Miccosukee Land Co-op
The Miccosukee Land Cooperative (MLC) is the original surviving cohousing community (a kind of intentional community) on 344 acres (140 hectares) near Tallahassee, in northeastern Leon County, Florida. It was initiated in May 1973 by James Clement van Pelt ("Jeff"), Anna Coble van Pelt, and Chris and Carol Headley under the nonprofit umbrella of the Small Change Foundation. The first members moved to the land in June 1974. The community consists of about 120 households and is governed by a "town council" consisting of representatives from six "neighborhoods" within the community. Co-op members privately own their own homesteads, which range in size from 1 acre (0.4 hectares) to several acres each. Over 90 acres (nearly 40 hectares) are maintained as a nature preserve—the Common Land owned collectively and enjoyed by the entire membership. Both private and shared land is heavily restricted to maintain its natural state.
MLC members are drawn together by a desire to live in a "community of friends in the country" (the original description during the initial marketing) where the land and environment are respected and interaction between neighbors is a sought-after experience. After four decades members have come to share a sense of the meaning and practicing of community. (Some children and even grandchildren of the original residents have become MLC member-owners.) All activities, other than paying assessments for necessities such as taxes and insurance, are voluntary, enabling each person to choose the level of sharing and socializing preferred.
Although formed in a time of recession, very tight financing, and failing land developments, and in the midst of a "five-hundred-year flood" rain that soaked the land (but revealed where it was safe to build), and despite the fact that the land was not yet planned, restrictions on the resale of MLC property effectively prevented speculation and the expectation of profit on resale, and the publicity budget totalled $50.00, the community was almost fully subscribed within six weeks of its being offered to the public and fully financed shortly thereafter. Each prospective member was required to attend an evening presentation at which the intentional and conservation aspects of the community concept were emphasized. The land was priced initially at about $2,500 per acre on terms of $200 and $35 per month per acre, with a third of the proceeds set aside for community development purposes. Because the available residential acreage was sold prior to its being subdivided, the planning process was based on the preferences of members for the kinds of land and areas of the community they preferred, with any conflicts being decided on the basis of who joined earliest—although in practice a spirit of compromise prevailed. (Several lots were planned around particular liveoak trees, one of which became a tree house residence for its owner, Laurie Dozier.) One lot is a perfect circle. Roads were planned around those choices. For the planning charrette, members gathered over a spring weekend at the King Helie Planning Group in Orlando, most "camping" overnight in the planning offices. Most streets are named for Beatles songs, such as The Long and Winding Road.
While the community is diverse in age, occupation, and religious practice, many adults are in the prime years of their careers, most working in Tallahassee as teachers and professors, working people, small business owners builders, artists, writers, and including a former county commissioner and former mayor. Together the people of MLC have over the years become a voice in the region on behalf of healthy living, environmentally conscious development and wildlife preservation, and social justice.
Many residents have built their own homes, sometimes "projects" that extended over years, with cooperation from other community members. Buildings are in a colorful mish-mash of styles, including geodesic domes of the Frese and Brudenell families.
Activities are scheduled to celebrate life milestones and to support members in times of sickness or tragedy. Over the years members have volunteered time to create a vibrant community center, a volunteer fire department, a swimming pool co-op, and beautiful trails through woods and wetlands teeming with Florida flora and fauna.
Shared and individual gardens dot the landscape, and all roads are unpaved—many named after Beatles songs such as "The Long and Winding Road" and "Penny Lane". Much of the maintenance and construction the community requires is done by members on a volunteer basis. Said one resident, "Many of us carry the vision of more time for shared meals and sitting on the porch shelling peas, gossiping, and singing. In the meantime we walk more separate paths but always give thanks for our land and precious neighbors."
- 1973: Tallahassee residents gather at The Sun Restaurant to commission Small Change Foundation to create an ecovillage "community of friends in the country".
- 1973: Co-op founders to begin weekly “Back to the Land” public presentations (May), purchase options on first 240 acres, establish nonprofit development corp. Unplanned land pre-sold to over 100 future members: $100 deposit, $2,475 per acre. Land is planned at charrette of members and King Helie Planning Group in Orlando. Streets are named after Beatles songs. Governance ("Town Council") by six cohousing groups ("neighborhoods") begins. Five-hundred-year rain.
- 1974: First members move onto the land. The "Northwest Kingdom" (40 acres) purchased to extend MLC.
- 1974: First babies are born on the land. First community holds its first Thanksgiving.
- 1975: First Easter Garden Walk and first MLC Halloween.
- 1976: Legal possession of MLC land passes from Small Change Foundation's development corp (MLI) to MLC Inc.
- 1979: Co-op establishes the Miccosukee Land Coop Volunteer Fire Department. In the late 1980's, the department was merged with the Miccosukee Volunteer Fire Department and continues to be active.
- 1980: Sunrise Community established as MLC extension and Miccosukee Community Child Care Center begins.
- 1981: “The 39” purchased adjacent to MLC. Peacock Pass is built across Black Creek.
- 1982: MLC Community Center construction begins.
- 1984: Community holds its first Halloween Pumpkin Walk. First MLC Calendar is created.
- 1985: MLC residents work to protect canopy road. MLC playground is built.
- 1988: India Rose Alexander is the first baby born to second-generation Co-op'er. Work party rebuilds Valle house after fire. Stargazer Community established.
- 1989: First Holiday Candlelight Stroll.
- 1990: Black Creek and troll bridge boardwalks built. Hermann Frese becomes “Tractor King,” with duties that include smoothing out the community’s dirt roads.
- 1992: Benefit to rebuild Reimer house. Rob Lombardo writes MLC song.
- 1993: MLC celebrates its 20th anniversary and holds its first Holiday Art Affair.
- 1994: First MLC Spring Music Festival. Residents dedicate Jessie’s Grotto.
- 1997: Sports court is complete after eight years. “Dynamic Ageing” discussion begins.
- 1998: Miccosukee Greenway is established and the first MLC history video is produced.
- 1999: Leon County Historic Preservation Award is given to Friends of Miccosukee Greenway – Chuck Mitchell, Rob Lombardo and Cliff Thaell.
- 2000: Community effort stops herbicide spraying on Miccosukee Road.
- 2001: Tibetan monks visit MLC.
- 2003: Leon County agrees to re-route McCracken Road and restore Black Creek wetlands.
- 2011: Community Center expanded with the construction of a "cook deck".
- 2013: Walking trails are marked and gravelled.
- 2014: Community Center is enclosed, now with central air.
- 2018: Community celebrates 45 years since May 1973 founding.
Related Wikipedia Pages
- Miccosukee Land Co-op Website
- FIC Directory listing for the Miccosukee Land Co-op
- Miccosukee Co-op is Home to Regular Everyday Citizens Too
- Visions of Utopia" - a two volume video documentary exploring intentional communities and featuring the Miccosukee Land Co-op in one segment.
- Video: Excerpt from Visions of Utopia - The Miccosukee Land Co-op
- Video: The Community Center at the Miccosukee Land Co-op
- Video: Interview with Ed Deaton at the Miccosukee Land Co-op