Alpha Farm is an intentional community of people who have chosen to live and work together to share a more harmonious way of living. At our home in rural western Oregon, we live the largely self-reliant style of a close-knit expanded family; we average 15 to 20 people, including singles, couples and families, and have ranged in age from infants to elderly. We also help others who wish to touch, in one way or another, the cooperative and whole-rounded way of living here. Many people write to us, and many also visit. This information is intended to answer some of your questions and introduce you, very briefly, to what Alpha Farm is, what the community does, and why.
In 1971, four people in Philadelphia discovered a strong bond of agreement among them - an agreement that went beyond words. They shared a powerful spiritual "leading" - indeed, a compulsion - to embrace like-minded people in intentional community and to have faith in the spirit they felt. They realized that the social and political activism in which they were engaged needed to be relinquished, and something drastically different and really quite simple needed to take its place. They wrote in a prospectus, "The renewal of the social order, we now see, must begin with ourselves. We seek to change our basic assumptions and patterns of daily living; to accomplish this we must alter our patterns of thought. We must live ourselves into the future we seek."
They felt with a deep certainty that for them a rural, holistic community needed to happen, and quickly - and events seemed to coalesce to bring it into existence. Within one short year of that initial vision, the land was found, funds were raised, like-minded people gathered, and community life began. As though by divine design, the name for the community was discovered: The old homestead, it turned out, had once served as a tiny post office named Alpha. How fitting! Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, meaning "the beginning."
Alpha farm is located about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean and about 55 miles by road northwest of Eugene, the nearest city. Dense, predominantly conifer forests cover these steep hills of the Coast Range of Oregon, fed by abundant rainfall in the winter and dry, moderate summers. The 280-acre farm is nestled in a green finger valley among these hills. Our living spaces include a large old farmhouse, the five-bedroom "new house" built in 1980, and an assortment of cabins, cottages, yurts and trailers. Dining and general living space has been tight for this large family, but it has always been the community guideline that each individual have a private room.
At Alpha, the value of commitment runs deep. A goodly number of the people who have lived as "residents" for a year-long introductory period have stayed to become members. Our bylaws define the membership commitment as "for the foreseeable future," and for the average member, this has been five to ten years or more. Many people, too, have come for shorter periods, staying for a summer or perhaps a year, a welcome addition to the diversity of the whole.
In the course of our development, a number of our members have been called to other pursuits and moved on. Like the cycle of the seasons or the ebb and flow of the tides, Alpha has gone through cycles of higher and lower population, and the community has shifted accordingly. Some of our work, activities and agreements have changed over the years. The feel of daily life varies subtly from one year to the next as new residents and members join us, adding their uniqueness to the community whole. Alpha's successful existence for more than 20 years provides the stable base that underlies these shifts and cycles. As with many living organisms, Alpha's continuing evolution has bred increasing complexity in the community. Over time, though, we find that the French saying applies: The more things change, the more they stay the same. At the core of Alpha is a spirit that remains, serving both as anchor and guide as the community continues to evolve.
Compared to that of mainstream America, life at Alpha is simple. We heat principally with wood, and do not have some of the amenities that are frequently taken for granted, such as broadcast television. But we live comfortably nonetheless, and on a fraction of the resources ordinarily required. Hard work is a way of life - even a way of expressing ourselves. The day begins early and ends late, but there is always time to pause and appreciate the people and land around.
To own land is to be a steward and partner of part of the planet - both a privilege and a responsibility. Over the past two and a half decades, the land here has taken on increasing significance as we learn to recognize and understand its cycles and currents, and in this process, experience a growing sense of place. As we come to know this land and learn to pay attention, we find that the Earth itself will suggest appropriate functions, whether for agriculture, for development or simply to be left wild. Such different sources as the Native Americans, Rudolph Steiner and our friends at Findhorn have influenced our learning of the appropriate harmonic role in relation to the earth. We garden and farm organically, raising many of our own vegetables; over the years we also have produced an abundance of fruit, honey, eggs and dairy products. Our diet is primarily ovo-lacto vegetarian, and dinners together are a lighthearted family ritual.
It takes a lot to keep things going on a homestead: food production, preservation and preparation, building maintenance, auto care and repair, housekeeping, accounting, shopping. Although people at Alpha are occasionally employed at "outside" jobs or free-lance work, most community work occurs in communally owned enterprises. We deliver mail under contract with the U.S. Postal Service. Over the years we have had a number of Alpha enterprises, such as construction contracting, custom tractor work, and farm-based businesses, including commercial dahlia raising, cut flower and mail-order tuber sales. A major endeavor is Alpha-Bit, our cafe/bookstore/gift shop in Mapleton, a nearby town. Here especially, we seek to provide a community service in a centered, nurturing environment; and at the same time, to foster cooperative values in the world simply by being visible there.
We also have fostered cooperative values more directly. One community member has established a career and gained international recognition facilitating large meetings and teaching consensus decision making. Our support of this work has included hosting five-day workshops at Alpha on consensus and facilitation, and more recently, two of us have begun to take a more active role as support staff and consultants-in-training. Whether at home or away, we seek to live up approach at Alpha, although we have discovered an essential unity that goes beyond any one of them. We do expect each individual, however, to be open to moving with spiritual values as part of living.
Expressions of spirit at Alpha have covered a wide range: Quaker meetings, yoga, drum circles, Sufi dancing, shared readings and discussion from different traditions, and celebration of Earth-centered, Jewish and Christian holidays. Over time we find that spirituality has become more implicit than explicit at Alpha. We speak of spirit less than we did in Alpha's early days. Yet it still is clearly present among us - in the holding of hands before dinner, in a song shared, in a moment of silence before meeting, in the way we seek to treat each other. One might say that our group "spiritual practice" is actually to express, moment to moment in our work and our relations with others, qualities of cooperation, respect, nurturance and helpfulness.
It would be easy, one might think, to become self-indulgent at Alpha; to enjoy life and forget the rest of the world. Yet the purpose of Alpha is not to escape the world, but to answer it - most simply by actively taking responsibility for the part of the world that we touch. It involves becoming more whole. And despite being in the country, our connectedness with society as a group is greater than it ever was for us as individuals. Alpha participates in many gatherings, conferences and conversations, small and large, at the farm and elsewhere. An enlarging network of friends and groups is, each in its own way, contributing to what we sense is an evolving consciousness. Many people are seeking to live more fruitfully and with increased integrity, and by their doing so, the patterns for a more integrated and harmonious era are unfolding.
Each year hundreds of people visit Alpha. Visitors make a significant contribution to our lives, and all are welcome who are interested in this kind of cooperative living. If you wish to visit, please keep certain things in mind:
Daytime visits are most easily arranged. Please call ahead. Overnight visits need to be scheduled as far ahead as is reasonably possible. We have a limit to the number of people we can handle at any one time, and an initial visit is usually limited to three days (longer if you are travelling a great distance). Weekdays are preferable to weekends. Please call to arrange specific dates that are mutually convenient. There are also animals here, both wild and domesticated, so if you must bring pets, you may need to keep them in your vehicle.
We prefer that our visitors participate in the life of the community as much as circumstances allow, Most likely, for those physically able, this will include sharing our work - one of the best ways to get to know Alpha. We do not request monetary contributions, although they are welcome.
We recommend that visitors first see Alpha-Bit, our store in Mapleton; it is located at the junction of Oregon highways 126 and 36, just over an hour's drive west of Eugene and 14 miles inland from the coastal town of Florence. Detailed directions to the farm may be obtained at Alpha-Bit.
For further information, we can be reached at:
Deadwood, OR 97430