These Frequently Asked Questions were invented and answered in Summer 2014 and are current to that time. If you have questions that you think would be helpful for us to add to this list, we encourage you to e-mail us suggestions.
General Questions for Visitors, Interns, and Work-Exchangers
- What do I need to bring with me for my visit?
Your toothbrush. Prescription medication, if you require it. $75. A pair of shoes with which you could walk through a raspberry- and poison ivy-infested field. We might have a flashlight for you, but you’re best off bringing your own flashlight and batteries.
You can use ours, but if you prefer yours, you could bring: Your own tent and/or bedding. Clothes. Shampoo, toothpaste, bug repellent, sunscreen, and the like. A water bottle. Musical instruments.
Don’t bring weapons, illegal drugs, or your own laundry detergent (unless it’s biodegradable).
- What is the labor system at Acorn?
Members are expected to work a minimum of 42 hours per week (with exceptions for children, individuals with disabilities, and older members). Visitors are expected to work 24 hours of work a week. Many members may work more or less than the 42 hours a week.
Many things are considered labor and anything is up for discussion.
- Isn’t there someone who’s in charge, like a leader or something? Is this a Cult?
No there is no leader or Owner, we collectively Own the land. We do not meet any of the criteria of what constitutes a Cult by formal legal definition or colloquially. In fact in many ways we are less Cult-like than many corporate intuitions, because of how much individual freedom is valued here. Our main founding principles are Non-Violence and Collective Sharing. See our values statement for more.
- Are people in charge of certain areas?
Only in the most informal sense. There are people who know more about certain things. There are people who have been here longer than others and know how we do certain things. There are people who like doing certain things more than others. There are people who consistently do the same things every day. We do not have “area managers” like Twin Oaks, who are officially in charge of a work area.
- What food is available at Acorn?
Some of our meals have some type of meat in them (even if it’s just beef or chicken stock), but there are always vegetarian options available. If the cook is aware of vegans on the farm, there will be vegan options. Talk to us if you have food allergies before scheduling a visit.
Most of our eggs come from our own laying flock, but when we are short on layers/high on residents, we buy organic eggs. UNFI sends a refrigerated truck to our neighbors at Twin Oaks every other week, and our share contains organic dairy products as well as bulk grains, honey, salt, sugar, non-dairy milk substitutes, herbs and spices.
We grow a lot of our own vegetables and process them into a variety of things like pickles, coleslaw, kimchi, preserves, etc. Members have been known to produce wine, mead, and beer.
Members have agreed not to buy factory-farmed meat with Acorn money. We buy free-range, grass-fed beef from local farmers. Sometimes we raise our own chickens for meat. Meat that is non-organic (meat that we got for free) is labelled when served at meals.
- Where do you get free food?
We have friends who are in charge of rotating stock in warehouses. Most grocery stores and the like throw away massive amounts of food that hasn’t gone bad yet when they get a new food shipment in. Instead, we get to put this food into our cargo van and take it home.
- Can Acorn handle my food allergies or dietary restrictions?
Yes. The cooks will likely be able to work with you.
- Do you have access to computers and other technology?
There are twelve or fifteen desktop computers in different buildings and a handful of functional laptops, all of such are free for anyone to use (although people working in the business have the prerogative to kick people off office computers if they’re playing Facebook) and wifi in all of the residences. The internet can be slow with all these people using it. There is a projector for watching movies in the upstairs Heartwood living room. Anyone can bring their own laptops or other devices.
Before photographing or recording any people on the farm, explicitly ask consent from each person.
- What about pets?
Our most recently agreed-upon pet policy includes five member cats, two member dogs, and the possibility of up to two well-behaved, leashed “guest dogs” for temporary visits. Guests must ask the community before bringing a dog. There is no limitation on members owning small, caged pets.
If you want to bring your dog for a work-trade or internship, we’re going to ask: What will you do if your dog doesn’t get along with our dogs or tries to eat our chickens or free-range baby goats? If the dog has never interacted with livestock, and you don’t have the ability to remove the dog from the property and house it elsewhere, we will refuse to let your dog visit. We are most comfortable approving guest dogs if we can meet them for brief visits before approving longer visits.
- Are you associated with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)?
- Do you have any poisonous or dangerous animals in your area?
Copperhead snakes, black widow spiders, and brown recluse spiders are our poisonous outdoor friends. Ask and we will help you learn to identify them. We also have ticks, including deer ticks which could carry Lyme disease. Acorn Community is also home to marvelous amounts of poison ivy. Its important to take tick bites seriously and to check for them frequently.
Questions about Membership at Acorn
- How does Acorn handle medical expenses?
Acorn is responsible for all medical costs that provisional members accumulate after their first six months of membership. This is to avoid people applying for membership solely for medical expenses. After one year, members are given full dental coverage. For major medical expenses, our catastrophic health coverage (PEACH) kicks in. PEACH is a collection of income-sharing communities (members of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities) who pay into a common pot, choose members who figured out how to invest and handle the money, and then pay out whenever a member of the community calls on it.
- How do you get accepted or rejected for membership at Acorn?
This is top on my list of the most difficult questions to answer because it’s incredibly variable, but people ask me this all the time so I’m going to try. This list is, of course, incomplete.
Ways to get rejected (that are easy to avoid): Physical violence. Touching people without permission. Not contributing. Lying. Misusing alcohol or drugs (e.g., operating machinery while drunk) or doing dangerous things while sober. Failing to practice fire safety. Harassing others, which could include making sexist or homophobic comments, berating someone for their religious, political or spiritual beliefs. Encouraging others to be irresponsible and deterring them from contributing.
Ways to get rejected (that are trickier to avoid): Having disadvantages that will cause us to expend effort or money (high health care costs, emotional instability, children) that goes beyond our ability to support. Not especially getting along with any members while you are here. Having members distrust you as a person to live and work with, such as being seen as unlikely to be motivated to work, or inconsiderate to others’ needs, or being irresponsible with our collective resources. Making members uncomfortable.
Reasons to reject yourself: You are really stressed out by living with people (lack of privacy, your cleanliness standards are higher than ours, you don’t want to check in with people before you use or do things). You do not like to work at the kinds of work we have. You need schedules, organization, or policies imposed on you by others in order to be comfortable or work consistently. You are not prepared to settle down in one place.
- Can I apply for membership if I have children?
This depends on our current infrastructural and Social capacity to support families at the time.
- Do you mean you have to get approved for pregnancy if you’re an Acorn member?
It is strongly recommended. Pregnancies and children impact the community so it is important to make sure everyone is informed of your plans and wishes. If your pregnancy is approved by the community, we pay your medical costs associated with having a baby however you choose to have it, and costs associated with raising the child for as long as you are a member.
- Can I apply for membership if…
… if I have debt? Yes, if you are willing to work out alternative payment options or simply not pay it. Acorn does not take on debt of its members.
… if I have to pay child support? No. Because our individual monthly allowance is only $75/month, Acorn cannot support members who must make regular child support payments.
… if I own a car? Yes. When people join Acorn as members, they have six months during which they can continue to use their personal vehicle and look into selling it and getting onto the Acorn insurance plan so they can drive Acorn vehicles.
… if I’m on probation? Yes, but only if you are allowed to travel to central Virginia. Please do not come to Acorn against the wishes of law enforcement officials.
- Can members have outside jobs?
There a specific circumstances where this may be approved, but general the conditions must be agreed to with the community if a member here.
- How do you make personal money as an Acorn member?
Our Seed business generates our income which goes into the community treasury. We then allocate this money based on the needs of the community through consensus decision making. No single individual is entitled to the common treasury. There is a monthly stipend in case an individual desires something that the community does not consent to. If an individual has a need that money can address, they can ask of it from the community. If someone needs to leave the community, we work together with them financially in order to make it possible for them.
- Once you’re a member, how often can you leave the farm?
All members receive one month of vacation per year of membership. You can spend this in any fashion you desire. If you are part of our car insurance program, it’s considered thoughtful to ask if you’re planning on taking a car for more than two days. If you work more than quota, you can use your over-quota hours to justify additional vacation.
Members can apply for a leave of absence (LOA) or personal affairs leave (PAL) by having clearnesses and discussing with other members what they want. The longer a member has resided at Acorn, the more generous the group usually is with the details of leave.
- Can members have personal…
… cars? No. The cost of insurance makes cars prohibitive to members. Members with good driving records can join our collective insurance and then drive our cars. We have a fleet of 8+ functioning vehicles at any given time, which those on the insurance can sign out whenever they like. New members have six months to sell or re-home their cars upon taking up full-membership.
… pets? Yes. Pets are individually owned by members. We have a limit of two dogs and five cats, whose food and medical costs are paid for by the community. Members can own multiple small, caged pets.
… shelters? No. Acorn requires all residential buildings to house at least three people. Some exceptions are made if our current infrastructure can not support induvial needs. (exceptions have been made for disabilities, and age related issues)
… clothing? Yes. You do not need to participate in our commie clothes system even though it is awesome.
… phones? Yes. Some of our younger members have cell phones provided by their families. Three members who travel frequently for our business have cell phones paid for by the community. Any member who wants to try to pay for their own phone could do so. The community also supports paying for phones for those who use it for community purposes.
… computers? Yes. You can bring your own personal electronic devices to Acorn and use them while you are here.
I still have more questions and want to talk to someone directly.
For now call Scottward 540.748.2699. Not everything is addressed in this faq and many of these answers have significant nuance to them.