Our guiding principles

The planning group that seeded Hart’s Mill Eco-Village developed an initial draft of seventy-nine Agreements as a framework within which the community could develop. These were posted on the original website, and were very helpful to early members and interested persons, but they also needed review and further development. In the Fall of 2012 the community therefore decided to remove the original Agreements from the public website and to revisit them with an eye to revision. On the basis of those discussions and notes, the following revised and completely restructured version was proposed in February of 2013.

On May 1, 2016, we enriched this Statement with Principle #29, which calls out our commitment to work for racial equity and for social and economic justice. 

Statement of Principles and Intentions

  1. Hart’s Mill Eco-Village is an intentional community. We are a group of people drawn and held together by common interests and values and an abiding commitment to each others’ and the land’s well-being. We affirm that this commitment entails both joy and sometimes sacrifice.
  2. We are abidingly loyal to the land. We are committed to living closely and attentively with each other and the land, embracing the larger web of life as the original form of community itself. Graced in particular by a prime and generations old family tract of land, we are committed to long-term restoration and stewardship of that land and to protecting it from exploitation or speculation. Major portions of the larger land under our stewardship will be established in watershed and farmland conservation trusts. Eco-village land will be held in common.
  3. We seek relative self-reliance, especially in food and energy. We intend to provide for many – ideally and in the long run, most – of our own needs for food and electricity, both by producing our own and by limiting demands that markedly increase our dependency and footprint (e.g., limiting our demands for imported foods; limiting our use of energy-intensive designs or technologies). We are also exploring relative financial self-reliance: financing ourselves internally as much as possible, in place of reliance on banks, and creating our own currency for internal exchanges.
  4. We seek a vigorous and diverse membership. Affirming diversity as a key to the richness of life as well as community resiliency and social sustainability, we actively solicit members of the full range of ages, specifically including families with young children, persons from ethnic and socio-economic groups historically poorly represented in the intentional-communities movement, and with a range of spiritual beliefs, educational backgrounds, and sexual orientations.
  5. We value cooperation and efficiency at the appropriate scale for sustainability. We envision a world where people have returned to personal involvement in food production and other practicalities of life, and have a voice in small cooperative groups at the community scale. Our hope is that Hart’s Mill Ecovillage may become one model for such a way of life.
  6. We seek a skilled membership. We seek members willing and able to defer to the greater good and to respond to the needs of others as well as self – functional contributors to the work at hand. A range of practical skills are necessary to the community, from animal care to child-care, wordsmithing to blacksmithing. We will develop and detail a transparent membership process to address these constraints and needs in a separate document.
  7. We affirm the value and expectation of community work. We will develop a system of work requirements and a tracking system for same. We affirm that money will not in general substitute for work on community tasks, though we also affirm that our system will need to allow for a variety of different abilities and ways of contributing, as well as take account of significant variability in the demands of outside work within member families. We are committed to putting a clear, simple, and transparent system into place from the first, building upon current best practices; to sustain it seriously and consistently; to specify consequences for unmet requirements while avoiding further unstated expectations.
  8. We seek to integrate individual and household economic independence within cooperative structures. Households in our community will have independent finances, though some households’ income, or major parts of it, may be from within the community. Disclosure of private finances is expected only when the financial (or other) health of the community may be affected.
  9. Our ownership model is cooperative. We seek an ownership model that allows members to remove their equity, facilitating and supporting members’ decisions to leave the community when desired or needed for life changes, while also acknowledging that the economic value of a share in the community is a function of both individual and community contributions, and accordingly ought to accrue to both. The economic and other interests of the community as well as the individual owner(s) must always be considered when property is transferred.
  10. Community decision-making will be wholly transparent and inclusive of all voices. Consent is foundational. The specific forms of consultation, representation, and feedback are negotiable in the interests of the most effective and appropriately empowering methods.
  11. Buildings and infrastructure will be designed to integrate harmoniously with each other and with the land. While recognizing that members’ ideas of what in fact is harmonious or beautiful may be quite varied, we nonetheless commit to community attentiveness to overall aesthetics and establishing a process for decision-making on aesthetic matters.
  12. Buildings and infrastructure will be designed for minimal or positive impact and maximal livability. We prioritize clean and healthy water and air (indoor and out), water catchment and recycling on-site (including full-scale “waste” composting), soil restoration and enrichment, and careful preservation and enhancement of viewscape. Any toxic substances/chemicals proposed for use in the community will be evaluated by a best-practices committee for impact on the community and the environment. We seek to absolutely minimize unsustainable impacts and, where they may be necessary, to more than compensate them with positive impacts as well.
  13. Buildings and infrastructure will be designed to allow for variety and both accessibility and privacy. We will keep as much land as possible open both for farming and for wild area. In the built areas, intelligent and cooperative design layout will accommodate varying needs for privacy, quiet, security and clustering, and carefully balance and enable both regular outside visitation for educational purposes and the privacy and other needs of members.
  14. We will take care for our daily impacts upon each other. Living closely with each other will inevitably lead to unexpected irritations. We commit ourselves to proactively attending to such potential irritants and to raising such issues with fellow members and addressing them creatively and constructively. We expect that sometimes the most troublesome impacts may be from seemingly little things such as noise and clutter: we pledge to take all concerns seriously as they arise.
  15. We affirm the value and expectation of community celebration. Recognizing celebratory interaction as one key to deepening connections with one another and with the land, we commit ourselves to creating and sharing regular celebratory opportunities, such as very regular shared meals, parties, play-reading and musical groups, dances, and others as members wish. These will in no way be mandatory, but ideally will be irresistible!
  16. We affirm a variety of ecologically- and communally-sensitive food choices. We recognize that all food choices have costs (to other creatures, to the land, to others and ourselves) that legitimately can be balanced in different ways. Consequently, while remaining committed to keeping food choices open to a degree of discussion and even criticism, we also explicitly affirm the legitimacy of a variety of choices, and do not wish any contention over food choices to become endemic. As a matter of courtesy we expect a maximal degree of consideration to others’ sensibilities around food, and to institute maximally inclusive and sensitive policies for shared meals, kitchens, and eating-places.
  17. We embrace companion animals with appreciation and care. We affirm the value of companion animals such as dogs and cats and welcome them into the community, while recognizing that they can also create a variety of problems, such as noise (eg. barking) and predation (cats of small animals and birds) which imply the necessity of limits, perhaps serious limits in some cases.
  18. We embrace farm animals with appreciation and care. We affirm the value of farm animals such as chickens, bees, goats and sheep for a variety of purposes, including food, wool, pollination and soil improvement, as well as mutual enjoyment. In reciprocity, we commit to caring for farm animals with respect and consideration for the natural health and quality of life of each particular species. At the same time, farm animals must be raised with consideration for the health of the land as a whole, as well as for the everyday human livability of the village and our neighbors.
  19. Any meat production will take careful account of the sensibilities of members who do not eat meat. Members may undertake to raise animals for meat. As a matter of course, any such animals will be given the same appreciation and care afforded other farm animals. Additionally, such animals will be understood to be the primary responsibility of those raising and eating them, with other members able to stand aside both physically and financially as far as practical. We recognize that this can be a troubled issue, and remain open to learning through our experiences both as individuals and as a community.
  20. We walk individual spiritual paths in the context of open-ended expressions of agreed-upon ideals and values. We look forward to supporting and celebrating shared values in various ways in our interactions with each other. At the same time, we do not wish for them to harden into any kind of orthodoxy. We commit ourselves to keeping our spiritual and ethical relations open, exploratory, and non-exclusive, with mutual influence to take place only through modeling, cooperation, inspiration, education, and other supportive structures.
  21. We affirm a variety of family needs. We recognize that a community of people of the full range of ages, with family connections both within and beyond Hart’s Mill, will have a variety of needs and potential dependencies and dependents. We affirm that meeting these needs is a demanding and laudable task. We will design systems that support the needs of children, parents, the elderly, and their care-givers.
  22. We promote healthy living. We encourage practices such as regular exercise, good nutrition, and healthy expression of emotion. Individuals are expected to try to keep themselves healthy enough, both mentally and physically, to be able to contribute to the community in the normally expected ways for their age and capacities – recognizing at the same time that health, injury and illness are often matters outside of our control. We will seek to make life and work in the community as healthy as possible for all members, as well as to support each other in whatever states of disability, struggle, and recovery we may find ourselves.
  23. Drugs, alcohol, and smoking are carefully controlled. Illegal drugs are not allowed. We expect alcohol to be used – if at all – only in ways that enhance or at 5 least do not threaten or diminish the community. Smoking is not allowed in any community common areas – outdoor or indoor.
  24. We will share our struggles and seek community support in situations where the community is affected, and we will support each other in such need. We fully expect to falter – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially – from time to time. Within the context of independence (agreement #20), how much of our need we bring to the community will normally be up to each individual. However, when our faltering may affect cooperative group functioning and growth, we affirm the need to bring it forward for community interaction, concern, and care, and we commit ourselves to offering the same interaction, concern, and care to others who come forward in turn.
  25. We will proactively address the possibility of serious conflicts within the community. We will establish and regularly practice conflict-resolution processes for conflicts large and small, affirming that what is at stake in community familiarity with such processes is not only the conflict at hand but the health of the community as a whole. Recognizing also that certain conflicts may become serious, we affirm the need for flexibility and change in dealing with them. Recognizing that certain conflicts may nonetheless become irresolveable, we will provide for situations in which a member must be asked to leave the community, setting out clear mechanisms for “separation” and writing the necessary conditions into leases, share agreements, and any other legally-binding commitments we make with one another.
  26. We are committed to careful economic planning. We must keep the land and community buildings and infrastructure secure from loss, foreclosure, and seizure, both for the sake of our individual stakes in the survival and relative economic well-being of the community as well as to sustain the community itself as a long-term social and economic alternative in the society at large.
  27. We aim for socially and economically just relations within the community. We commit to considering the full economic and social impact of our actions upon each other; to reducing or eliminating economic barriers to community membership and other economic and social inequalities; to valuing the full range of talents, time, and treasure that members bring to the community and to working out fair tradeoffs between them (agreement #7) as circumstances may require. We affirm again, however, that community self-preservation must come first (agreement #26).
  28. We expect to work both within the community and the larger society. We expect that some members will primarily work within the physical community, while others will work outside the physical community, traveling to outside jobs. Recognizing the resource costs in the latter, but also affirming both the necessity and the value in engagement with larger communities and tasks, we will seek the most socially and ecologically sustainable ways to do both.
  29. We are committed to working for racial equity and for social and environmental justice. We acknowledge racism in ourselves and in our society, and seek to overcome its harmful legacy in our relationships, our country, and on the land. Aspiring to create a racially inclusive community, we recognize that we can only achieve this goal by addressing our own racism and by working for racial justice. Aspiring to create a sustainable community, we recognize that true sustainability requires achieving harmony and justice – making ourselves a “beloved community” – both ecologically and socially
  30. We will engage energetically with our neighbors. Our community will deal fairly and generously with all others (individuals, workers, state and other governments, etc.), and seek ways to be supportive within our local area in particular, as well as to honor and learn from our neighbors. This may include offering community work groups in times of need, holding open potlucks and other meetings with local communities, and searching for other ways to engage with neighbors to facilitate sustainable relationships, growth, and trust all around.
  31. We hope to make ourselves an instrument for cultural change. Our hope is that in building Hart’s Mill Eco-Village we will not only secure a far better life for ourselves than we’d be able to live separately, but also that we may contribute to a society-wide “Great Turning” – ecological, social, and spiritual. We commit ourselves to social justice as well, and to seeking out the avenues of engagement that will enable us to promote it, such as reducing local and international hunger, support for those fleeing violence, and the like.
  32. Education is a key part of our mission. We expect to welcome short- and medium-term visitors and live-in students and interns, as well as to establish summer camps, afterschool programs and other ways of partnering with schools, college & training programs, workshops, and the like, in order to teach by example and experience. By inviting the presence and activity of young people in many forms, we also hope to attract the membership of families with children.
  33. Enabling the creation and sustenance of other eco-villages is a key part of our mission. We hope to foster the development of similar communities on other parcels. One step in this direction is the establishment at Harts Mill Eco-Village of a Carolinas-oriented subsidiary of the School of Living umbrella organization for overseeing community land trusts.
  34. We commit ourselves to rethinking the contemporary culture of consumerism and convenience. We are willing to accept certain inconveniences to make greater self-sufficiency possible, and commit ourselves to transmuting them into positive opportunities: the joys of skill and craft, for example.
  35. We recognize that our aspirations must be tempered by practicality. These principles are not absolutes: we recognize the possible need for compromise both with each other and with the unwelcome demands of zoning laws, health requirements, and the like. Change is an ongoing process.
  36. We will continuously reassess our values, vision, and mission. Hart’s Mill Eco-Village is a work in progress. We acknowledge and intend to build upon the extensive experience of past and existing intentional communities and ecovillages, but also recognize that neither they nor we have all the answers. We embrace the need for constant re-examination and re-adjustment. Recognizing that we may settle into less-than-optimal patterns for a variety of reasons, and that both times and conditions are constantly changing, we commit ourselves to establishing and maintaining formal and informal mechanisms for regular self-reassessment, including reassessment of this very set of agreements.