Moshav: A Cooperative Agricultural Community

Most English speakers know the terms kibbutz (Israeli communal agricultural communities) and commune (now called intentional communities) as groups of people living together and sharing their property, work, land, and buildings to greater or lessor extents. One reason that I think these communities didn’t catch on in the US is the strong ethos of individual property rights.

Israel is home to a lesser known community system known as a moshav, which literally translates as “village” or “settlement,” but instead of a communal system, like the kibbutzim, it is cooperative. Moshavnikim (people who live on a moshav) own individual homes and land.

Moshav Nahalal (CC-BY-SA image from ZeevStein).

Residents, however, still share resources. They may buy agricultural or other supplies in common (seeds, fertilizer, bulk goods, etc.) but use them independently. Often a moshav has a distinct specialization, like my brother-in-law’s moshav, which grows flowers. The village may have a communal repair shop with tools and workspace.

A Voluntary, Distributed Moshav

While a moshav is generally planned from the start, it would be possible to start one in an existing community. We live in the historic village of Cooksville and think that some moshav-style elements may be incorporated into our community. The institute, for example, already offers a tool library, where neighbors can come check out tools without having to purchase duplicate or seldom-used items — a much more efficient use of resources. Not everyone in the village would have to participate. But we could create a group of like-minded individuals who benefit from joint projects and resources. Some ideas include:

  • a neighborhood biodigester to turn green waste into cooking gas and compost.
  • shared equipment such as tillers, canoes, lawn mowers, etc.
  • vegetable and food swap network for getting and giving extra orchard and garden produce.
  • perhaps a shared market garden enterprise.
  • a time bank that lets people get and receive hours helping each other with tasks.
  • dividing bulk purchases.
  • a community solar bank.
A 1955 map of Cooksville by D. Kramer.

Right now this is just an idea, but it is worth putting down in writing and starting the conversation among neighbors. Cooksville would be an ideal location for this type of arrangement. It is small enough to be manageable, has lots large enough for extensive gardens, has a sense of community and existing organizations, has small businesses (an inn and general store), and is located on a busy kayaking river (the Badfish Creek). It is an attractive place to live: it is in a good school district (Stoughton) but a low-tax county (Rock) within driving distance of Madison (25 minutes on low-traffic Highway 14).

Houses come up for sale regularly. Keep your eyes peeled!


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