Saturday, April 9, 2011

"The Farm"

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

part 2


  1. There was a lot of this going on around Gainesville, Florida back in the good old days Kenny. Small natural food stores with some of the people growing their own vegetables and taking them there for sale. Micanopy, Florida still exists and it still like a journey back in time with small lakes and old colonial houses.

    People who have had enough still to this day drop out and go live in a commune there. There are many small lakes around and land to grow things. Some of them make a few bucks trying to sell wind chimes made of stones and sea shells.

  2. Very interesting post Kenny, thanks for the info. I had never heard of Gaskin before.

  3. My Grampa took me to the Orchard to show me how to do some fence repair to keep the cows from getting in, when finished we went to the fence that had a road next to it, there was an apple tree there that could provide three bushels a day, he said "see that fence there, less than knee high, don't repair that, people come to get apples and they will have to climb over, and if we leave that area unrepaired it is easier for them, and less repair work will be required." Should America remove their heads from rectal defolade, we would be wise to reconsider our purpose, beginning with the basics. Hemp is useful for much more than just smokin'. Less is more...and stoooopid don't change true. Justifiably Homicide Talmudvision. [Anthony Clifton]

  4. Thanks for this! When the SHTF,it will be folks like these who survive. (as well as Amish, Mennonites, Native Indians etc).

    Here's a guy who seems to share my opinion of VT-

  5. Another 7.1 at Fukushima knocked out power briefly and workers evacuated, evacuation zone expanded amid more damage.

  6. amish? Yuck ... f*ck 'em

    Amish group travels to Israel to ask forgiveness of Jews
    When most of the news we hear involves killing, lies and denial, here's news story that stands out as unique: Members of the Amish community from the United States and Switzerland paid a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the express purpose of asking the Jewish people’s forgiveness for their group’s silence during the Nazi extermination of Jews in the Holocaust.

    On the brighter side, amish people have plenty of virgins & young ones to supply to the israhelli *rabbits*!

  7. @musique

    hey, I don't know anything about Amish, I just figured they could live off the grid. Your holocaust story is an eyeopener. I recall they accused the wartime Catholic Pope of not doing enough to stop the holocaust. The Pope's recent proclamation that Jews didn't kill Christ redefines the Jews perversion of everything. I do think Catholics should object- they are the church IMO.

    The more they try to pervert history and language, other religions, the more people hate them

    I'm yet to hear an apology from any jew for the Bolshevik bloodbath of Christians.

  8. I lived on The Farm. It was/is the biggest bunch of well intentioned hard working people I know. I can tell you negative truths about Stephen, but it doesn't matter.

    If you compare him to all the other "cult" gurus, he holds up pretty well. Stephen still lives on The Farm with his wife Ina May (a phenomenon in herself - google her - new documentary out on her and The Farm midwives), in a regular house (no mansion, etc.) and did not grab the money and split.

    Stephen is one of the most perceptive spiritual elucidators I have ever known or read. To be human is to err. What matters is the message. Put your heart into the message, not the messanger.

    As Joseph Campbell said (paraphrased)- Religion is the menu. Sprituality is the meal. Most folks are trying to eat the menu and as a result are starving spiritually.


    1. Thanks for the personal insight Namaste. It's always good to hear from folks who were there.

      I've often been reminded of 'the message, not the messenger' and sometimes that's hard to do but with Stephen and Ina it's the positives I will always remember.