• Todd Strasser

1960s Communes

Updated: Mar 25, 2019

I’ve read that the pervasive “normalcy” of the 1950s was our parents’ reaction to the trauma of living through the Great Depression and World War II.

It certainly gave our generation something to rebel against. One example was the push toward communal living during the 60s. Communes -- many, but not all, started by hippies -- flourished.

One of the best-known was The Farm, which settled in 1971 in Tennessee and purportedly had smaller “satellite” communes in other parts of the country. According to Wikipedia, at its peak, The Farm had 1,600 members. It’s said to now have 200.

From Wikipedia: “The Farm was established after Stephen 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.” Eventually they raised enough money to buy land in Tennessee.

“In the original manifestation of The Farm, all members were believers in the holiness of life and that smoking marijuana was a sacrament. Founding members had all used LSD numerous times and believed they had experienced shared psychedelic vision that bound them together. They said that their cultural conditioning had been blown away enough to experience a world of higher consciousness. They believed in the reality of a spiritual dimension and in universal brotherhood.

“From its founding in the 1970s, Farm members took vows of poverty and owned no personal possessions other than clothing and tools. During that time, Farm members did not use artificial birth control, alcohol, tobacco, man-made psychotropics, or animal products.”

Google The Farm Commune, Tennessee for lots more info and a documentary ( https://www.channelnonfiction.com/40-years-farm-documentary-tennessee-commune/)

A personal recollection: During the summer of 1970 I attended the University of Maine at Orono to make up for a chemistry class I’d failed the year before (probably because I was too involved with chemicals in other ways 😉. One day a couple of skinny, very-long-haired hippies wandered into our lab carrying a large glass jar of water. They told us that their commune was having a problem with diarrhea and wondered if it could have been due to the water they were drinking. Would we test it? They asked.

We didn’t have to test it. We could see immediately that the water-filled jar, sitting on the lab table in the sunlight, was teeming with tiny, swimming organisms (and those were the ones visible to the naked eye. There were probably lots more that would only be seen through a microscope). I may have failed chemistry, but clearly these hippies needed some classes in biology.

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