Monday, August 9, 2010

RFC Visits Twin Oaks!

Last weekend, the RFC was graciously hosted by the Twin Oaks Community. Twin Oaks is the intentional community in Louisa where the best tofu in the world is made. 100 people live on 450 acres, tend bountiful gardens, preserve their fruits and vegetables, make their own bread, yogurt, and sauerkraut, and care for cows, chickens and each other.
Our new friend Benji led us around the beautiful property, where the members of the community work and live. Twin Oaks is perhaps the longest continuously operating intentional community in America. Established over forty years ago they have made an art of learning to share work and life with others. One thing that struck me about Twin Oaks was the unbelievable productivity and success achieved within an environment of freedom and purely democratic decision making. From the care of the animals, to the production of their own milk, butter, yogurt, eggs, bread and meat, planting of orchards, on to the construction of special housing for aging community members they are able to turn the complicated into the completed.

Cardboard boxes they pick up from the ABC store throw aways are used to keep weeds down in garden pathways. It was so tidy and colorful, It actually looked kind of good. Seeking to be as sustainable as possible, the gardens and tofu are all organic. A vast run of solar panels provides the energy for three of their main buildings. Most housing is without air conditioning. Compost is made from garden and food scrapes as well as the soy bean byproducts from their tofu production.

Twin Oaks is also known for making hammocks in many forms and colors. They even have ones made of silk rope and others made of incredibly soft rope made from recycled plastic bottles! They actually start from scratch with their hammocks making the rope itself. They purchase just enormous spools of string, and create the wooden frames at their own small saw mill. Once the main supplier of hammocks to Pier 1 Imports, the public can still order their hammocks on line, and their amazingly good tofu has become a big enough success to make up the difference.
I told Benji that I had never really liked tofu until I tried theirs (true story.) He says that although they use good quality ingredients, he attributes the unique goodness of their tofu to their wonderfully pure water that comes from an underground aquifer. Benji points out that tofu is about 70% water, so it makes sense that good water would make all the difference.
Out of the tiny tofu plant, with out anyone person serving as a whip cracking boss, Twin Oaks has been able to produce enough quality tofu to supply nearly two dozen Whole Foods as well as other groceries like Ellwood Thomson's, tons of area restaurants, and a national company that makes prepackage frozen dinners. Their tofu is now sold as far away as Chicago! One of the packages of tofu Benji gave me was completely in French! Where was that headed?
The tofu facility was an astounding view of economy and efficiency. We donned our hair nets for a peek in the door. About a dozen people were working away scrubbing the kettle, and cleaning machinery decked out in their white aprons, gloves and hairnets.
In addition to all of this a lot of work goes also into providing for the everyday lives of all who live and work at Twin Oaks. Although Benji is in charge of marketing, he like everyone else has multiple task to complete in the required forty two hour work week (Those with children are given a portion of their work hours to childcare.) The week we were there he had one round of bread making duty, a day of dinner making duty, and after being nice enough to spend hours touring us around the property he was heading off to help make sauerkraut.

All of the recipes in this sweet, handmade cookbook serve 100 people. Cooking for that many would be quite an art, I should think.
Benji generously served us lunch- tomato stuffed with Jalapeno Spinach tofu, homemade garlic bread, and the famous well water. So delicious!

Keeping up with all of the produce alone must be a huge job!

Before we left, Benji loaded us up with all kinds of Twin Oaks products- soy sausage and loads of flavored tofu. Look for recipes featuring our new favorite ingredient as we work our way through this fantastic stock pile.
By Shannon and Erin

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