The High Desert Institute - Building a Foundation for the Survival of Humanity

The High Desert Institute

A group of seasoned experts from the off-grid community-building world are fundraising to create a series of new land projects in the high deserts of the southwest, designed to build a foundation for the survival of humanity by researching, developing , and distributing free open-source solutions to basic human needs like housing and off-grid infrastructure. None of us are getting paid, every dollar goes to the mission. The entire process will be completely transparent and open source. Every dollar donated means the world and makes a huge difference!

early programs

The Library

HDI will publish a vast, free, open-source library containing everything we learn as well as many other sources we have collected on the topic of how to live off-grid well. This idea started as a request from one of the communities our team helped build in the past; to enable off-grid communities to host their own private internet with libraries of useful knowledge. This library will be completely free and open to anyone and everyone.

a sky spring

Guest Researchers

HDI will sponsor guest researchers to conduct vital research on sustainable, off-grid infrastructure and housing which is affordable and accessible. We will bring together lessons about appropriate technologies and publish all of this research for free as part of a vast library of free open-source knowledge for how to live off-grid well.

solarpunk ecovillage at the top of the grand canyon

Special Projects

HDI will build model communities to demonstrate all the best practices and appropriate technologies we have identified for solving human infrastructure challenges off-grid. These communities will be open and available for the public to come see what we have learned in action.

project leadership
cj trowbridge

CJ Trowbridge

An expert in sustainable infrastructure with multiple advanced degrees from San Francisco State University, CJ also comes to this project with the experience of having helped build half-a dozen new land projects and having also volunteered at countless others including collaborations with Arcosanti, Arizona Department of Agriculture, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

julia heim

Julia Heim

A seasoned expert in crowdfunding and land-trust-incorporation, Julia's invaluable contributions to organizational governance and consensus-building have proven instrumental to the success of land projects like Emberfield and Pirate's Cove. Julia has participated in more than half a dozen new land projects and volunteered at intentional community projects criss-crossing the globe from Costa Rica to Nepal across the last decade.

joe whisher

Joe Whisher

An expert in organizational leadership, Joe has spent time at traditional intentional communities including volunteering at both The Garden and Pirate's Cove, but he is a maverick thinker who focuses on how these processes and systems could work better. This vital critical lens is the central value proposition of HDI; thinking about things in new ways and always considering how our systems and processes could work better.

Tyler Milligan

Tyler Milligan

Tyler Dean Milligan, deeply influenced by his experience on 'The Garden Commune or Cult' TV show, embarked on a journey with his wife to live off the grid in Colorado, embracing a lifestyle of sustainability and freedom. As a 100% disabled veteran, post-apocalyptic author, and prepper, Tyler brings a rich tapestry of skills in advertising, writing, hunting, survival, and Bushcraft to a nonprofit organization. He is particularly passionate about the apocalypse library project, leveraging his expertise to promote education and practical skills. His goal is to empower communities through knowledge and hands-on experiences, instilling in them the values of self-reliance, sustainable living, and true freedom, a testament to his belief in the transformative power of the library project.

initial land projects
Abstract Conception of an Atmospheric Water Generator

Sky Spring

Sky Spring is an upcoming land project focused on developing and publishing free, open-source, off-grid, sustainable infrastructure plans that aim to be the most accessible, affordable, sustainable and up-to-code way to meet your basic infrastructure needs.

solarpunk ecovillage at the top of the grand canyon

High Ground

High ground is an upcoming land project focused on developing and publishing free open-source building plans that aim to be the most accessible, affordable, sustainable, and up-to-code off-grid home you can build.

recent track record
Emberfield logo


This moneyless intentional community which we built is the subject of an upcoming tv show where you will get to see all the gritty details of setting up ownership and governance structures along with building the initial infrastructure that allows dozens of people to come build homes and live there full-time for free forever.

If you're interested in joining this community, attend the next gathering at The Garden and meet the people who live there and consense on any new members.

Pirate's Cove

Pirate's Cove is an intentional community we built in the fall of 2022 after fundraising on Gofundme. This land project is 16 acres on Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee. Hundreds of people came to support the initial infrastructure construction efforts and homes are still being built there as more people join this free moneyless community.

If you're interested in joining this community, attend the next gathering at The Garden and meet the people who live there and consense on any new members.

the garden

The Garden

The Garden is the community where many of the people involved in the Permaculture Mutual Aid Network met and decided to start the project of building many free off-grid intentional communities All of us have spent a lot of time working on various projects at more than half a dozen communities like this one, but the Garden holds a special place in our hearts.

The project of building so many of these lands is what led us to realize that the skills and tools it takes to build new lands are very different from the skills and tools its takes to live at the lands. This led us to create the Radical Racoon how-to guide for building intentional communities and led a few of us to crave starting a similar project out west; this is the idea that became HDI.

Every Dollar Donated Matters

The last time we fundraised for a similar land project under our first nonprofit, we raised enough money to buy the land with an average donation of less than $10. Now that land is a thriving off-grid community which has seen hundreds of people come and go, with some choosing to stay and build homes. Every little bit makes a world of difference! Help us build a foundation for the survival of humanity.