Living

A look inside Twin Oaks

Updated 3:41 PM ET, Mon August 17, 2015
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Photographer Aaron Cohen has visited Twin Oaks more than 20 times. He only uses first names, in deference to the community's culture. Here in 2007, around the start of a baby boom, of sorts, he captures Ezra and his son Zadek at a gathering in the dining hall. Aaron M. Cohen
Gwen, who joined a small handful of kids when she was born here, practices ballet outside the Morningstar residence in 2007. Buildings are named for communes that came before Twin Oaks, in this case an open land 1960's commune in Northern California. Aaron M. Cohen
Mushka, in 2009, is spotted holding a black snake that she found in a nearby woodpile. Aaron M. Cohen
The main path running through Twin Oaks, shot in 2005. The far right building is storage, to the left of that is the original dairy barn and at the far end of the trail is the auto and bike repair shop called Modern Times, named for a Long Island, New York, community founded by anarchists in the mid-19th century. Aaron M. Cohen
For decades, thanks to a contract with Pier 1, the community's income depended mostly on selling hammocks. Since that contract ended in 2004, Twin Oaks Tofu has taken up much of the slack. Bridget works a shift in 2011. Aaron M. Cohen
The Twin Oaks community grows and raises the majority of its food. Two friends plant vegetables in the organic garden in 2007. Aaron M. Cohen
Elona, in 2005, sits in a Twin Oaks hanging hammock chair on the porch of the family-friendly residence called Tupelo. Some people who've lived in this residence legally changed their last names to Tupelo. Aaron M. Cohen
Though many members now have laptops, televisions at Twin Oaks are only used for playing DVDs. A group gathers in the recreational space of Kaweah, one of the residences, for a movie night in 2007. Aaron M. Cohen
Twin Oaks spans 450 acres. A member moves hay bales from the fields to one of the barns in 2012. Aaron M. Cohen
Rusty, Mele and Ben eat dinner in the lounge area of Zhankoye, the main dining hall at Twin Oaks. Behind them are the mailboxes for all the members. Lunch and dinner is served each day for everyone who lives here. Members are only on their own for breakfast. Turnover has been high over the years and since this photo was taken in 2004, these three have moved. Aaron M. Cohen
Twin Oaks is at least 70% self-sufficient when it comes to food. A chicken is slaughtered and cleaned, to be eaten later, in 2009. Less than a third of Twin Oaks members are vegetarian, Keenan Dakota, a longtime member, says. "Some hardcore veggies volunteer to slaughter steers," he says, "to reinforce their vegetarianism." Aaron M. Cohen
Labor credits are earned doing work that earns income for the community and also for mundane tasks like laundry. Here's a shot of the community clothesline, taken in 2003. Aaron M. Cohen
Gwen, who was also pictured in another shot practicing ballet, attends a late autumn bonfire in 2007. Though her father still lives at Twin Oaks and she returns often, today Gwen spends most of her time living with her mother in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she attends public school. She left when she was 6. Now 12 and an aspiring environmental lawyer, Gwen thinks about other kids who remained at Twin Oaks and suspects that she has "better social skills because I've encountered more." Aaron M. Cohen