The Farm Then and Now: A Model for Sustainable Living
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In the Summer of Love in San Francisco's Haight-Asbury, a charismatic young hippie by the name of Stephen Gaskin launched "Monday Night Class"—a weekly event which drew together an eclectic mix of truth-seekers and flower children. Soon the class became a caravan, and after touring the country this colorful crew decided to seek a plot of land and found a commune based on their shared values. Thus was born The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee.
The Farm Then and Now presents the story of a group that has defied the odds, blending idealism with a practical approach to intentional community and creating a model for sustainable living. Just as the Monday Night Classes taught students to open their hearts and minds, The Farm continues as a School of Change, demonstrating ways to operate collectively in terms of:
- Land, water, and stewardship
- Health care, building, and infrastructure
- Cooperation, compassion, and spiritual values
For humans to survive as a species, we must relearn the skills needed to work together; the lessons of The Farm can be applied in any community or organization. The Farm Then and Now addresses both the successes and shortcomings of this unique ongoing social experiment, showing how what was once the largest commune in the world has evolved into an exceptional example of living lightly on the earth.
Douglas Stevenson has been a member of The Farm Community for forty years. His company Green Life Retreats hosts the Farm Experience Weekend and other instructional seminars about sustainable living.
to everyone that was honoring their commitment to cover the community’s expenses and payments toward the massive debt. In an unprecedented move, the Board used the community’s lawyer to put a lien against the couple and froze their bank account. The decision obviously had some amount of support from a number of community members or it would never have taken place. From a community public relations point of view, this move was a colossal error. While perhaps freezing the couple’s bank account
further complicated by the fact that the area where The Caravan had landed was the source of a spring that provided the water supply for the town of Mt. Pleasant. If The Farm refused to receive the vaccine on spiritual principles, there was real concern that the outbreak could spread. Ultimately Stephen and others decided that it was more important to compromise and give everyone exposed the shot. This demonstrated to local authorities that The Farm could and would make rational and responsible
achieve the same level of insulation as it would for a material rated at R-6. These numbers are important when designing a home in order to estimate its energy efficiency. For many decades, the only commercially available insulation was fiberglass, having a value of R-3.6 to R-5. Fiberglass is manufactured from sand and 20 to 30 percent recycled glass that is combined and spun into a light and fluffy material resembling cotton candy. The sand is normally acquired through mining, and the
or blown 6 to 8 inches deep into attics and ceilings. Blown cellulose made from 80 percent recycled newspapers is another commonly available green insulation that carries a value of R-3 to R-4. Cellulose initially lost favor because it had been found to settle as much as 20 percent over time, reducing its insulation qualities. This was addressed by increasing the volume or density of the material, making blown cellulose a viable alternative, especially in remodeling, using it as a filler in
be almost overwhelming, with seemingly endless choices ranging from the practical, through participation on committees and governing bodies, to the ever-frequent parties, potlucks and festivities. Of course, the social dynamic can be also limited, especially for young single people who want the action of a city, and the chance to meet new people. Ideally, an ecovillage is energy-independent, generating its own clean renewable energy. Several very large and small photovoltaic arrays produce