Voices From the Farm

Girl Mark lives down the road these days. Which means she stops by from time to time. Once she left a strange little paperback book on the kitchen table called Voices from the Farm.

Subtitled Adventures in Community Living, it is a collection of essays edited by Rupert Fike. It was published by The Book Publishing Company in 1998.

I suppose I should begin with the embarrassing admission that I had previously never heard of the place.

The Farm is a legendary hippie commune in Tennessee where a bunch of Californians stopped their caravan and made camp. At its peak it boasted 1500 residents, each with a vow of poverty-entwined together in a spiritual community that was determined to change the world.

Their contributions to contemporary thinking are vast. They became expert in the creation of soy dairies and propagated successful models which are still standing. They pioneered modern midwifery. And they were early mail order providers of mushroom spawn.

This book is a delightful collection of their stories, told by their residents, and past residents, about both the good times, and bad times on the Farm.

I believe what drew me to this book was not only my own ignorance, but also a curiosity about why Girl Mark would have dropped it at my place. Her disdain for hippies is well known.

What intrigued me were the amazing similarities between our project, and projects at the farm. We are not a spiritual community. Ending our own voluntary poverty is on the list.

Yet when a group of passionate humans approach a situation together, whether it is how to move a dead truck at the Farm, or how to move a Dumpster at the Coop, the likenesses are striking.

And compelling. I loved reading this book. One chapter entitled, “When Something Belongs to Everybody, It Doesn’t Belong to Anybody,” could be the perfect description of the way we have treated the Dodge.

Again and again this book struck a chord. Their creation of vocabulary. Our creation of vocabulary. Their wild adventures, spurred on by an intense sense of urgency, often amounting to little more than foolish errands. We prefer to stay “adventure free,” but it is not always the case.

Since reading this book, I have found everyone on the planet knows about the Farm but me.

Apparently Charris Ford was born at the farm. He’s the biodiesel rapper who founded Grassolean back in the day. Chris tells me a band from the Farm plays Shakori from time to time. Others have bought their books. Or their spawn. And many others have made trips to visit the place.

I need to give my copy back to Girl Mark, but when I ordered one today out at McIntyre’s (for the library at Industrial), the woman at the till recounted her trip to visit the Farm.

Anyone interested in an object lesson on how humans might change the world, and live together, will get a tremendous kick out of this book. I was sorry when it ended…

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4 Responses to Voices From the Farm

  1. Tarus says:

    I spent some time at Twin Oaks in Louisa, VA. To them The Farm was a model about what not to do. I’m not saying that they totally disliked The Farm, but there were some issues that Twin Oaks tried to correct. At one time the population of the farm was nearly 50% children. At Twin Oaks having children was strictly controlled, thus keeping the number closer to 25%. It was a much more serious utopia (grin). If you haven’t heard of them check out:


    There are a couple of books on Twin Oaks as well:


  2. kimmy says:

    Isn’t Utopia referring to Thomas More’s book? If so, his Utopia is nothing short of a Puritanical exercise
    in socialism. I guess my only point here is that we have turned “utopia” into a colloquialism meaning a
    social ideal.
    In reality, Utopia is not an ideal in many regards. And that is especially true with regard to individual freedoms.
    To me, there is one blaringly obvious issue that I find compelling
    and that is the tradeoffs between individual freedom and
    community interdependence…I think striking the balance between these two is a core issue when designing a
    I have heard of the farm in Tn. but not Twin Oaks.
    I’ll definitely add these books to my list.


  3. Tempeh production in the US was pioneered at The Farm (among a few other places), and they still are one of only a couple of suppliers of the rhizopus oligosporus mold innoculant commercially available in the US.

    So Lyle, although you may not have been aware of The Farm until a few days ago, you have eaten tempeh made from their R. oligosporus strains.

    Feel the Force…of the fungus amungus…

  4. Chris Blow says:

    the farm cookbook kicks ass.

    you know, if you’re into making tofu and stuff. I know you guys are kinda anti soybean 🙂

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