The Delaware Valley Co-living Community Center
How Carson, August 1, 2019

This page is about a collaborative effort of two groups, DelValCoCo and a group of dancers and musicians who share the ideals of this site’s founders.

As a retired single senior, I have been thinking about where I’d like to be, and how I want to live, for the remainder of my life. I lived on an organic farm in West Virginia for two years when I was in my twenties, and liked that quiet, rural lifestyle. Later, I became a systems analyst and information services manager for an aerospace manufacturer. In the mid-1990s, I left the corporate world to start a web design company. Since then, in addition to working as a web developer, I’ve been a part-time science instructor, and owned a catering and private chef business for 10 years.

About 20 years ago, I was introduced to a style of music and dancing called C/Z, or Cajun/Zydeco, that developed in Southwest Louisiana. Creole and Cajun musicians played at house parties for their friends and neighbors, and the tradition that developed has spread around the world to a growing community of enthusiastic dancers who form local groups and host the Louisiana bands who play the music they’ve grown to love.

After spending most of my adult life in the Philadelphia area, where there are regular opportunities to go dancing, I moved in the Spring of 2019 to Hampton, Virginia. A recent trip back to Philly for an annual Zydeco party got me thinking, and on the long ride back to Virginia, I decided that my retirement years would be much more enjoyable if I could combine several things that are important to me. Those things include a healthy lifestyle that includes growing food sustainably, being part of an intentional community, music, and dancing.

A conversation on Facebook with a group of dancers, as well as other friends, including Roger Balson of DelValCoCo, some of whom I’ve known for a long time, has helped to flesh out the basic notion into a plan, to create a community of like-minded friends. The co-living idea is attractive to many of us who are single seniors, and after looking at several existing intentional communities, we have a vision for how it might be achieved. The healthy eating and living component involves purchasing enough land for a group of us to share in practicing organic permaculture to feed ourselves. The third part of the plan involves creating a nonprofit music and dance education center that we will operate collectively, both for our own enjoyment and to generate revenue needed to cover our expenses.

After looking at several properties in central Virginia, I found a few places that seemed promising as a location, and scheduled a conference call so the folks who were most interested could exchange ideas and discuss the process of  turning the concept into a reality. The most significant part of that conversation was a concern about the location. A majority of the participants live in an area between Washington, D.C. and New York City. Several felt that central Virginia is a bit too far, and it was pointed out that since Roger, David, and the other members of the DelVal group were already on a path that shares two of the three parts of the plan (co-living and permaculture), it would be relatively easy to combine our talents and resources to create a larger group that will participate in, and contribute to, the project. The Delaware Valley, which includes most of southeast Pennsylvania, as well as parts of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, will be the focus for our property search.

The group will be organized as a nonprofit Cooperative, and will adhere to the 7 Cooperative Principles as defined by the International Cooperative Alliance. Each member-owner will have equity in the assets of the group. Planning and decision-making will be done on a democratic basis. The property we purchase will be available for us all to use for visits, vacations, hosting events (both our own, and as a rental to groups whose events are consistent with our plan), or as a resident or retiree. A parcel of 35-75 acres, with some cleared and some wooded land, an existing house with living accommodations to be our place to stay while we develop a plan for the entire property, a barn and outbuildings, will be the target of our search. The land will be planned and developed to include, in addition to primary housing in the form of tiny homes or cabins, campsites and RV sites for visitors to rent, a community center that can accommodate groups for music and dance events, classrooms, and a central kitchen where shared meals can be prepared.

Cooperatives present a framework for organizing people and businesses. As an old organic farmer, I want to work with some land to create a permaculture garden that can sustain our group of residents. (While traditional agriculture uses 4-10 acres per person, a permaculture approach can yield harvests sufficient for just 1.5-2 acres per person.) Presenting programs about permaculture, and teaching its techniques, will supplement the music and dance classes and events we host. Agriculture students interested in learning more about the type of organic farming we’ll practice can register for summer programs or internships.

It is time to get started. I’ve been involved in forming a Cooperative before, and am a member of several. I love this type of people-centered organization. To purchase a property this way, we will calculate how many people could live sustainability in that amount of space we acquire. Making those decisions, writing an Operating Agreement and Business Plan, is the first step. If you share our goals, and think a nonprofit co-living community sounds good, consider joining and becoming a charter member.

Our Planning Committee is forming now, over the summer of 2019. While there will eventually be an initial investment in the form of a joining fee, there is NO obligation, financial or otherwise, to participating at this time. You’re not joining the Coop, you are joining a group of people exploring ideas for co-living, Cooperativism, growing and preparing food organically and sustainably, and creating a nonprofit Arts Education Center.

The initial financial commitment will be limited. The planning group will decide what amounts are needed to get started, and what monthly or annual contributions will be required to make it work. Once the initial decisions about the project have been made, the participants may decide to join the Coop that we’ll establish. Each charter member will have guaranteed use rights in perpetuity, to be defined in the organization’s documents, but all other use decisions will be made democratically.

Everyone needs a home. An intentional community, incorporating a Cooperative business model with an organic farm and a place for music and dancing seems like a dream come true. Having a place to settle as I grow older is an important part of my motivation for doing this.

Expenses will be shared equally among all the participants, and a business/marketing plan will be written to define our financial goals. Revenues can come from farming and food production as well as from rental of facilities for music and dance education events, and rental of campsites, RV sites, and tiny homes or bunkhouses for visitors.

Permaculture is a farming method that enables the production of a higher yield per acre than traditional agriculture. Classes in permaculture can be created in conjunction with agricultural colleges, and student interns can help with the work and learn about organic farming from classes and hands-on experience planting, caring for and harvesting our produce.

Maybe some of the participants are artists or crafters. A market to sell produce as well as things we can make would offer another potential source of income for the group and participating individuals.

So if you think a co-living community, organized as a nonprofit educational Cooperative, with music and dance programs and events sounds good, consider joining us and becoming a founding member of the Delaware Valley Co-living Community Center (DVCCC).