The history of a hippie commune: The Farm.

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Ledoux, Pat
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Middle Tennessee State University
This paper traces the history of The Farm, a hippie commune established in 1971, in Summertown, Tennessee, within the context of American society and culture of the times. The intent of this study is to answer questions concerning whether The Farm has been a success or failure in creating an alternative lifestyle.
The premises are: (1) that the establishment of The Farm as a collective community was an outgrowth of a social phenomenon sweeping across America during the late 1950s, 1960s and the early 1970s; (2) that while such collective communities may begin with a unified intent and the leadership of a strong personality, they inevitably succumb to the yaw and sway of conflicting opinions, the consequence of the pressures and experiences of living in a collective community and the unexpected compromises through which human beings attempt to translate ideas into reality; and (3) that if success means that the community continues in numbers, influence, and spirit then this venture is another failure in the history of failed utopias. But if one thinks of success as a fruition of the ability of people to change their situation, then it has been a success because many of the ideals upon which this movement rested are still vital. The full influence of The Farm is, as yet, unclear.
Chapters I and II are devoted to the rise of a movement known as the counterculture, the social scene in San Francisco, and an account of the time on the caravan during which the sense of community was developing. Chapter III deals with the initial experiences and organizational problems as the hippies established the collective. Chapter IV focuses on the changes which occurred in the community, while Chapter V describes the characteristics of continued growth, financial difficulties, and the problems which developed. The change from a collective to a cooperative is the main topic in Chapter VI, and Chapter VII focuses on the impact of the community and why it failed as a collective.
Following a chronological account of the history of The Farm from 1971 to 1989, integral aspects of the collective will be addressed. These topics include the importance of Stephen Gaskin as the founder and spiritual leader of the collective, as well as the social, religious, economic, medical, and educational components of the community. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.).