What is The Farm?
Where is The Farm?
What are our religious beliefs?
How is the community managed?
How do people support themselves?
What was "the change over"?
What is the economic commitment of membership?
Why is it called The Farm?
What about visitors?
The Farm community is a cooperative enterprise of families and friends living on three square miles in southern middle Tennessee. We started The Farm in hopes of establishing a strongly cohesive, outwardly-directed community, a base from which we could, by action and example, have a positive effect on the world as a whole. Learn more about the History of The Farm, and The Farm Today.
The Farm was settled near Summertown, Tennessee on 1750 acres of rolling hilltops. It is 30 miles from the nearest hospital, 50 miles from the nearest interstate highway, and 75 miles from the nearest major city. It is also 35 miles from the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan.
The early community settlement was built entirely from salvaged, recycled, and local materials. A $1 road grader cut the roads, and a $1 railroad tower provided the public water supply. Scrapped school buses and army tents provided shelter from below-zero temperatures until the sawmill could begin milling native oak and salvage crews could harvest old tobacco barns, factories, and condemned houses.
On a budget of $1 per person per day and no grants, no foodstamps, and no welfare - the original 320 settlers bought the land, erected the buildings, and became agriculturally self-sufficient within 4 years.
In the mid-1960s, many people went through a cultural chance that took them away from their roots and cast them adrift, searching for something better. Disillusioned by the Vietnam War, disturbed by increasing violence and injustice in the nation, encouraged by the successes of the Civil Rights movements, and empowered by the strength of their numbers - many gravitated toward the West Coast looking for alternatives. A hysterical nation reacted to the Hippies by pursuing them in their homes and workplaces, and locking them up in prison - where many remain today. In 1970, a caravan of more than 300 of us left California to start an experimental community where are ideals could find expression in our daily lives. At $70 an acre, Tennessee gave us access to a large amount of land at an affordable price.
The Farm is a nondenominational church. We like to call ourselves "free thinkers", because we discuss religion and philosophy in terms that do not exclude any possibilities. People come to The Farm from a variety of religious traditions and disciplines, and find those views treated with honor and respect. While individual practices may vary, our group practice is an on-going, free-ranging discussion. We consider ourselves to be a spiritual community. In keeping with our deep reverence for life, we are pacifists, conscientious objectors, and most of us are vegetarians. On Sunday mornings many of us like to gather for group meditation and church services out in the meadow.
All members of The Farm are expected to contribute to the financial upkeep of the community through their earnings. Since our community operates like a small town, it has some of the same needs. We maintain our own roads, municipal buildings, and public water system. Community policies are arbitrated and implemented through an elected board. Important questions are discussed at town meetings and decided by community votes. We don't always reach complete consensus, but we generally try to have a high level of agreement in everything we decide.
About a third of the adults in the community work in nearby towns to support themselves and their families. Some work as independent contractors, while others work in local shops and industries. The rest of us make our living within the community, working for homegrown cottage industries like The Book Publishing Company, The Birth Gazette, Village Media, The Farm Catalog, The Mail Order Company, The Soy Dairy, Dye Works, The Tempeh Lab, and Mushroom People. Others are involved in community services like The Farm School, The Farm Store, The Welcome Center, The Farm Clinic, WUTZ-FM, and our community government. Some of us work in global transformation efforts through Farm-based charities.
By 1980, the population had swelled to over 1200 people, but a series of reverses in agriculture and other enterprises led to a scaling back in the early '80s. "Human-scale" for that size parcel of land had been exceeded. Aware of their impact on the surrounding forest, the settlement cut its agricultural acreage by going to more intensive and permacultural farming methods, relocated outlying neighborhoods that impinged too deeply into the hardwood forests, and zoned off more than half of its acreage from all development other than management designed to encourage biodiversity.
From 1971 to 1983, The Farm had a traditional communal economy like the Shakers or the Hutterites. After 13 years, a financial crisis forced the reorganization of our economy.
All members of The Farm pay monthly dues which contribute to the upkeep of the community. We call it our "rent". The level of individual contribution, which is usually between $75 and $125 per adult per month, is based on a budget that is drafted and re-drafted at town meetings and voted on, line-by-line, once a year.
Like most things on The Farm, people called it just what it was, with little embellishment. For examples: Farm Road, First Road, Second Road, etc.; The Book Publishing Company, The Soy Dairy, The Tempeh Lab, The Farm School, The Farm Store, The Welcome Center, etc. Today The Farm is less a farm and more like an ecology of systems.
We enjoy having visitors who write ahead to make arrangements. We have many accommodations available and The Farm Store has an assortment of foods and supplies. Visitors are asked not to bring weapons or pets. Swimming is available in our swimming hole at a guest rate of $5 per day per adult, $3 for children. We can also make arrangements for groups to include a tour and a vegetarian luncheon. Retreat and conference services are also available. To get in touch for more information, visit our contact page.