“CAFO” Cooperative on Living and Learning

aired on 2/1/09:

Four of the eight that make up the cooperative living house that students call “The CAFO” came to the studio to discuss methods for living in a large house with a focus on sustainability and limited consumption.

The name for the house, CAFO, is most commonly known as an acronym for Concentrated or Confined Animal Feeding Operation, and the CAFO house members thought the term would be an ironic representation of their close quarters.  The name stuck, and few now speak of the house with reference to its state-assigned address.

Effective communication is one of the keys to  successful cooperative living; the CAFO members practice what they call HDOC, which is an acronym for Honest, Direct, Open communication.  Weekly house meetings allow for this kind of open format discussion about what may be troublesome and also what is particularly pleasing for the house members.  On occasion, the house also practices what Brett Wiley describes as “council.”  Council meetings are derived from some American Indian practices and involves the passing of an object that represents the right to speak freely and openly and to release any tension or emotions.

So far, the group said they thought HDOC and Council were highly effective for keeping the peace among seven busy college student lives and one graduate.

Food practices are also a unique aspect of cooperative living.  Each week, every member of the house is assigned a task, one of which is the purchasing of food.  Monthly food allowance totals just $40 per member, and buying in bulk, from Menonite grocers, and buying food that is healthy and humane has kept their ethicurian, omnivorous diets in check.

Because these folks have their eyes on sustainability, they also attempt to use less energy by keeping appliances unplugged whenever possible, using candles instead of lights in the evenings, and sharing tools that one might normally use individually.

Sharing is what it’s all about: sharing skills, sharing tools, sharing experiences.  Every Friday at 7pm, the CAFO, located at 411 E Jefferson St., hosts a vegetarian potluck for members of the community and guests to our proud little town.  Fridays at the CAFO are filled with laughs and music and feast worthy food.

The house will also be hosting game nights on Sunday evenings and other workshops for skill sharing including time for art and discussion.   If you have a profile on Facebook, you can check out their discussion board for community workshops.


We can all learn from each other and we can certainly learn from an effective cooperative household like the CAFO.  It was a pleasure having my dear friends on the show, and I thank them for their consistent calls at the station!


~ by hannahlh on February 16, 2009.

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