Offbeat Tennessee, 2014

Offbeat Tennesse : curious History of Tennessee: Summertown is home to the oldest and largest commune in the country – The Farm

The Farm is the oldest and biggest intentional community, at its peak in the 80’s it had over 1500 members. It is an intentional community that fostered spiritual growth, world peace and ecological harmony. Today the Farm has about 175 residents. Farm from above

Stephen
It was founded in 1971 by Stephen Gaskin and 320 hippies from San Francisco.

stephen and bus
Gaskin and friends led a caravan of 60 buses, vans, and trucks from San Francisco on a four month speaking tour across the US. Along the way, they became a community, lacking only in land to put down roots. After returning to California, the decision was made to buy land together. Combining all their resources would finance purchase of only about fifty acres in California. Another month on the road brought the group back to Tennessee, where they checked out various places that might be suitable to settle. They deciding on property in outside of Summertown south of Nashville. After buying 1,064 acres  for $70 per acre, the group began building its community in the woods alongside the network of crude logging roads that followed its ridgelines. Shortly thereafter, an adjoining 750 acres were purchased for $100 per acre.

farming crew
Gaskin and friends led a caravan of 60 buses, vans, and trucks from San Francisco on a four month speaking tour across the US. Along the way, they became a community, lacking only in land to put down roots. After returning to California, the decision was made to buy land together. Combining all their resources would finance purchase of only about fifty acres in California. Another month on the road brought the group back to Tennessee, where they checked out various places that might be suitable to settle. They deciding on property in outside of Summertown south of Nashville. After buying 1,064 acres  for $70 per acre, the group began building its community in the woods alongside the network of crude logging roads that followed its ridgelines. Shortly thereafter, an adjoining 750 acres were purchased for $100 per acre.

motor pool
In 1983, due to financial difficulties and also a challenge to Gaskin’s leadership and direction, the Farm changed its agreement and began requiring members to support themselves with their own income rather than to donate all income to the central bank.This decollectivization was called the ‘Changeover,’ or ‘the Exodus.’

In the nineties, with the community back on solid ground, The Farm returned to its original purpose of initiating social change through outreach and example. The Ecovillage Training Center was established as an educational facility in new technologies such as solar energy, bio fuels, and construction techniques based on locally available, eco-friendly materials.

farm midwives
Gaskin’s wife, Ina May Gaskin and the midwives of the Farm created The Farm Midwifery Center, one of the first out-of-hospital birth centers in the United States.
Family members and friends are commonly in attendance and are encouraged to take an active role in the birth.

“Gaskin, a longtime critic of American maternity care, is perhaps the most prominent figure in the crusade to expand access to, and to legalize, midwife-assisted homebirth. Although she practices without a medical license, she is invited to speak at major teaching hospitals and conferences around the world and has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Thames Valley University in England. She is the only midwife to have an obstetric procedure named for her. The Gaskin Maneuver is used for shoulder dystocia, when a baby’s head is born but her shoulders are stuck in the birth canal.” – NYT

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