Visible made a reference to Stephen Gaskin today which brought back a flood of memories and since I don't think I've posted anything about The Farm and its cultural influences, it seemed like something positive to do.
Almost 40 years ago Gaskin and his band of 'hippies' came to Tennessee to escape the craziness of San Francisco and begin an experiment in community and sustainability that continues to today.
1971 and their bus caravan stopped and camped on Old Hickory Lake in Sumner County not far from my hometown. The area quickly became a tourist attraction and the road became jammed for a few days with the locals wanting to get a glimpse of real life hippies. Of course we went and talked with some of them and left with the idea that this may be something big. It was but maybe not on the scale that we envisioned.
They soon found land near Summertown and the infamous tale began.
Would I have become a vegetarian and organic gardener 38 years ago without the influence of Gaskin and crew's writings and lifestyle? Who knows? Maybe, the ideas were becoming more acceptable but it was evident even then that their presence did help jump start a lot of folks around here to pursue different forms of alternative living. Small natural food stores began opening up all over and I had the opportunity to work in a couple of them. The deliveries of their products by the Farm folks became an opportunity to discuss food and life. Over time even the locals were won over with their hard work and innovation.
Stephen's wife, Ina May, wrote the modern manual on natural child birth, Spiritual Midwifery. Her teachings still remain invaluable and will be for many years to come. I knew a number of couples who went to the farm to have Ina May and other Farm midwives deliver their babies. Everything always turned out fine.
We would go see the Farm Band with Stephen as the drummer every chance we could. They weren't the best around but they helped to form a philosophy I like ... "What you lack in talent, make up for in intensity."
If you are interested in more Farm history and current events, websites are here and here. Anyone contemplating communal endeavors would do well to study the trials, tribulations, successes, failures and changes of the Farm.
Permaculture, solar energy, humanitarian efforts and much more are all a part of the Farm's story. You can even get a radiation detector from them if you feel the need. It's funny but what they've brought to the table is not just for hippies anymore.
I'll close with this still relevant excerpt from Stephen's 1981 book "Rendered Infamous."
Usury and Sharp Practices
The myth of the free market assumes some parity among the horsetraders. In olden times, there were proscriptions against usury that were in effect from the church, when usury was against the law. Not only usury, but there was a level short of usury which was considered, if not a legal matter, at least an ecclesiastical matter, and people would be warned against the un-Christian nature of "sharp practices." Sharp practices included the kind of farming mentality that confused husbandry with being sure to plant the fruit trees on the side of the property close to the fence, so the shade would fall on your neighbor's property and the fruit would fall on your own.
But the Bible taught that the first two rows along the edge of the road were dedicated to passing travelers who in those days of non-frozen or concentrated foods, could not possibly carry enough food for a very long journey, and probably didn't have any actual money on their persons as they traveled.
These were cultural norms. Some may say that is naive and it was easier then, and there are more people now and times are harder. But two rows alongside the field of a giant complicated farm is virtually insignificant. There are huge quantities of food produced and harvested these days, but two rows could still be done without damage to the industry. It is merely that sharp practices have become "normal", which is to say not right or acceptable, but done by so many people that the curve describing the frequency of that action is near the norm.
High Times Films - Stephen Gaskin