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Food and Housing

Over the course of the year, participants spend time living in two distinct physical contexts: during the spring and fall, participants live in the small town of Viroqua, Wisconsin, a vibrant community of artists, educators, entrepreneurs, and farmers.  Then, for six weeks in July and August, the program moves to the country for an immersion in the rhythms of nature and agriculture at Bear Creek Farm, a diversified organic farm and educational campus for the Driftless Folk School, located about 30 minutes away from Viroqua. In town, participants live in two communal homes, sharing the responsibilities of running the house. In the spring, participants are oriented to intentional living, trained in food preparation and meal planning, and run their houses cooperatively. Most students share bedrooms and there is a designated space for students to be alone. On days when classes are held, participants eat a communal lunch at the Ark Cafe nearby, and eat dinners with their household. Households will decide how to organize breakfast and weekend meals. During the summer term at Bear Creek Farm, students live in tents on platforms and immerse themselves in the outdoors. Students grow much of their food and meals are cooked on a fire or in the outdoor kitchen. For the fall term, individual households will organize how they want to run their houses.

Culture of Health and Respect

Thoreau College cultivates a culture of health and respect that supports all members becoming fully awake and engaged in our work together. Whether reading challenging texts, observing natural phenomena, conversing with fellow students, or cooking dinner, all community members are called upon to be wholly present. Our programs are rigorous and challenging on many levels, which require the full participation of each community member.

Thoreau College discourages using anything, such as technological devices and mind-altering substances, in ways that distract from our work together. As part of the Growing Seasons curriculum, students will engage with what it means to live intentionally and what is healthy for each individual in the context of community. To enter into this on-going conversation, we are asking all students and residential faculty of Thoreau College to come into Growing Seasons pledging to abstain from alcohol and recreational drugs, and limit their use of technological devices, for the first third of the program. We intend for this period to increase participants’ awareness of how those habits affect their daily lives. After this period of abstinence, the self-governance will take on the question of whether and how to intentionally integrate the use of substances and technological devices into the culture of Growing Seasons.

Our programs are inherently challenging and incoming students should be open to delving deeply into themselves and working with their most difficult qualities in order to engage with their whole selves. Folks struggling with mental health should consider if they are in a healthy place to take on this challenge, and should have a support plan in place in advance of their participation. Thoreau College does not provide medical or psychological health insurance and participants should have an insurance plan that will cover them during their 9 months in Wisconsin.

Thoreau College programs are intensive, immersive, and transformative, requiring the full engagement of each community member to embark on the shared work of understanding our whole selves and cultivating the capacities we can offer to the ongoing co-creation of the world.

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Local Culture

Viroqua, Wisconsin is a vibrant rural town and cultural hub with regular events such as live music, art openings, theatrical performances, and lecture series. Participants are expected to fully participate in all Thoreau College programming, but outside those commitments they are encouraged to engage in the local culture. Thoreau College is currently working on a cultural pass which would allow students to attend events in exchange for labor.