East Wind Community featured in New York Times Style Magazine
Tecumseh’s East Wind Community was one of several income-sharing communities across the country recently featured in a New York Times Style Magazine article titled “The New Generation of Self-Created Utopias.”
The East Wind section of the article features a series of photos of the community’s land and its 70 residents, who cooperatively live on the property off County Road 547 between Gainesville and Tecumseh.
Boone Wheeler, a four-year resident of East Wind, told the Ozark County Times that the article’s author, Mike Mariani, and photographer, George Etheredge, were “perfectly nice guys.”
“We invited them out here, and no one had an issue with it,” Wheeler said. “I think most people think it’s cool to have their picture in the New York Times.”
Wheeler operates the community’s Instagram account and said the number of followers on the social media platform tripled within a week of the article being published.
“It led to a spike of awareness and interest in what we’re doing here” said Wheeler.
The community also received 30 new inquiries about membership after the article was published, he said.
‘Just trying to live a good life, same as anyone else’
Many Ozark County residents have likely encountered East Wind members running errands around Gainesville or volunteering at the Ozark County Food Pantry as part of their civic support initiative, Wheeler says, but the community remains somewhat of a mystery to the general population.
“What I personally would like other Ozark Countians to know about East Wind is that we’re just trying to live a good life, same as anyone else. Living cooperatively affords us a high quality of life without having to work crazy hard,” Wheeler said. “East Winders are really diverse, coming from all over and from all walks of life. We grow a good amount of our own food and do a lot of our own work.”
According to East Wind’s website, more than a thousand people have lived at what is called an “intentional community” since its founding in 1974, and the community’s culture has evolved as residents have come and gone.
“It’s very different than it was back in the 70s. We don’t have a taboo around nudity, but we aren’t all naked all the time,” said Wheeler.
The New York Times article says that “around half of the population is part of a new wave, people in their late 20s and early 30s who joined in the last four years. These newer residents moved to East Wind to wean themselves off fossil fuels, grow their own food, have a greater say in how their society is run and live in less precarious financial circumstances.”
East Wind members work 35 hours a week in exchange for their basic needs, including food, water, electricity, shelter, medical coverage and a $150 monthly allowance.
Community members share laundry and kitchen facilities as well as an auto repair shop, social spaces, workshops and even a music studio.
The community’s main source of income is East Wind Nut Butters, a multi-million-dollar business that produces peanut, almond and cashew butter as well as tahini, a “butter” made of sesame seeds.
In addition to working in the nut butter factory, members also share the workload of caring for livestock, tending gardens, maintaining buildings and grounds, and cooking meals.
“Work doesn’t feel like work here,” said Wheeler, who meets his hours by working the front desk, building maintenance and construction, making cheese and working on the nut butter production line. “And everyone does the dishes,” he said. “So I do the dishes too.”
The community practices direct democracy, meaning that each member has an equal vote on all matters, including whether or not prospective members are allowed to stay.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own room, and contrary to some popular conceptions, East Winders are free to own personal property such as electronics, media and clothing.
However, they do have a shared clothing supply, affectionately named “Commie Clothes,” where anyone can take or borrow items.
According to Wheeler, “The only thing people can’t have is their own car, at least not on the East Wind property.”
East Wind itself owns several vehicles, and regular group trips are made to Gainesville, West Plains and Springfield, as well as Mountain Home, Arkansas. Members can also check out cars for personal use and even for long distance travel.
“We have a really high quality of life here. If you divide our income by the number of people, it’s way below the poverty line, but our lifestyle is way higher than that,” said Wheeler, who believes that cooperating and sharing is what our world needs, and says, “East Wind proves that it works.”
No stranger to the media
East Wind, no stranger to the media, has appeared in National Geographic magazine (“65760: Not quite Utopia,” published August 2005) and the Washington Times (“East Wind community in Missouri continues to grow,” published Sept. 1, 2017). More recently, an article in the Kansas City Star (“Dark rituals, Orgies, See the reality of a hippie commune deep in Missouri’s Bible Belt,” published Aug. 27, 2017) elicited criticism from East Wind members as well as other Ozark County residents for its sensational (and, many said, inaccurate) portrayal of the community.
To read the New York Times Style Magazine article, visit https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/16/t-magazine/intentional-communities.ht...
Visit East Wind
While East Wind does not welcome drop-in visitors, the community is happy to accommodate anyone who would like to schedule a visit. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit the website EastWind.org. Social media users can also follow “eastwindcommunity” on Instagram.