The Farm Community – Summertown, Tennessee

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. 

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

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.

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.

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 home birth. 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.”

~ New York Times

The Farm Community – Beliefs and Agreements

The Farm Community is comprised of many individuals, each with their own vision and ideas about spirituality as it applies to their daily life. It was founded on the principle that we respect all religions and practices. There are many basic agreements that were telepathically understood, however in an effort to avoid the creation of dogma and ritual, no formal document exists that defines the spiritual beliefs of The Farm.

Some years ago, several members of The Farm Membership Committee endeavored to create such a document, researching through previously published books and materials to identify statements that could still ring true for most members of the community. Although we make no claim that it represents every person completely, we present it here to give you some concept of our original beliefs and agreements.

As a church, we live in community and our reverence for life has always been central to our ways. Within The Farm Community, people could live together and pursue a spiritual path that includes, but were not limited to, the following common beliefs and agreements:

We believe that there are non-material planes of being or levels of consciousness that everyone can experience, the highest of these being the spiritual plane.

We believe that we are all one, that the material and spiritual are one,
and the spirit is identical and one in all of creation.

We believe that marriage, childbirth and death are sacraments of our church.

We agree that child rearing and care of the elderly is a holy responsibility.

We believe that being truthful and compassionate is instrumental to living together in peace and as a community.

We agree to be honest and compassionate in our relationships with each other.

We believe in nonviolence and pacifism and are conscientiously opposed to war.

We agree to resolve any conflicts or disagreements in a nonviolent manner.

We agree to keep no weapons in the community.

We believe that vegetarianism is the most ecologically sound and humane lifestyle for the planet, but that what a person eats does not dictate their spirituality.

We agree that livestock, fish, or fowl will not be raised in the community for slaughter.

We believe that the abuse of any substance is counterproductive to achieving a high consciousness.

We agree to strive for a high level of consciousness in our daily lives.

We believe that the earth is sacred.

We agree to be respectful of the forests, fields, streams and wildlife that are under our care.

We agree that the community is a wildlife sanctuary with no hunting for sport or food.

We believe that humanity must change to survive.

We agree to participate in that change by accepting feedback about ourselves.

We believe that we, individually and collectively, create our own life experience.

We agree to accept personal responsibility for our actions.

We believe that inner peace is the foundation for world peace.

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