How it works & FAQ's

Here's how the community works in a nutshell:

Please keep in mind that Harmony Woods is in the formation process so all of the following is subject to change and many details have not been worked out yet.

There are several options for the structure of the community. One popular option is for all of the land, communal buildings and infrastructure to be collectively owned and managed by all members through a land trust. Personal buildings (homes & outbuildings) would be owned by the individuals who build or buy them.

Another option is to have part of the land owned and shared communally through a land trust and for each member to own their own lot.

Before deciding on the community structure, we need people to commit to living in and investing in the community.

Regardless of what structure we choose, there will be a membership cost which will pay for a member's share of the communally owned land and infrastructure. This will be a no-profit, flat fee determined by all investments including the cost of land, infrastructure and labor. This cost may be financed by the land trust through monthly payments and/or a work exchange.

Depending on the community structure we choose, each member will have access to or will buy a plot of land of ample size (at least 1/4 acre) for a family to live self sufficiently. This will include room for a house, outbuilding, small animals (chickens, rabbits, etc.) and a garden.

The land will be encumbered with a set of ecologically based covenants and restrictions agreed upon by 90% of land trust members that will limit or restrict specific behaviors (eg no clear cutting the land or disturbing the peace).

There will be a minimum 6 month trial period before prospective members can become full members. In order to become a full member, one will have to be confirmed by at least 90% of current members.

Members will meet regularly and make decisions on issues related to the community. Decisions will be made based on the modified consensus model. Essentially, this means that 90% approval of any decision is required.

For those wanting to try out living in the community but not wanting to become a full member, a rental or work exchange arrangement will be an option.

Community FAQ's

Q: What is Harmony Woods all about? What are the goals?

A: HW members and residents share 4 core values (in no particular order): Personal Freedom, Communication, Land Stewardship and Natural Living. If you don’t have an understanding of each of those or they aren’t a priority for you, HW will not be a good fit for you.

Our goals are to live simple, natural lives in harmony with nature and each other. This means reducing our dependence on the insane modern industrial systems that run our world by creating our own natural systems. These systems include food, housing, financial, communication, medical, waste, energy, etc

Q: How do I know if I’m a good fit for HW?

A: We are currently looking for founding members and temporary residents ONLY. A founding member is someone who is passionate about our 4 core values (see previous question above), has a high level of skills and experience related to ecovillage/communal living and is willing to commit to the work of building this community from the ground up. A temporary resident is someone who is not interested in membership but shares the core values of the community and will live on the land temporarily in a rental or work exchange arrangement.

The skills and experience will include one or more of the following: Regenerative Agriculture/Permaculture, Animal Husbandry, Community Living, Natural Building/Construction, Organizational Management, Alternative Energy Systems, Natural Medicine.

Q: Can you tell me about the land?

A: We have been entrusted with 13 acres of beautiful rural land in Bryant, AL, 20 mins from Chattanooga, TN and 10 mins from Trenton, GA. If you don’t know anything about Chattanooga, check it out on wikipedia. The land is bursting with diversity. There is tons of wild plant and animal food including blackberries, wild blueberries, muscadine grapes, elderberry, and of course all of the usual wild animals including deer, muskrat, wild boar (rare), bear (rare), wild cats (rare), otters, raccoons, snakes, elephants (very, very rare 😛 ), etc.

There are 2 creeks. One very large one that will certainly provide crawfish to eat and small fish to stock a small pond we dug. About half of the land is wooded and half is fields. About half of the land has been designated flood plain by bureaucrats and so probably won’t be used for residences.

The cleared areas of the land were farmed up until about 15 years ago and although the soil structure is excellent, nutrient inputs will be required for highly productive growing. HW has purchased 40 yards of mushroom compost for this purpose.

The land will be encumbered with a set of ecologically based covenants and restrictions that will limit or restrict specific behaviors to protect our quality of life. An example might be: No clear cutting the land.

Q: Can you tell me about the Chattanooga area?

A: The Chattanooga area is booming!

Here are the pros:

  • Low cost of living.
  • Easy access to a good sized city but far enough away to avoid the crime, pollution, stress, bureaucracy, high prices, etc..
  • Chattanooga has a vibrant art and music scene.
  • Natural beauty – an abundance of mountains, rivers, caves, waterfalls, etc.
  • Jobs are plentiful in case you need one.
  • Outdoor activities – hiking, mountain biking, mountain/rock climbing, hang gliding, boating, etc.
  • Moderate climate – January high: 50, July high: 87.
  • More freedom – fewer restrictions and laws.
  • Plenty of water – droughts are not a big concern as they are in the west.
  • Extremely friendly and down to earth people!

Here are the cons:

  • Summer Humidity & Bugs – With abundant rainfall comes abundant humidity, bugs and the potential for mold!
  • Backward-ness – The south has a long history of being behind the times and there is some of that.
  • Clan-ishness – Some locals will always look at us as outsiders. This is common in rural areas and was my experience in Indiana as well.

Q: Is there a community policy about COVID-19?

A: As stated in our values, we believe strongly in personal freedom and this includes medical freedom. We believe that the government has no authority when it comes to our medical choices. If you agree with or believe the governmental intervention is justified, HW will not be a good fit for you.

Q: How many households will be in the community?

A: There is no hard number, but considering that the property is only 13 acres, the general consensus among those seriously interested is that about 10 households would be a good number especially since the larger a community (or any organization) gets, the more drama and problems it usually has.

Q: Do you have any warnings for city folk and those unaccustomed to rural living?

A: Yes. Rural living is hard living compared to city/suburban living. There are hostile plants, animals and insects galore. These include venomous snakes, chiggers, briars, vines, wasps, hornets, mosquitoes, etc.

Also, the roads are all gravel and there will be areas of mud when it rains and potholes. If you’re worried about getting your car dirty, this is not the place for you. Also, your building lot will not be a manicured lawn. It will be a raw piece of land which you will be responsible to turn into a habitable area.

Q: Are animals allowed in the community?

A: Yes. Pets and livestock are welcome. Also, hunting, trapping and animal processing are allowed. There are a few acres far away from residential areas that will be designated for hunting. Fishing in the pond and creek are also allowed.

Q: Is there an option for those who are not interested in membership but want to be part of this project?

A: Yes. Volunteers are welcome and much appreciated . Please contact us at info@harmonywoods.net for more info.

Also, work exchange is possible for temporary residents. For those approved, a set number of hours of work per week will be required for temporary residency. The number of hours will depend on the project and skills required. The approval process will be the same as for residents (see residents question that follows).

Q: What is the current status of the community? How many people live in the community?

A: HW is in the formation process. Roads and all utilities including fiber internet have been installed.

There is currently one member (who owns the land) and one resident. There are regular visitors and volunteers who help with various projects.

We currently care for 14 chickens and a large veggie garden. Plans are to plant a fruit orchard and expand the garden as needed.

We also have 4 campsites with utilities and will put in more as needed.

Q: How does residency work and what are the costs?

A: Residents are those living on the land and seeking membership. There is a minimum 6 month residency period before one can become a member. During that period, residents must be living on the land and regularly interacting with the community. The residency period may be extended if the resident's interaction with the community is determined to be insufficient to make a decision on membership.

Each resident will have access to a plot of land of ample size (at least 1/4 acre) for a family to live self sufficiently. This will include room for a house, outbuilding, small animals (chickens, rabbits, etc.) and a garden.

Residents will be responsible for the cost of their own utilities (electric, water, internet) and monthly resident dues which is determined by the size of the lot and will probably be between $200 (1/4 acre) and $500 (1 acre) per month. A work exchange is possible for those without cash. Residents will have access to and use of all communal areas including community buildings, the pond, hiking trails, community garden, creek, etc.

Here are the steps to become a resident:

1. A prospective resident must read the "How it works and FAQ's" page in its entirety.

2. An initial questionnaire must be filled out to provide info about the resident candidate.

3. A 60 minute phone call is required to go deeper to ensure the community and candidate are a good fit for each other.

4. If a day or overnight visit to the property is desired a questionnaire must be filled out to provide details on the visit.

5. The community will then approve or deny residency unless more info is required.

Q: How does membership work and what is the cost?

A: A member is someone who shares in collective ownership of the property. The membership investment will be a no-profit, flat amount determined by all investments including the cost of land, infrastructure, labor and finance. For example, if the total amount of investments into the community is $100,000, and your membership investment is $10,000, you will own 10% of the community property.

It is possible that the membership investment can be financed by the community through monthly payments and/or a work exchange. The membership investment amount has not been determined yet as we are still developing the property but will probably be between $10,000 and $15000 depending on the size of the lot.

Each member will have access to a plot of land of ample size (at least 1/4 acre) for a family to live self sufficiently. This will include room for a house, outbuilding, small animals (chickens, rabbits, etc.) and a garden.

Members will also be responsible for a share of ongoing community expenses which will include things like taxes, maintenance, community food production (if you opt in) and utilities. If a member can not pay their share of ongoing expenses, the amount will be deducted from their equity. For example, if you have $10,000 in equity and your share of expenses is $1000 and it is not paid, your equity will be reduced by $1000 and then will be $9000.

Q: What are the housing options?

A: Each resident and member will be responsible for their own housing unless the community has housing available (currently there is none). To minimize risk, we are encouraging residents to live in temporary or movable housing such as RV's, yurts or tiny houses until they become members. Residents may be responsible for infrastructure such as a road, electric or water to their lot depending on the location.

Currently, we have a 30 foot 5th wheel camper available for rent or work exchange. Cabins and camp sites (full service & primitive) will be available in the future for short or long term stays on a first-come, first served basis.

Q: What if it doesn't work out and I want to leave?

A: Residents and members aren’t committed to stay for any period of time so are free to leave any time.

If you are a member, you also have the option to sell your equity. It is possible that the community may buy your share but we can make no guarantees. If you sell to another party, the only requirement is that the buyer must be confirmed as a community member before finalizing the sale. The community will not be involved in the transaction. That is the responsibility of you and the buyer.

Q: What if a member or resident does not abide by our commitments and agreements.

A: The community will work with the member and try to resolve the issue(s). If the member/resident continues the unacceptable behavior, the community will vote and they may be asked to leave the community permanently. If this happens, the former member will retain any accumulated equity which can be sold. Residents are not able to accumulate equity.

Q: How does the work exchange work?

A: The work exchange will function much like the WWOOF program except that housing and food will not be provided only infrastructure (community buildings, utilities, roads, etc.) and use of the land. IF APPROVED, those without cash will have the option to work a certain number of hours on tasks community members approve in lieu of resident and/or membership dues. Please note tasks will vary greatly and may include personal tasks for members including running errands, cleaning, research, building, gardening, etc. Members will decide what tasks residents will work on and residents are only able to choose what tasks they will work on when approved by members.

Since the land is paid for, work exchange for resident and community dues should always be an option but work exchange for ongoing expenses like utilities & maintenance will only be possible when the community has a surplus of cash in its account.

The exchange rate will probably be between $10 and $20 per hour depending on the work and skill level. For example, if your resident dues are $300 per month and your exchange rate is $15 per hour, you will be required to work 20 hours per month to pay your resident dues. The same formula will be applied to membership dues. This exchange only applies to member approved projects. Personal projects including working on your own home, homestead, garden will not qualify.

Q: Will I receive a 1099 for the work exchange?

A: No. And if you are not ok with that, HW will not be a good fit for you.

Q: How are community decisions made?

A: Community decisions will be made through regular meetings using the modified consensus model where a minimum of 90% of community members will need to agree before a decision is confirmed. Note: Residents are invited to participate in meetings but only members are able to vote.

Q: What happens if I invest more work and/or money than is required for my resident or membership dues?

A: For residents, the extra investment can be applied to your membership dues and/or can prepay future resident dues.

For members, additional investments will increase your equity in the community property. Note: Investments may be capped to prevent one or more people from owning an inordinate share of the property.

Q: What happens if the community disbands?

A: We will decide on the course of action at that time, but most likely, the property will be sold and the proceeds will be disbursed accordingly. For example, if you own 10% of the property and the property is sold, you will receive 10% of the sale price less sales expenses.

Q: Will the community provide jobs or financial opportunities for residents/members?

A: Hopefully. Our goal is that the community and land will provide everything we need to live a healthy and happy life. Some community business ideas include a plant/tree nursery, cabin/campsite rentals, eco-tours and selling excess food. Of course businesses require entrepreneurs so we can't guarantee anything. That said, jobs are plentiful in the Chattanooga area. You will also be able to sell your own products/services to those in the community.

Q: Can you give an example of what monthly expenses might be for a resident or member?

A: It can be extremely cheap to live at HW. If you are growing/raising your own food and doing work exchange, monthly expenses for your basic needs might be just a few hundred dollars per month. This may not include housing. If you are living in community owned housing, again a work exchange may be possible. Otherwise monthly dues will be required.

If paying cash, it will vary according to lot size and utility usage but might be: Resident dues: $300, Utilities: $100, Community expenses $100, total: $500. Again, this does not include housing.

Q: What are the community rules?

A: Since we believe strongly in personal freedom, rules will be minimal, will be voted on by community members and will be subject to change. Instead of lots of rules we will screen community members carefully to make sure that they share our core values so that only minimal rules will be required to protect our quality of life. Of course, state and federal laws apply within the community.

A few possible community rules include:

  • No disturbing the peace after 9 pm.
  • No junk, garbage or litter visible to others.
  • No flood or other lights illuminating other's home sites.
  • No nuisance animals (eg Dogs that bark incessantly).

Do you have more questions? Email them to info@harmonywoods.net

Ready to move ahead and explore becoming part of our community? If so, we need to get to know you a bit. Click this link: https://harmonywoods.net/questionnaire and tell us why we would be a good fit for each other.

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