The Farm (Tennessee)

A pioneering ecovillage and intentional community known for its innovation in sustainable living and spiritual exploration.

Religion: New Age
Founder: Stephen Gaskin
Founded: 1971
Location: Summertown, Tennessee, United States
Size: 200 (1,500 at peak)
Other Names: The Farm Community, The Farm Cooperative

In 1970, approximately 300 individuals embarked on a journey that would significantly impact American counterculture and communal living. This group, often referred to as “The Farm,” began as a caravan of idealists from San Francisco, seeking a new way of life that emphasized shared values, communal living, and a deep connection to nature.

Origins and Journey

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, America was in a state of social and cultural flux. The civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and a growing disillusionment with materialism led many, especially the youth, to seek alternative lifestyles. It was in this context that Stephen Gaskin, a charismatic teacher from San Francisco State College, began to attract a following through his “Monday Night Class,” which discussed various spiritual and philosophical topics.

In 1970, inspired by Gaskin’s vision, around 300 individuals left San Francisco in a caravan of school buses. They journeyed across the country, searching for a place to establish their community. Their long hair, unconventional attire, and communal ethos often led them to be identified as hippies, a term that came with its share of societal stigmas and challenges.

Settlement and Early Years

After a long journey, the group settled on 1,750 acres of land in Lewis County, Tennessee. They named their new home “The Farm” and began the arduous process of building a community from scratch. The early years were marked by hard work, innovation, and a strong commitment to their collective vision.

Initially, The Farm operated as a collective, with all income and resources shared among its members. Stephen Gaskin served as a spiritual leader, but the community also developed a form of governance that allowed for collective decision-making and management of resources.

Daily Life and Cultural Practices

Life on The Farm was centered around communal living. Members shared meals in a communal dining hall, worked together on agricultural and construction projects, and supported each other in their daily lives. This sense of shared purpose was a defining characteristic of the community.

The Farm also became known for its sustainable practices and innovations, reflecting a commitment to living in harmony with the earth, which was both a practical choice and a spiritual one. Owing to this conviction, they were pioneers in organic farming, alternative energy, and green building techniques.

Education and healthcare were also central to life on The Farm. They established their own school, where children received an education that emphasized ecological awareness, peace, and community values. The Farm also became famous for its midwifery services, led by Ina May Gaskin, which attracted women from all over the country.

Challenges and Changes

Despite their ideals, The Farm faced significant economic and social challenges. The collective model proved difficult to sustain, especially as the community grew and external pressures increased. By the early 1980s, The Farm was in debt and facing serious internal discussions about its future.

In 1983, The Farm underwent a significant reorganization, transitioning from a collective to a cooperative model. Members were now required to pay dues and were responsible for their own finances, although the land and some resources remained communal. This transition was controversial and led to a significant decrease in the population.

The Farm Today

Today, The Farm exists as an intentional community. While it has retained many of its original values, its structure and operations have evolved. It continues to be a place where individuals come to live a life based on sustainability, cooperation, and a shared sense of purpose.

The legacy of The Farm extends beyond its physical location. It has contributed significantly to the wider movements of organic farming, midwifery, and sustainable living. The experiences and knowledge gained from life on The Farm have influenced countless individuals and communities around the world.

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