What it’s like to live on a (former) commune?
By Andres Diaz, Thursday, December 06, 2012
The Farm, a closed community in rural Tennessee that is home to about 150 people, is not what it was in the free-loving 1970s – but the hippy ideals remain.
Ever dream about saying goodbye to the rat race and leaving it all behind? Well, hundreds of people did just that, giving up just about everything to rough it in The Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee, in 1971.
They set up shop on a plot of land, using army tents and buses for shelter. They farmed for their own food and did odd jobs in town for extra money. All profits were shared equally. Food was shared equally, too, given out in rations. The original 320 settlers grew into more than 1,000.
But, it turns out that no matter how idealistic you are, living on a commune does have its challenges. By the early 1980s, the Farm was in debt and struggling to survive. It couldn’t afford to support everyone. Something had to be done. So in 1983, the Farm switched from being a commune to being a co-op. It was called “the Changeover” and it probably saved the Farm from extinction. Everyone now pays a monthly fee to live there, much like an HOA. But any money an individual earns is theirs to keep, or theirs to donate to the community.
After the Changeover, the Farm began to thrive once again. But its numbers never really recovered. Today, about 150 people still live there. Some original members, some new ones. Some of them are people who grew up and moved away but decided to move back to raise their families.
So will the Farm survive another 40 years? We talked to a lot of people on the Farm who certainly hope so. But it’s the young people there that will have to make it happen.
What a view: The Farm sits on several thousand acres in Summertown, Tennessee.
Hippy Artifact: One of the original buses used in “The Caravan”. Hundreds of people traveled on these buses across the country, following leader Stephen Gaskin.
They make what?! In the ’80s, the Farm changed from a commune to a co-op. They needed to find a way to make money. Their most popular business? Geiger counters — basically radiation detectors!
Mmm, soy yogurt… The Farm also has a popular food business, called FarmSoy. They produce organic soy milk and tofu products.
Book smart: The first business on the Farm was the Book Publishing Company.
It has now grown into a huge business, known for publishing books on vegetarian and vegan cooking.
It takes a village: Another popular business is the Farm Ecovillage Training Center. People come from all over the world to learn how to build sustainable homes, among other things. This is an example of an alternative to air conditioning — a home with grass on the roof, which significantly cools the inside.
School days: Just because a bunch of hippies live here doesn’t mean the kids get to skip school! Several dozen students attend class at the Farm School.
Students of all ages and of all grades learn together. Traditional subjects are taught but the kids get to study what they’re interested in, too.
Om in the Dome: Students often meditate, or “om” in the Wholeo Dome outside the school.
Talking in the Dome: CNN correspondent Jim Spellman sits down with a student to learn what life is like Inside the Wholeo Dome.
We are family: The Deptula family has lived on the Farm for more than 10 years. Their daughter attends the Farm School.
The family that builds together… Jason Deptula is building the family’s new home out of sustainable materials.
So far he has the bathroom complete. But, it will be several years before the family can move in.
Patience pays off: For now, the Deptula family lives in what they call the “Garage-Mahal”.
But all the roughing it will be worth it — when the Deptulas eventually move into their dream home, they will be mortgage-free.
Where’s the golf course? There’s no golf course here, but many on the Farm use golf carts to get around.
Going solar: Since almost the beginning, many buildings on the Farm have utilized the sun.
Mortuary services: Many people who have lived on the Farm choose to be buried here. Members actually had to figure out how to properly bury their loved ones.
Welcome to my yurt! Katrina Tsacrios is an intuitive healer who lives and works on the site. She’s standing in front of her yurt — a portable building usually used by nomads. Katrina actually lived in the yurt for several months before moving into a traditional home on the Farm.
Get your gong on: Katrina uses “Gong Meditation” on CNN correspondent Jim Spellman.
She’s also a licensed massage therapist and uses many different types of therapies to heal.
A look at a popular place during the summer – The Swimmin’ Hole.
The future of the Farm: At one time, more than a thousand people lived on the Farm.
Now, just a little more than 100 call it home. Many of them are young people who are being counted on to help the Farm survive.