In 1973, I became part of one of the most important social experiments of our time, a dynamic community founded on the principles of nonviolence and respect for the earth, dedicated to making a difference in the world.
Now some 45 years later, The Farm Community remains as a model for human existence, blending idealism with a practical approach to sustainable living.
I have played an active role in its survival and evolution from the largest commune on the planet to New Age Ecovillage.
Virtually all of my adult life has been invested into The Farm Community. I say “invested” because I have put everything I have both materially and spiritually into it, and reaped the fruits of these efforts 100 fold.
My wife Deborah and I came to The Farm in 1973 at the age of 19. We stayed for the wild ride through its hey day as the mecca of hippie counter culture, when it attracted up to 10,000 visitors a year. The mission was simple and straight forward: Save the world by dedicating our lives to the service of humanity.
In the fall of ’78 we experienced the adventure of a lifetime, working for two years in Guatemala after a devastating earthquake ravaged the country. I can only describe our time there as a peak life experience and it forever changed my view of the world.
Our return to Tennessee in September of 1980 was not by choice, but brought about by the dangerous political climate that came about in Guatemala after the election of Ronald Reagan produced a brutal repression in which hundreds of thousands of Mayan people were killed and millions more became refugees in their own country and along the border with Mexico.
Things were a bit different when we returned to The Farm in 1980. The population had swelled to somewhere around 1500 people, but the infrastructure and income needed to support that many people just was not there. By the fall of 1983, the communal system collapsed under its own weight and over the next several years there was a mass exodus until only 100 adults and 150 kids remained. We were among those that stayed.
I started a small business and worked as a writer. Deborah went back to school earning a degree as a registered nurse, graduating first in her class. She also became one of the community’s midwives. Our kids grew up and started their lives as adults.
In the meantime over the next several decades I got more involved in the community, serving 4 years on its membership committee, 6 years on its board of directors, and 8 years as community manager/mayor. I took on the role of public relations and interfacing with press and media.
A natural extrovert, I have always used my gift of music to provide entertainment, starting with the communal households of the 70’s, but even more importantly as part of the glue to hold the community together once the communal period came to an end, performing in bands, organizing festivals and keeping alive our annual tribal reunion.
Starting around the turn of the century I began developing retreats, workshops and conferences wrapped in the various themes of community and sustainability as a way to encourage others to follow their dreams. Community provides a richness of experience that is unparalleled, deeply intertwining work and play, family and friends, joys and sorrows. It is the fabric of life, an element lost in the disconnect produced by modern society.
In my book, Out To Change the World, The Evolution of The Farm Community, I have tried to tell our story and history as accurately as possible to the best of my knowledge. I came to The Farm to be a part of something bigger than myself, to follow a spiritual path, to make a difference in the world.
For my second book, “The Farm Then and Now, A Model for Sustainability,” I examine the building blocks of community, looking at government, earning a living, green building, health care, health and diet and the role of spiritual values. It is my hope that people young and old will be inspired to follow their dreams and maximize their potential, using community as the catalyst and a way to leverage their efforts.
Community has given me a very full life. I am honored to share The Farm’s story…and my story, with you.
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