Communal Life: A Visit to the Hog Farm

A unique look into the lives of several people who chose to give up the electronics revolution and live a communal life.

| March/April 1971

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    Working together is one of the most important concepts for the success of communal living.
    Photo by Dale Grant

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Goin' up the country,
Got to get away
All this fussin' and fightin'
Can wait for another day.

So sings the rock group Canned Heat. Sharing their feelings completely are large numbers of young people who have gone to live on rural communes in Canada and the US, mostly in California and New Mexico. The recent back-to-the-land movement began when the original "flower children" saw Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco degenerate into a deadly gathering ground for dope pushers and the university campuses into bloody battlefields. And it is still continuing.

In Ontario, a series of communes has sprung up on hitherto abandoned or marginal land around the town of Barry's Bay, just over 100 miles west of Ottawa. The residents, who are mostly young and generally what some would call hippies; consist of 34 adults and seven children who come from a wide variety of backgrounds in Canada and the US. They've established five communes, with several more planned. Among them, they represent a cross section of the different forms rural communes can assume.

The first farm we visited lies amid low, rolling hills half a mile from the nearest concession road. It has a variety of names, but is mostly called the Hog Farm, after one of the first communes in the US to which some of the residents here belonged. Its regular population numbers eight, with an average age of 20 and one child, Peter, who is three. They have come here to "get away"; "to quit the insanity" and, as we were told again and again, "to find peace". Just how strong this feeling was, we were shortly to find out.

We arrive at night, along a twisting footpath and Rick, the original founder of the commune, meets us in the yard. "Too much man; it's been a long time. Glad to see you." Grinning broadly and shaking his shoulder-length hair from his eyes, he ushers us through the door of a typical, square, turn-of-the-century Canadian farmhouse. Enter confusion. The four of us, laden with packs and sleeping bags, are suddenly in a too-small kitchen already filled with dogs, cats, kids and five adults preparing supper. Amid the babble we pile our gear in a corner and slap shoulders with our hosts.

Dinner is served about a low, long table in the living room. Soybean soup, soybean bread and a stew that is mainly soybeans. Hardly a varied menu, but nutritious and surprisingly tasty. When I comment on it, Rick's wife, Suzanne snorts, "Ha, you should have been here last week. We had soybean ice cream." Knowing them, I believe it.

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