Acorn Community is an anarchist, egalitarian, intentional community located in rural Virginia, United States, and is a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Acorn was started in 1993 as a spin-off community of the older, larger Twin Oaks Community. In the early 1990s the Twin Oaks population swelled to capacity. The pressure of the larger number of people desiring to live in community encouraged Twin Oaks members to form another community nearby to accommodate these folks. This effort resulted in the formation of Acorn on a 75 acre farm 7 miles away from Twin Oaks.
Group meetings are held weekly and decisions are reached through consensus. Members share a strong sense of environmental awareness and strive to live lightly on the land. Although structured in areas such as membership, policies are kept to a minimum, preferring a calm anarchy to prevail. Of the policies that are in place, the culture encourages personal responsibility rather than supervision; as well as taking issues on a case-by-case basis keeping in mind that needs of individuals vary.
The population and stability of Acorn has fluctuated significantly in its relatively short history. Financial crisis and interpersonal conflict have brought the community close to an end on a number of occasions. Having survived these difficult times, Acorn is now thriving (2013) as it enjoys a full membership of 30 members (currently its self-imposed maximum number) as well as the presence and participation of provisional members, interns and guests. There is also a waiting list of people who have been approved for membership and are waiting for space to become available.
Acorn supports itself through its non-GMO heirloom seed business Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. The income from this business is held in common and used to support Acorn's members as well as a number of other activities (such as maintenance of a fund to support the formation of other cooperative egalitarian communities). In this vein, Acorn has purchased (2013) a nearby property in order to form & support the growth of a new community which at this time is called Sapling.
All members enjoy full medical, dental and optical care, as well as a monthly stipend.
Acorn has a highly flexible self-directed labor system in keeping with its philosophy of non-hierarchy and personal independence coupled with personal responsibility. The work of the seed business is done by a dynamic and flexible collection of members and guests who attend to the necessary work tasks based on the varying needs of the business as well as the abilities and inclinations of the participants. Being non-hierarchical, there are no bosses, owners, investors, managers or supervisors to direct the work. Work occurs with minimal supervision. Priorities are identified and results achieved by the input of the participants who have insight into the task requirements coupled with the agreement and assumption of responsibility of the other participants in the task.
Acorn works in large part due to the fact that the community carefully chooses who becomes a member by a process called Clearness. After spending three weeks visiting the community, prospective members get "clear" with every single member of the community by meeting individually for in depth conversations. Then all members meet to decide whether or not to accept that person as a provisional member. The decision, like all decisions at Acorn, is made through consensus. Thus, all members must agree to accept the person as a provisional member. Failing full consensus for acceptance, the applicant is not invited to join.
Once accepted, a person remains a provisional member for one year and then the full members decide whether or not to accept that person into full membership. Provisional membership is a trial membership and that person remains at Acorn so long as that person has the consent of all members to be there. If at any time full consent is withdrawn that person must leave. Once that person is accepted as a full member, full consensus is required for the community to require that person to leave.
Most meals are largely vegetarian, always with vegan options. The community raises and cares for chickens for meat and eggs; goats for meat and milk; and beef cattle. Two meals per day are prepared by rotating cooks from within the community and most members attend most meals.
Members of Acorn are involved in various community service activities. These include Plant a Row (which grows food for local food pantry serving local disadvantaged persons) and Food Not Bombs. Acorn is also investing considerable labor (and some money) volunteering to help the local new egalitarian community Living Energy Farm.
Acorn has a work quota of 42 hours a week, which all adult members are expected to meet. This is the minimum amount of work deemed acceptable. Most members work well over this amount. To some, this quantity of work may seem excessive, but as Acorn is a relatively new farm based community with a substantial amount of infrastructure waiting to be built out, as well as running a rapidly growing business there is much to do and much waiting to be done.
All work is equally creditable. Almost anything that needs to be done is considered work. This includes traditionally recognized work such office work, maintenance and farming. However, less traditionally recognized work such as childcare, cooking, cleaning and preparing for communal parties are equally labor creditable. As a result, members feel they have significantly more free time than when they were working regular jobs. Based upon meeting the minimum amount of work expected, members enjoy four weeks of vacation per year. By working over quota members can accumulate additional vacation time.
The labor system is quite unstructured. However, members do not simply do whatever they want and call it work. Based upon the notion of keeping in mind the needs and goals of the community; as well as engaging in group and individual conversations, members identify relevant and timely activities with individuals then stepping forward to take on the responsibility of accomplish the work.
Acorn, with 82 other farmers and seed businesses, preemptively sued Monsanto Corporation to protect themselves from predatory lawsuits for GMO patent infringement. This suit is between Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and Monsanto. This class action suit was litigated by the Public Patent Foundation in response to Monsanto's multiple lawsuits against farmers who have been contaminated by their GMO seeds. 
Living is communal rather than individuals living their own houses. Each member is provided with their own bedroom in one of the four living structures.
A new building which will provide much need space for Acorn's growing seed business is under construction (2013). The building has a significant number of environmentally positive features which include low impact building materials, significant southern exposure, passive ventilation for cooling, timber frame construction technique and desiccant air conditioning for maintaining stored seed temperatures. The estimated completion is Fall of 2014.
There are also a number of outbuildings including a wood shop, an auto shop, barns, greenhouses, seed processing facilities and long term seed storage freezers.
- "Organic Seed v. Monsanto". Public Patent Foundation Website. Jan 10, 2013.
- Acorn Community website
- Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
- Federation of Egalitarian Communities
- A chapter in Is It Utopia Yet? written by Kat Kinkade provides a history of the planning stages and early years of Acorn.
- Additional information about Acorn can also be found in the Communities Directory book. Printed copies are available in most libraries and they also have a website.
- Communities Magazine has featured many articles about Acorn.