Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Traveling to The Farm in Tennessee

 We have been planting many petunias and impatiens in pots in our backyard. I took a picture of the pots facing our kitchen window – the pots look good.

Then this morning some of the pots had been dug out and turned over again – this has happened several times already. We do not know which critter does this maneuver on our pots. In our backyard we have seen rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, possums and chipmunks many times – but which one is the culprit? I post this hoping that someone will tell us what we should do to prevent the responsible animal from hurting our pretty planters.

Click on collage to enlarge, then click on the pictures to enlarge again
Last week we came back from Tennessee where our friend and his wife live in a place called The Farm Community where they have been since 1972 when it was started as a commune. We had met our friend in San Francisco, California, in the mid-sixties. My husband attended San Francisco City College part time and our friend attended San Francisco State College (now university.)

Picture of San Francisco with Golden Gate Bridge taken with my 35mm camera in July1967
We spent many hours talking – about everything and our friend was an usher at our wedding in June 1967. My husband and I left San Francisco in a truck across country with our newborn baby girl and all our belongings. We arrived in Marietta, Ohio in January 1970 where my husband could finish his degree at Marietta College.

Picture of my husband and infant daughter one month or so before we left San Francisco

Our friend left San Francisco too, but with a caravan of buses, which became known as The Caravan. The picture below is from the back of the book The Caravan by Stephen Gaskin (copyright the Book Publishing Co.)

At San Francisco State College (SFSC) our friend had started to attend lectures given by an English professor named Stephen Gaskin. My husband had gone to a couple of the lectures but he had to attend his classes in the evenings. Stephen Gaskin, a former US Marine, started giving the lectures in 1966-67 in a SFSC hall. The lectures became so popular that he had to move to a church, then a theater and finally the rock hall The Family Dog. Up to 1000 to 1500 young seekers attended the lectures – a variety of high school, university students and hippies from the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. The teachings were discussions on politics, love, acid, peace and a blend of eastern and western religion.

In 1969 a group of theologians attending a convention in San Francisco went to the Family Dog on a Monday Night and heard Stephen’s high energized talks. They invited him to speak at their churches and colleges. Later that year, on Columbus Day 1970, our friend joined Stephen Gaskin in a caravan of 20 to 30 converted school buses that left San Francisco to tour the country and visit 42 states.

From the Web – Caravan Buses, picture copyright The Farm ( photo Gerald Wheeler, Cliff Figallo and John Coate)

At that time we were in Marietta, Ohio, where my husband was finishing his Bachelor of Science degree.

Some of the buses were as old as the 40’s and all the roofs were painted white so as not to be mistaken for regular school buses. They stopped at many congregations and colleges for Stephen’s speaking tour and picked up more people who wished to join the Caravan. A year later when the Caravan returned to San Francisco it counted more than 100 vehicles made up of 60 buses, a dozen step vans, VW campers, bread trucks and an assortment of bright colored painted vehicles.

From the Web – Caravan Buses, picture copyright The Farm ( photo Gerald Wheeler, Cliff Figallo and John Coate)

"You're either on the bus or off the bus."
-Ken Kesey, American author who wrote One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest -1962

At first the returning group wished to buy land in California but it was too expensive. They decided to pool their money and return to Tennessee with the buses and buy land somewhere close to Nashville for a permanent utopian community. In December 1971 they were able to put a down payment on a 1050 acre farm in Summertown, about 1 hour south of Nashville, where they created a commune which they called The Farm.

Graphic - Utopian Farm Land (reworked from free Solis,NZ)
Two years later they purchased another 750 acres. There was only a building or two on the property so they really were like pioneers living on the land. The group of hippies had to make do without running water, electricity, etc. They farmed the land, built shelters (some of them as addition to their buses), built a sorghum mill, pooled all their resources and energy to make the commune survive and it did. By 1982 1200 members (half of them children) lived on the property and received up to 10,000 visitors. They created a band, soy dairy, a midwife center, a book publishing company and other businesses. They even created a nonprofit organization called Plenty International to help people in other countries. You can read more about Plenty International here.

Below is a picture of some of the books sold by The Farm that I have

However, in 1983, because farming had not brought in enough funds and also because of the recession the settlement was reorganized; they called this “The Changeover.” They went from being a commune, where everything was held and shared in common, to a cooperative. The land is still held in common now but the members pay monthly dues for general expenses. Many left the Farm Community and now the population is stable at about 200. The businesses are doing well although they no longer farm their land.

There is a lot more I could tell about The Farm but this was just to give you background information on our visit to our friends who live there. You can also find more on the Farm on their own websites: http://www.thefarm.org/ and http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/ .In my next post I’ll have some pictures of our visit.

Love is but a song to sing
And fear's the way we die.
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry.
Though the bird is on the wing
You may not know why.

C'mon, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.

- Everybody Get Together, lyrics by Chet Powers,
early 60s, member of Quicksilver Messenger Service
Collage graphics from free fractual wallpapers

Addendum: Just received an email from my friends at The Farm - they are on high ground and did not get any flooding, unlike many people in Tennessee.

Note: This is a pre-programmed post. If your comments take longer to be published, it is because I could not get close to a computer while on this trip.


Marguerite said...

What a great post! Love the retro pics and love your dress and boots, too! I had heard about "The Caravan", but it was so interesting to read more about it and "The Farm". I lived in a commune in the 70's, in Colorado! Those were the days, cher! Am looking forward to seeing the photos of your visit. Bon voyage!

Pondside said...

What an interesting post. I'd never heard of the Caravan until reading this. The sixties were a time of movement - in many ways.

Avo said...

Je me demandais si tu aurais un endroit où garer tes plantes, ne serait-ce que pour une nuit ?
Ce que tu pourrais faire, c’est ne laisser qu’un pot sorti et ensuite utiliser une méthode low-tech ou hi-tech pour le surveiller.

Low tech : entourer ton pot d’un petite étendue de sable mouillé afin de prendre les empreinte de ton visiteur nocturne. Ou tout simplement faire le guet.

High tech : laisser un digi-cam sur un trépied filmant ton pot quand tu iras te coucher.

Ensuite tu pourras prendre des mesures spécifiques pour te défaire de ton visiteur vandale.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

My goodness but this brings back many memories. :) What a time the 60's was and will never return again. A very interesting post Vagabonde. Thanks.

Val said...

a fabulous piece of history - i loved reading this. Good too to chart the evolution of the Caravan concept. Cant wait to hear more of your trip (trip in the travelling sense of course :-)

Angela said...

What an interesting story. As all utopias, it had a certain life span, and then it was cut down by reality. But I am so glad these utopias exist, and go on, and new ones come up. Good will, hope, like-minded people, these ingredients are always wonderful. You really have things to tell, Vagabonde!

Vicki Lane said...

Fascinating post, Vagabonde!

We had a raccoon on our porch turning over pots and pulling the plants out. We think he was angry because we'd taken away the dogfood that had previously been left out.

Fascinating about The Farm -- I've always heard about it and have read about it over the years. Sounded interesting but a commune with a charismatic leader is not at all my cup of tea.

Love the pictures of you and your husband -- we have some from the same era -- so stylish!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

What a fascinating time. So interesting. Thank you for sharing about it.
I love the photos--and that song is one of my favorites of all time.

claude said...

Je repasserai demain quand le traducteur travaillera bien.
D'habitude c'est assez compréhensible. Là on dirait qu'il traduit dans un très mauvais français le français qui n'est déjà pas tjours bon.

DJan said...

I KNEW you were a hippie chick, like me! Or at least you hung out with them. I think you look like Ann-Margret in those early pictures, VB. I knew about Stephen and his quest, but how I know much more about them, and I'm glad to learn that the dream lives on, even if it's a different one that before. As usual, I enjoyed your post and the pictures very much.

claude said...

ça y est ! Le traducteur s'est bien calé. Contente de faire ta connaissance ainsi que celle de ton mari.
J'aimerais bien traverser les Etats-unis en mobile home.
Il y a tant à voir dans ce pays, en long, en large et en travers.
C'est aussi le pays des communautés.
Le film Witness m'a fait connaître la communauté Hamish.
Tes posts sont toujours très intéressant à lire et tes illustations belles à regarder.

RennyBA's Terella said...

What a lovely and readable post! I mean petunia is one of my fave - grow very nicely in Norway too!

and then getting to know a good blog friend even better from the pics and they story back in time!

Thanks for sharing - I know we'll have a lot in common and to talk about when we meet in Oslo :-)

livininlb said...

I remember it all like it was just yesterday! Your daughter is too adorable!

BJM said...

I was married the same year as you!

Paty said...

I love retro pictures too! Thank you for sharing. That song you post is great either.

Friko said...

So that's why you've not been around, you are on your travels again!

Fascinating post about a time which promised much but in the end did not come to be long-lasting or productive or very influential. The 60s and 70s were a time for change but they turned in to the greedy 80s and 90s. At least, they did here in the UK.

TorAa said...

This was very interesting reading. Combined with the old photos it's real American history.
Thanks for sharing

lorilaire said...

je n'ai pas lire ton post, le traducteur n'apparaissait pas, je ne suis pas très calée en anglais, je reviendrai plus tard, peut-être un petit bug informatique !
Bises Laurence

Elaine said...

Very interesting post! The sixties were definitely a different time.

Malyss said...

All that has a little smell of hippie times! so far, so near at the same time..your post brings back many memories..Great!

Anonymous said...

Looks like we had very similar experiences back then. Your post jarred alot of my memories.

Linda said...


I remember the 60's too and I still have my peace sign pendant! I sat on so many steps in protest and had the same hair and clothes! The picture of your young family is lovely. I married and lived overseas for several years before I returned. By then, the Weathermen and the SDS Society had turned peaceful protests into something really ugly. From then on, all protest was viewed as subversive. What a shame.

You know I've had a time with my back. Finally, I'm on the mend. But I wanted to say that I started at the beginning of the year and reread all your posts while I lay recovering. Each one is illustrated so beautifully and the content is so superbly researched and written. You take such care. I feel as if I have been given this little sterling library of delightful gifts to open as I choose. Thank you.

Vagabonde, you are a dear heart and gentle soul...and a treasure.


Oh, have you heard of the Creative Commons License? I'm reading up on it now. I saw it on Blogiste's blog. She was plagerized as well.

Ginnie said...

Lucky me, Vagabonde, that I got to hear more about this place in person when we met up a couple of weeks ago. I am particularly interested in the fractuals which I had never heard about till 4 or 5 years ago through another blogger. But in the context of this post, I suddenly see how hippie-ish they are. :) I love it.

Dominique- L said...


C'est toujours agréable de regarder des photos des années 60. Des souvenirs pour ceux qui appartiennent à cette génération. Une redécouverte pour les plus jeunes.
Des années qui n’ont pas pris une ride.
Un bien agréable et intéressant reportage.
Sincèrement merci !

Deborah said...

Vagabonde, this was a VERY interesting post. (Not that they all aren't!) I had never heard the story of this community. You have had a most intriguing life - rather unconventional, I would say. Looking at the pictures of you and your husband and daughter, I tried to imagine how life must have seemed to you then in your adopted country - an adventure? Exciting? Something you embraced without reservation? Did you imagine you would still be there all these years later?

Linda said...

Amazing! My son photographed and interviewed a lady at an Earth Day event that lived for 25 years at The Farm. Her name is Myra. Perhaps you know her, her picture appeared today. There is a link to his blog on mine, in the sidebar, called "Citizens".

Diary From Africa said...

A lovely, informative blog post with great photos as usual - thank you ! Thanks for your support of my blog, too ... hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day !

Shammickite said...

During the 60s I lived in Uk, and communes and hippies were mostly something that happened on the other side of the atlantic!
Love the photos of you and your husband and baby... and the varying lengths of your skirt hems!
I hear that you met Ginnie in Atlanta. I have corresponded with her via blogs for quite a while. Lucky you! Au revoir!

Baino said...

Ah those were 'heady' days or is that daze! I was a little too young for the hippy lifestyle so I'm making up for lost time now! Haha! Happy travels!

Jenn Jilks said...

Fabulous post. Does that take me back? Well done.

PeterParis said...

This again reminds me of the three months in Columbus, Ohio, and the Greyhound roundtrip all over the States in the mid-sixties! Makes me a bit nostalgic of course! :-)

islandgirl4ever2 said...

LOVED all the pics.. esp. the psychedelic ones!! What history...

About the potted plants.. My first thoughts were raccoons .. Just a thought...
Take care,

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Just found your blog through your comment on Madeleine's. I will enjoy reading earlier posts.
I knew about the Farm, sorry to hear they are not farming their land anymore, maybe the new farm movement in the south east will encourage them to try again.
The 60's were quite a time to grow up in, so much promise for a less materialistic culture. We built our house and studio after coming home from time in Sweden. Still here, still creative.
My mother once said "if a door opened up back to the 60's I'd be the first one in line."
amen to that, even with all the troubles, it was a great time. And the music is still the best.

sablonneuse said...

What a lovely way to live - close to nature.

Reader Wil said...

Très bien, Vagabonde! Aussi très intéressant. Merci de votre visite. Vos photos avec votre bébé sont belles. Mon premier bébé était née en 1967. Elle est ma fille aînée. Maintenant ma fille cadette d'Australie est chez moi avec son partner et ses trois enfants. C'est très joli.

Snowbrush said...

Well, the visitor entrance looks like it might be in the same building.

I visited The Farm in the mid-seventies when it had 1,200-1,400 people and then again in the early eighties when it was down to about what it is now (I don't remember hearing an actual number). At the time of my second visit, I was part way through a two year odyssey during which I searched for a communal setting in which to live. My visit to The Farm on that occasion was made out of curiosity as I had decided within hours after arriving there the first time that it wasn't for me. Abandoned cars and appliances, funky everything, the prohibition against EVER shaving or cutting my hair, the near worship of Steven, etc. ran completely against my desire for cleanliness, order, and a guru free environment.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Thanks so much for your visit and your kind words....I LOVE Orchids and in fact, I LOVE all flowers.....

This was such an interesting post.....this group has gone through quite an evolution.....Very Very Interesting...It does sound like the late 1960's and early
1970's.....And that they still exist, though in a somewhat different form---says a lot about them and their goals.
LOVE the old pictures of you and your Husband and baby....!

Frances said...

Hello Vagabonde. I am visiting here today after reading your comment about diaries over at Friko's neighborhood.

How glad I am that I chose this time to make this click. This particular Vagabonde recollection really took me back to a time that I lived through, and that now seems so, so long ago.

When I see young folks on the NYC subway totally involved with their various personal electronic devices, I wonder if they know what they are missing, by not having the chance to connect with someone sitting or standing within a few feet away.

I won't get too nostalgic, but would never want to trade away my luck at being in my 20's in the '60's and early '70's.


Roland D. Yeomans said...

What a story you have to tell. Your pictures off-set your narration perfectly, Roland

Zuzana said...

Sorry about you flower pots, I would assume it is the raccoons.;)
How cool are those pictures of you and your family, got to love that 60's fashion.;)
You know, was born in 1967.;)
Have a lovely weekend,

Dutchbaby said...

Another wonderful post.

I suspect that raccoons were the mischief-makers. They love digging up freshly-planted grass so that they can eat the grubs near the roots. They rolled up yards and yards of our new sod right after we installed our new landscaping. Our gardener used a product that repelled raccoons - it worked like a charm.

I loved learning about the bus caravan. I was a clueless young junior high school student in San Francisco, fairly new to the US, so I was unaware of this story. But I did have enough wherewith-all to go to the Golden Gate Park to attend the free concerts. I saw Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and many others.

Vagabonde said...

Marguerite, Pondside, SAPhotographs, Val, Angela, Vicki Lane, Rebecca Ramsey,DJan, RennyBA’s, livininlb, Paty, BJM, Friko, TorAa, Malyss, Elaine, Dedene, Linda, Ginnie, Deborah, Lynda, Shammickite, Baino, Jenn Jilks, Peter, Leesa, sablonneuse, Oldoldlady of the Hills, Frances, Zuzana and Dutch Baby – Thanks you all for your comments. I enjoy it so much when my blogging friends come and read the posts, it is like having a circle of friends around as I tell a story. I appreciate all your kind remarks.

Vagabonde said...

Claude, Lorilaire, Dominique-L and Reader Wil – merci de vous êtes arrêtées sur mon blog. Je ne crois pas que le bouton traducteur marche encore, je vais demander à ma fille de le réinstaller. Merci pour votre patience et vos commentaires.

Vagabonde said...

Alesa Warcan, Zuleme, Snowbrush and Rolad D. Yeomans – welcome to my blog. I am pleased that you came to visit. I am glad that you enjoyed the post and hope to see you back.

Ruth said...

I loved this post so much. The song by the Young Bloods is one of my favorites from that time. I will write more in response to the next/current post.

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

Hi Vagabonde!

I came here because you linked it into one of your more recent posts I was reading. I just wanted to let you know I loved this post so very much, I actually got a little teary about it, it is so good. :) I was born in 1968, and somehow these days in which I was born have become a part of who I am -- I appreciate this time period so much. It was terrific to read about it from the point of view of your story. Fantastic!

Sometimes I wonder if maybe I had been a young woman in the 60's who was enjoying the era a little too much, died, and then decided to come back again to the planet for another go around straight away, lol. :) I really do feel this kind of kinship with it.

I'm glad you linked here. :)

Snowbrush said...

You've been away from your blog for a long time. I hope you are okay. I miss you.

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