Domestic Pioneers:

School of Trusterty

SCHOOL OF TRUSTERY: Image by Bonnie Acker (c) 2014In 1929, an independent scholar named Ralph Borsodi published This Ugly Civilization in which he decried land speculation and landlordism along Borsodi in chairlines similar to Henry George.  He went further than George, however, in saying that land should never be individually owned.  Indeed, he insisted that land should not even be called “property.” He preferred a term that he had coined: “trusterty.”

Five years later, during the winter of 1934-1935, Borsodi moved his family to Suffern, New York to Historic marker for School of Livingtry their hand at homesteading.  Twenty families gradually settled around them, each leasing a three-acre parcel of land.  Borsodi named his leased-land community the School of Living.

Borsodi’s most devoted student at the School of Living – and, later, the most Mildred Loomistireless advocate for his ideas – was Mildred Loomis.  She spent two years working with him in Suffern.  When the School moved to Ohio in 1945, it was housed on a farm owned and occupied by John and Mildred Loomis.  She eventually became the School of Living’s director, remaining at the helm until 1985.  She also edited the school’s magazine, which went through several name changes over the years: the School of Living Journal, The Interpreter, Balanced Living, A Way Out and, eventually, Green Revolution.

Borsodi’s writings and the example of the School of Living inspired a number of other experiments in community landholding.  A steady stream of educators, authors, and back-to-the-landers beat a well-worn path to Suffern and to the Loomis homestead in Ohio to learn about rural homesteading and land leasing.

Bryn Gweled logoOne of the most successful of the leased-land communities modeled on Borsodi’s example was Bryn Gweled, started by a group of Quakers in 1940 after they visited the School of Living.  This “intentionally diverse community,” as it describes itself today, was located on a 240-acre tract a few outside of Philadelphia.  Ownership of the land was vested in a nonprofit corporation.  Over 80 leaseholds were plotted on which families could build houses to which they held individual title.  In 1972, Bryn Gweled’s ground lease was included as an appendix in the first book about community land trusts, authored by Bob Swann, Shimon Gottshalk, Erik Hansch, and Ted Webster.

School of Living bannerThe School of Living has been in continuous operation since 1934.  Presently located in Julian, PA, its current Mission is as follows: “The School of Living is an educational organization dedicated to learning and teaching the philosophy, practices and principles of living that are self-empowering for individuals within the general aim of establishing decentralized, ecologically-sound, self-governed and humane communities.  All its resources, but most specifically the land it holds in trust, are held in responsible stewardship for present and future generations.”

BAcker-School of TrustertyThe School’s current programmatic focus is as follows:

  • Assisting individuals to become more responsible and self-reliant;
  • Nurturing healthy, Community Land Trust Communities;
  • Promoting ecological use of land and natural resources;
  • Empowering inquiry and action on local and global problems; and
  • Working to develop and implement approaches to a more just and free society.



  • Birth of Ralph Borsodi.


  • Borsodi publishes This Ugly Civilization.

Borsodi bookcase1933

  • Borsodi publishes Flight from the City.


  • Founding of the School of Living in Suffern, New York.


  • Founding of Bryn Gweled, a leased-land community inspired by Ralph Borsodi and the School of Living.


  • The School of Living moves to a farm in Ohio owned by John and Mildred Loomis when families in Suffern decide they want individual title to the land beneath their homes.


  • Borsodi’s Seventeen Universal Problems of Man and Society is published in India.  It is later reprinted in Green Revolution, the journal of the School of Living.


  • Borsodi founds the International Independence Institute in Exeter, New Hampshire.


  • Bryn Gweled’s ground lease is published in The Community Land Trust: A New Model for Land Tenure in America.


  • Death of Ralph Borsodi.


  • Mildred Loomis steps down from the editorship of Green Revolution.


  • Death of Mildred Loomis. 


Ralph Borsodi-Plowboy interview

  • Ralph Borsodi, “The Plowboy Interview” (Mother Earth News, 1974).  Click here for the interview.
  • Ralph Borsodi, This Ugly Civilization (1929).
  • Ralph Borsodi, Flight from the City (1933).
  • Ralph Borsodi, A Decentralist Manifesto (1958).  Available here.
  • Ralph Borsodi, Seventeen Universal Problems of Man and Society.  (Reprinted in 1968)
  • Mildred J Loomis, Decentralism, Where It Came From and Where Is It Going? (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1980).
  • Mildred J. Loomis, Ralph Borsodi, Reshaping Modern Culture: The Story of the School of Living and its Founder. (Julian, PA: School of Living)