Interested in living at The Source?  


Where is The Source located?

The Source Farm Foundation and Ecovillage is located in Retreat, St. Thomas, the most eastern parish in Jamaica. Before Columbus, it was heavily populated by Taino (Native People of Jamaica). St. Thomas was the first place that Columbus made landfall and one of the first Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. The Source is technically located in Retreat, but we consider ourselves part of the Johns Town Community. The Source overlooks the Caribbean Sea and most of Morant Bay, the capital city of St. Thomas.

How far is Johns Town from Morant Bay?

A 15 minute taxi ride.

How far is Johns Town from Kingston?

About 1 hour to 90 minutes by car or bus.

What is Morant Bay like?

Morant Bay is the capital city of St. Thomas. It is historic because of Paul Bogle and William Gordon, two of Jamaica's national heroes. Morant Bay overlooks a beautiful bay and most of the city sits on a hill. There are three main streets to the city. Queen Street is the main street with the major banks, post office, library, internet café, cambio, vegetable market, pharmacy and general stores. The supermarkets and hardware stores are located on the side streets. It is a crowded and busy town, with many vendors selling food and goods on the sidewalks as well.

What are the transportation options?

St. Thomas Regional Bus              Kingston to Morant Bay $300.00 JA

Unlicensed Taxi                             Kingston to Morant Bay $350.00 JA each way

Chartered Taxi                               Kingston to Morant Bay $6000.00 - $7000.00 JA one way

Taxi                                                Johns Town to Morant Bay $100.00 each way                                                                                    ($150 JA to the Source gate)

What do I need to know to successfully navigate transportation?

You should only travel in marked legal taxis and check the price before you enter the vehicle. Get to know the Johns Town Taxi Drivers, and only travel with drivers who take care on the road. The Johns Town Taxi stand in Morant Bay is located across the street from the Morant Bay Market. The Johns Town Taxi Stand is at the Town Watch Sign in Johns Town proper.

Where do I buy food?

Johns Town has many small shops mostly selling the same items (soda, phone cards, canned items). Morant Bay has a vegetable, fish and meat market, a number of supermarkets, patty shops, and a few fast food chains.

Is the local water safe to drink?

The water in Jamaica is potable (drinkable). However, we at The Source collect rain water and filter for drinking. Running water is provided by the Jamaica Water Commission. The water is often shut off for various reasons, especially after hurricanes or tropical storms. We believe in water conservation and encourage you to follow suit.

What are some cultural differences that I need to know?

The majority of Jamaica is made up of people of African descent. There are also some people of European, Asian, and Indian descent. Many foreigners experience culture shock at first, as the language and socio-economic conditions are considerably different from most highly industrialised countries. Simply treat people how you would like to be treated and remember that you are a visitor to Jamaica, choosing to join us in our culture. There are many cultural differences, but common ground can always be found, and all of our work exchangers have adjusted to the area and integrated with the community. Working at The Source will give you a glimpse into another reality and it will be a valuable learning experience.

What’s the social life like?

The social life at The Source is currently what you make it. In addition to the 10 to 15 people usually living here, we have a few local people who work or teach here. They will be happy to show you around and help you integrate more into the Johns Town community. The people of Johns Town are friendly and can always be found socializing with each other on their front porches and on the street. Currently, our social life is filled with workshops, group dinners, music, art, field trips and spiritual gatherings.

Will I be able to understand the local Jamaicans?

English is the official language in Jamaica. English is taught in school and all business is done in English. Jamaica is known for it’s distinct Patois—a combination of English, African and other language influences. The further you get from Kingston, the stronger the accent and the more patois is spoken. Jamaicans are very patient and will spend time with you making sure you understand what they are saying. If you do not understand, simply ask people to repeat more slowly.

Source Far

What is The Source like?

The Source entered its planning stage in 1999. The land was purchased by the Shirley Family in 2005. Currently, Nicola Shirley-Phillips, Blondel Shirley-Atwater, Dwight & Nomi Shirley and their three children, and Julia Porter and Michael Nero live at The Source full-time. Their role is to establish good community relations, develop infrastructure and pave the way for the rest of our members. There are a number of buildings on the property, and we are working on creating additional housing for visitors and work exchangers. The buildings that we currently have include residential, work and educational spaces. The terrain includes many trails through green lands, farmland, hiking trails and unpaved roads. The Source also has a tropical spring that originates on the property.

How much food is being grown on the farm?

Currently we have over 400 coconut trees and a number of fruit trees that include avocado, lime, banana, pineapple, ackee, mango, june plum, guava, pomegranate and otaheiti (Jamaican) apple. Our vegetable crops vary seasonally and include bok choy, tomato, callaloo, sweet potato, yam, dasheen, scallion, greens, sweet and hot peppers, sorrel, butternut squash, beans, chards, lemongrass and numerous spices. We are also working with our local farmers to expand our vegetable growing operation to become more self-sufficient. We hope that you will assist us in attaining that goal as a work exchanger.

How big is the property?

The Property sits on 63 acres

What infrastructure is already built?

1 Gate House Residence with storage and bathroom

1 Earthbag Cabin - one bedroom house 

2 Residential Earthbag Houses

3 Monolithic Dome Houses

1 Residential Block and Steel House

1 Steel Span Wood Shop

1 Craft Studio/Living Space

1 Steel Span School Structure

1 Earthbag Building for Sewing Cooperative

Community Kitchen

Water tanks

1 Farm Shed

River Stone Terraced Gardens

1 Healing Center (3)Dome Structures

1 Office with Storage

How many people are living at the Source?

We have 9 permanent residents as of September 2018. The number of people onsite varies from  13 to 20 people living, working, and visiting. At full capacity the Source hopes to have 50 adults on site.

Where will I be sleeping?

There are accommodations in the Earthbag cabin, Tippy Top cabin and some of the Earthbag/Dome homes are available for rent. There are also small hotels along the beach a short taxi ride away if we are not able to accommodate you.

What are the cell phone options?

The Source Farm has 1 Cell Phone to rent for $35.00 US per month, but you are responsible for purchasing your cellular credit. Your unlocked cell phone might work here with a Digicel or Flow prepaid chip which is easily available for purchase.

What are the internet access options?

Internet access is available at various locations on the property but not all. Also there is an internet café and internet access at the library in Morant Bay.

How often and when does The Source community come together as a group?

The Source has monthly residential meetings. Larger group meetings meet via conference call for international members. Smaller groups meet more often on specialized issues. People living at The Source come together for a general meeting once a week, and have breakfast, lunch and dinners together based on everyone’s schedules.

How will the finances be managed?

Nomi Shirley is the current Treasurer of the Source Farm Foundation & Ecovillage. She lives onsite and can be contacted at All major financial arrangements go through her. Work exchangers and visitors must either pay their fees through PayPal, by check made out to the Source Farm Foundation and Ecovillage or in cash upon arrival to The Source.

How integrated is the Source Farm community with the people of Johns Town?

One of The Source’s missions is to assist with the economic and social development of the Johns Town community. There are a number of community projects The Source has worked in partnership with the community on projects, such as Summer Institute, The Johns Town Women’s Craft Cooperative, Youth Arts and Craft Project, and several arts and crafts workshops for the community and parish of St. Thomas. Our most recent project will be the Johns Town CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture).

What does it cost

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1. If I leave, do I get my membership fee or site lease fee back? The membership fee and site lease fee are non-refundable. However, The Source may choose to buy back your site lease, but only if the community can afford it. The Source would not buy back a site lease in one lump sum, but over time, in payments. Please note, The Source Farm Foundation is not obligated to buy back anyone’s site lease, but may choose to do so. You have the right to sell your site lease (and the improvements on your home site) to an approved incoming Full Member with Council approval.

2. Does it cost less to live at The Source? Living at The Source can be both less and more expensive than living in mainstream culture. While the up-front costs may be more, ongoing livings costs may be less. Depending on the size of home you build and the materials used, it can cost more up front because bank loans aren't available and people need to use existing funds or personal loans. Many homes here are relatively small for this reason. In general, professionally built houses at The Source have cost less per square foot than conventional homes of similar quality due to using natural building methods such as Earthbag/Super Abobe or other natural building methods. In addition to providing for water and waste treatment, site holders need to set up their own energy infrastructure (off-grid electric wind power, propane gas, etc.). This usually entails one-time costs for photovoltaic panels, batteries, an inverter, professional services, etc., which can increase your expenditures.

Building a very small home without electric power is one way to save money. The Source homes must meet building codes; Parish Council building inspectors have been supportive of our using natural building materials and methods as long as we demonstrate that the buildings meet requirements for strength and safety.

3. Do Source members own title to their sites? All Full Residential Members are co-owners of common areas belonging to The Source. Members lease sites through 49-year renewable, transferable lot leases with the Source Farm Foundation & Ecovillage.

4. Do you have to purchase a Site Lease, or can you rent? From time to time there are rental units available such as the Gatehouse. However, rentals only last a maximum of one year.

5. Can more than one member own a site together? Up to four adults can share a full site.

6. What fees are required for children? A member’s child under 18 may live with the member without paying dues, a membership fee, or a site fee. At age 18, the child is eligible to go through the membership process. Otherwise, dues, fees and community service requirements begin to apply at age 18.

7. At what point is the membership fee required? The membership fee is required after the Council agrees on full membership for the applying person.

8. At what point do new members pay the residential lot lease fee? Members pay the residential lot lease fee within 30 days after they have been confirmed as a Full Member (unless they have an approved payment agreement). A new Full Member doesn’t have to choose a site immediately, but can take several months to get to know and understand the community.

9. What are new full members paying for when they join? They get co-ownership and enjoyment of the common areas and the right to help determine its future; the right to develop and build on their own home or business site; their share of all physical labor and material costs to develop roads, bridges, and community buildings; and their share of all the years of administrative and social/cultural work of creating an intentional community.


About The Source's Financial Structure:

10. Does The Source have outstanding debt? The land was completely paid off in 2007. The Shirley Family will be reimbursed for the land in a scheduled payment arrangement over a 5 year period or as soon as lots are leased.

11. What are The Source's expenses? Annual Operating Expenses: property taxes; insurance; repair and maintenance of community buildings, roads, bridges, equipment; promotions; administrative costs of committees (such as office equipment and supplies, printing, photocopies, postage, food for workers in work parties, and any paid services); and legal and accounting services. One-time Expenses (Capital Expenditures): clearing land; building new buildings, roads, bridges, power systems; improving/remodeling old structures; buying new equipment; repaying the Shirley Family for purchasing the land.

12. What are The Source Farm Foundation’s sources of income? Non-recurring income sources are new members’ membership fees and lot lease fees. Recurring annual income comes from monthly dues and fees from non-member residents; all members’ annual dues and fees; fees from special events; agricultural lease fees; apiary lease fees, sewing cooperative lease fees, workshops; and grants and donations.

13. If The Source disbanded as a community, would the property be sold and the profits divided equally between all members? The Land Use and Common Rights Agreement of The Source Farm Foundation & Ecovillage requires that if we disbanded as a community and sold the property we'd set aside 10% of the proceeds to go to a new ecovillage effort. The portion of the sale income derived from the land value would be divided among all site holders according to fractional ratios of their site holdings and the amount they originally paid as site lease fees. All the rest of the proceeds, from the value of common buildings, equipment, and other assets, would be divided equally among the members.

14. How are site lease fees determined? Fees were determined by an estimate of the expected total capital costs for property ownership and development vs. total capital income. The following factors contribute to fee determination: the property's actual purchase cost, including principal and interest; the cost of materials for developing the physical infrastructure (community buildings, roads, agricultural clearing); and the cost of labor for infrastructure development. The Finance committee can propose changes in the amount of the fees every year, which Council can adopt, amend, or reject.

15. Where will The Source get revenue once it has leased all residential and business sites and has all of its planned members? Future revenue will be from annual dues and fees; grants and donations; income from visitors and students; special assessments; and other sources.

16. What kind of legal entity does The Source use to own its property and assets? The Source Farm Foundation & Ecovillage is a nonprofit corporation. The members lease a lot or site and the lease is then legally attached to the Land Title. This will ensure that the member lease takes precedence over any sale if the land were in a position to be sold.

17. Who keeps track of all this? The Finance Committee and other agents of Council keep track of all leases, payments and agreements. All Source members (including Applying Members and Friends of the Source) are welcome to attend committee and council meetings.

Site Plan