Scholars

Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

A visiting reporter once commented, "This is a journalistic gold mine." While we agree, we observe it is more significantly a lodestone for researchers of communal and utopian studies, alternative economic systems, and the history of alternative religioius movements in North America. If you have academic interest in any or all of these areas, we will try to make it easy for you to visit and learn more.

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Historians and sociologists have estimated that Americans established something more than six hundred communes in the two centuries before 1965. In the following seven years, somewhere between two thousand and six thousand communes were created, with most appearing between 1967 and 1970. These were often very fragile; the few that survived more than several years tended to have highly structured governance and often a religious orientation. Then in 1971, we entered the era of ecovillage....

A few of the many studies that have appeared in books, peer-review journals and other publications can be viewed on these pages:

Our Story

The earliest beginnings of The Farm community go back to San Francisco and a weekly meeting called Monday Night Class. Young people of the counter culture movement would gather weekly to discuss spiritual values and the vision of a new society. The focal point and facilitator for these meetings was Stephen Gaskin, a creative writing teacher from San Francisco state university who left his position to play an active role in the changing times. Gaskin was invited by a group of minister to hold a series of talks in churches throughout the U.S. Over two hundred others came along, forming a line of 60 school buses on transcontinental odyssey that became known as, “The Caravan.” The Caravan ended in San Francisco, leaving its participants with the question, “What next?” The obvious answer was to acquire land and build the community of their ideals.

After a lengthy search, a down payment was made on a 1000 acre former cattle ranch in middle Tennessee. It was called, “The Farm.” In the beginning there was one house, a couple of barns. Buses were driven and pulled into the woods, down the old logging roads, and people settled in to build a new life.

Tents replaced the buses, followed by rough homes built from recycled lumber and tin, salvaged from buildings the residents demolished throughout the local vicinity. The hippies learned from their neighbors, how to farm, how to cut wood, and when to head for the swimmin’ hole to escape the intense Tennessee sun.

The Farm developed a vegetarian diet based on soy protein to serve as a model for planetary food sustainability. Many recipes were developed and turned into cookbooks sold through the Book Company, one of its first businesses.

Throughout the 70’s and early 80’s, The Farm was a Mecca for a generation in search of the 60’s dream. From the original group of around 300, the population grew quickly to 500, 750, eventually reaching over 1200. In addition, the community took in up to 10,000 visitors a year. With much of its energy and resources going into outreach, the undeveloped infrastructure inside the community was unable to meet the demands of a growing population.A recession in the early 80’s also placed increased economic burdens and there was concern that the land could be lost to creditors.

Many began to question the leadership and direction of the community and grew disillusioned with the failings of the communal system. Many people left. After numerous meetings and discussions, a task force was created to develop a new economic and governmental structure which would place greater responsibility on all Farm members. With the Changeover of 1983, each adult Farm member was required to contribute financially toward the annual budget and operating expenses for the community.

By 1985 the population had stabilized at 250. It was a period of introspection and a new beginning as The Farm worked to redefine itself. The Farm continues to serve as a model for a way in which humans can live together in peace. It continues to keep the principles of nonviolence as its core foundation. Respect for the environment and living lightly on the earth continues to be a common thread uniting all members.

Education and outreach as a way to influence the world at-large remain a priority, exemplified through its many different interrelated projects and organizations. Like anything created by humans, The Farm is not perfect, as its members readily admit. Rather, it is the community’s ability to evolve and change, adapt and survive through both good times and hard times, that allow it to serve as a realistic model.

Currently The Farm Community, related organizations and affiliated individuals own and control over 4000 contiguous acres. With thousands of acres of hardwood forest surrounding the community being clear-cut in recent years, these ecosystems stand as an island for countless species and protects the watershed for future generations. By living together in community, individuals gain greater leverage in the pursuit of their ideals.

These ideals are passed from one generation to the next through example and collective participation in a variety of efforts that possess a single common purpose: to make a positive difference in the world. Ultimately it is the ability to pass on core ideals to a future generations that defines sustainability for the community.

As society’s awareness on the critical state of the planet increases, a new generation of young idealists are finding The Farm Community as a way to jump start the fulfillment of their vision to create a better world.