Many families in the state are ditching the rat race, rush-hour gridlock, mortgages and utility bills in exchange for life in a rural, cooperative farming community away from all the city’s insanities.
Riverbed Ranch is a self-reliant, agricultural community being built in Juab County’s West Desert on an old 1,245 acre alfalfa farm. 125 shareholders have already joined the off-grid farming cooperative created under Utah’s “Uniform Agricultural Cooperative Association Act.” This initiative provides individuals and families with an opportunity to experience sustainable living, growing all their own fruits and vegetables, while remaining connected online through Elon Musk’s Starlink Internet service.
Co-ops were plentiful in every town in Utah during the 1800s but got their start in Brigham City. Brigham Young had challenged Lorenzo Snow to build a self-sufficient community. In their tenth year of operating as a cooperative community a world-wide recession depressed Utah’s economy as well. That year, Brigham City had its most prosperous year to date.They enjoyed 0% unemployment and built homes for all the widows and orphans. Everyone who had a job worked for one of the town’s 40 cooperatives. Brigham City’s board of directors estimated that the city had achieved 85% self-sufficiency.
In the same spirit of innovation, the Utah Operation Self-Reliance community and Land Co-op is pioneering the non-profit land development movement in Utah. Through their efforts, they have created Riverbed Ranch: an off-grid community designed to provide members with access to low cost farm land and water rights. Here they can create a sustainable lifestyle for both themselves and future generations. By operating as a cooperative versus traditional profit motivated developers, all who join benefit from reduced costs associated with ownership and construction.
Many who hear about the efforts to bring a co-operative community into the area, many residents bring up concerns with several calling communities like this a “cult.”
Those at Riverbed Ranch want to assure the community at large that there is a difference between a cooperative and a cult. Cults are top-down hierarchies created for the power, gain and glory of their leader. Cooperatives are the opposite, where groups of people who work together as equals for their mutual benefit. T
Riverbed Ranch founder Philip Gleason (until recently a resident of Orem), has already retired from leadership, giving up his role as CEO, making room for other leadership. Even with a “leader,” the co-op is run by a volunteer board of directors, elected from among the shareholders themselves.
Each shareholder is granted exclusive rights to 2 – 2.4 acres of farmland with at least 2.5 acre-feet of water rights, with most shareholders ending up with four or more. Each member agrees to build a passive solar home, a barn or shop, a greenhouse and a garden. Each shareholder is also required to drill a well, and per Juab County guidelines, a septic system, and solar power system are required.
Like all homeowners, those who live on Riverbed Ranch are expected to finance their own home, and the minimum cost for homes is at minimum $235,000. The co-op is not able to offer financing, so most members have sold their existing homes and are using the equity to build out their off-grid farms. There are currently 11 homes under construction with many more in the planning stages.
The co-op has set aside an additional 500 acres of farm land and water for agricultural projects run by individual shareholders, groups of shareholders, or the entire cooperative. This is done so that if a family who lives on their two-acre farm wants to run a herd of goats, they can apply to the board of directors and be allotted additional acreage and water.
For information on Riverbed Ranch, go to riverbed-ranch.com.