The Farm Community and 40 Years of Intentional Living

Reader Contribution by Douglas Stevenson

In the early 1970s, my high school sweetheart and I picked up the first issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS and became part of the Back to the Land movement. We dove in head-first and never looked back.

In the aftermath of the turbulent 60s, it became apparent that change would not come to the world through politics. Our goal became not to take over the government, but to take over the government’s function, taking care of ourselves in every way we could. This meant getting land, growing our own food, building our own home, caring for our medical needs, and becoming as independent as possible.

The first issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS in 1970 inspired a generation of Back to the Landers, and several intentional communities.

At the same time, we saw that the life of a homesteader can be a very isolated existence. We wanted to be close to nature, but still involved in influencing society at large. We did not want to give up social interaction with friends, the joy of music, and the richness of life found through community.

In 1973, at the age of 19 and newly married, my sweetheart, who is now my wife, and I became part of one of the most dynamic and successful experiments in a back-to-the-land lifestyle, known simply as The Farm. We joined up with several hundred others of our generation on 1,700 acres in the backwoods of Tennessee to carry forward our vision of a better way for humanity to live in harmony and lightly on the earth. Now some forty years later, we are still here.

Here at The Farm, we have learned a lot about growing food, building green, stewarding land, and most of all, the leverage to be gained when people work together. In fact, The Farm Community was featured in MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles several times in the early days: The Plowboy Interview: Stephen Gaskin and The Farm (the May/June 1977 issue) and Communal Life: A Look at The Farm in Summertown, Tenn. (the March 1980 issue).

Those were quite some time ago and over the decades, there have been many changes. Our current incarnation as a community is more relevant today than ever, with many different aspects that may resonate with you. I wanted to use this forum to share with you a little bit about the community as it is today and pass on what we’ve learned to this current wave of people seeking a more sustainable life, what we call “like-minded folks.” The Farm’s mission has always been to serve as a model for what is possible and to inspire others to follow their dreams.

To learn more about The Farm, as well as my personal story, consider picking up a copy of my book, Out to Change the World, the evolution of The Farm Community. My second book takes a deeper look at the building blocks of community, including our government, how we earn a living, our community health care, growing food, ecovillages, permaculture and more.

Douglas Stevenson is a long-term member of The Farm, one of the largest and oldest ecovillages in the world. He is the author of The Farm Then and Now: A Model for Sustainable Living He is the host of GreenLife Retreats, including The Farm Experience Weekend and workshops on organic gardening, sustainability, and living the green life! Connect with Douglas on his website, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWSposts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.