesteading skills are needed to assure success.

See the Common Ground New Member Policy for more information on membership.


  •   Some members prefer a vegetarian diet; others are omnivorous.


  •   There is no central religious theme, each member following their own spiritual leadings. Acceptance of the oneness of all people is the basis of our spiritual unity.


  •   Methods of educating ourselves and our children are individually chosen. Some families have chosen home schooling with a home schooling facility on site. We have no formal child care program.


  •    We usually celebrate birthdays with pot-lucks, song-fests, etc. We occasionally play baseball,volleyball, etc. Our swimming pond is heavily used all summer. We sometimes see a video movie or program together. The most common community activity is the voluntary work-day which occurs some Saturdays when we enjoy each other and the satisfaction of improving our community. Fruits of past workdays include building and improving our Shop Shed, our roads, swimming pond, pavilion, fencing out the deer, etc. We grow as much food as we can for ourselves. During the warmer months, some Saturdays are spent developing and tending our organic gardens. Harvesting and canning keep us busy through the fall.


  •   We encourage the development of listening skills and looking at disagreements as an opportunity for growth. Training and classes in conflict resolution have been held. When needed, we support the use of mediation. We strive for win-win solutions to our inevitable problems and disagreements rather than traditional win-lose solutions.


  •   The membership meets quarterly in business session using consensus or modified consensus.


  •   We do not share income, although individual families have tried some home based income producing ventures. We are open to sub-groups pursuing this type of option.  Over half of the acreage is being managed cooperatively by the community. A yearly budget is adopted and each household is assessed a monthly fee to cover the expenses of maintaining and developing this acreage.


  •   Managers and committees are selected to plan, to coordinate and to supervise community work to be done.


  •   Visitors are welcome on weekends during warm weather(April through October) upon pre-arrangement. We have tent camping space available at $5.00 per day. We have some additional visitor space also available with prearrangement.


  •   The School of Living holds title to the land as a community land trust. Common Ground, a cooperative (not communal) community, holds a perpetual land-lease. Common Ground then gives a personal homestead area agreement (PHAA) for two plus acres to its members. Individual developments (improvements) on the PHAA land must be negotiated and approved at a membership meeting. Such developments are owned by the members.


If you would like more information about Common Ground please, contact Ben Eland.


SOL Intentional Communities Page
SOL Community Land Trust Page
Common Ground By Laws
Common Ground PHAA
Common Ground New Member Policy
Common Ground Visitor’s Policy
FIC Home Page
Common Ground By Laws, New Member Policy & PHAA are provided as a resource for other communities Who might be looking for examples of legal documents