Stephen Gaskin, free thinker and founder of the The Farm Commune, passes away at 79

By Craig Issod

Stephen Gaskin – well known founder of the The Farm Commune – died peacefully surrounded by family on July 1, 2014.

As a former resident of The Farm, I am in touch with hundreds of members and extended family and friends – most of whom consider Stephen to have been a force for good in their lives.

Stephen married my wife and I and we had our first child on The Farm – using The Farm midwives. I learned my first trades on The Farm and was able to parlay that knowledge into a number of successful careers.

Here are a couple links to news stories about Stephen’s passing:
Washington Post
New York Times

Here is a link to one of our articles written about The Farm:

A link to the current Farm Community.

I have many of my own thoughts about The Farm and Stephen’s influence on myself and others. I’ll share some here:

“First, I think I learned that brave people are truly few. Stephen, with all his faults, rose way above the pack in terms of bravery (putting himself out front – sticking to ideals). Not to venerate – because I feel that’s a human weakness, but we do need more people who act in the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” manner. On a more personal note, I think many of Stephens teaching were those of the ages…just modified for the way we (in the counterculture/baby boomers) communicated. He also emphasized DOING over being conceptual.”

“Dazzle them with your Fancy Footwork” is a quote I attribute to Stephen – not sure if I just heard it or if it was written.
In context the meaning was “hey, y’all have long hair and a funny way of dressing and talking, so when you go to work for other people do a MUCH better job than they expect and they will react properly”. In other words, hard work and honestly cut across all lines of society. It’s a simple but effective piece of wisdom which probably existed long ago and has been stated in other ways since. But we hippies had to hear it in a way that it appealed to us!”

Stephen’s influence is too wide and deep to fit in any article or book. However, as just one example, here is a small tribute to Stephen written by The Woz – Apple Computer founder – Steve Wozniak:

“In every walk of life we take care of each other and owe all that we achieve to friends and family. How we treat other humans is much more important than creating products and wealth. Our principles in life should always be much more important than that. As much as we can teach others, our actions and examples pass on the goodness in our heads to others.
Thank you for inspiration at a critical time in my life when I was deciding what sort of person I wanted to be.”

I think the Woz summed it up for many of us. Inspiration when we were deciding what kind of people we wanted to be….

And so, let me Thank A Hippie – Thank You, Stephen…

Note – picture below is not posted on this site – it’s from Robert Altman, a famous photographer.
Stephen Gaskin - by Robert Altman

Growing up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians

Growing Up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians
written by Craig Issod – © 2012
Republishing allowed with credit…

Introduction

I was born in Philadelphia in November of 1953 – a baby boomer, for certain, albeit on the younger end of that generation. Although many periods in history are full of upheaval and change, there is something unique about the speed and severity of the changes which started to occur as I entered primary school. The sequence of events are fairly well known, but to see them close at hand as a growing child was quite alarming.

I was 7 years old when JFK was elected and definitely remember all the hubbub. The country was ecstatic over our young and vibrant President and his beautiful family. The space race was on and I distinctly remember the feeling of pride as the first astronauts were conquering the unknown of space flight. The heroes of my youth were folks like Chuck Yeager, who flew the X-15 and John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth. Those were heady times – but they seemed to come crashing down with the assassination of JFK. Most every member of my generation remembers exactly what they were doing at the very moment – and then, sadly, in the days that followed. I was in third grade at the time and remember our teacher sitting down and crying and telling us all. We kids also cried and were sent home early. The nation was transfixed as we watched events unfold from there.

For many Americans, this was the end of innocence – and while it may have been a faux innocence, it was never the less quite real to those of us who were children at the time.
Continue reading Growing up Hippie – Living with the Rastafarians

Music – the soundtrack of the hippie life

Jefferson Airplane in Central Park
Jefferson Airplane in Central Park

Music was a very important aspect of the counterculture – in fact, it may have been the single most important communication medium of the time. Virtually every home in the USA had a record player – and most people had multiple radios as well as TV – although Television was not the main medium for music. The rise of FM radio in the mid 1960’s assured better signal strength and much higher quality.

Book have been written on the music of the 60’s so we will not attempt to replicate that here. Rather I will lay out some of the major musical types, basic timelines and other facts and opinions which will give a historical overview.

For ease of classification, I will break down 60’s music into genres – although, as we will see, the music soon transcended any narrow definitions. What can be said is that the majority of the music is staunchly AMERICAN and that, by and large, it ended up conquering the entire world.
Continue reading Music – the soundtrack of the hippie life

The Wrecking Crew

The link below will download the PDF story of The Farm Wrecking Crew. A short part of the introduction is copied below that link.

Note – in terms of the timeline of Farm history, most of this story ties in with or follows Cliff Figalo’s blog entries below:

http://farmola.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/technologies-for-living-year-2/
and
http://farmola.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/tent-life/

Photos in here are taken by various Farm photogs and non-photogs including D. Frohman, D. Stevenson and other – used with permission when possible.

Link to PDF of The Wrecking Crew: wreckingcrew

Martha and I started out as members of the West Virginia Farm, a small satellite operation with approx. 40 brave souls hacking basic survival out of the hollows of the Mountain State. A good friend from Philadelphia, Andrew Stein, had also come out to WV and joined with our efforts.

In early 1972, it was decided that the main Farm (TN. Farm) would purchase an additional 750 acres next to the existing 1,000 and that the WV Farm residents would move south in an attempt to consolidate a larger workforce and better connected community. In April of 1972, we packed up a few buses, cars, pickups and a U-Haul and headed down to the Motherland.

Upon settling in, various job offerings were made available via a bulletin board. I chose to start working at the Soy Dairy, which fit well with my introverted character, as our crew consisted of only 3 full time milkmen. This turned out to be an enjoyable gig and, of course, I was able to stay well nourished on soy milk and eventually other products which we created such as soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy shakes and soysage (upset stomachs aside!). The job had other benefits such as being able to listen to the Farm Band practices, which took place in a tent adjacent to the Soy Dairy.

After a few months at the Dairy, Andrew approached me and asked if I wanted to join a new crew he had just become the “crew chief” of. Although there had formerly been a Salvage Crew, Andrew had the energy to take the effort to a much higher level, so I was excited to become a part of the newly christened Wrecking Crew. The idea was simple – we needed vast amounts of materials for tent floors, community buildings and houses and the best way for us to get them was by recycling old houses, barn and commercial buildings. We did this by taking them apart from the top down – piece by piece.

The Farm – perhaps the most vibrant commune of the “counterculture” era

Note – as is mentioned in some other posts here, my wife and I lived on a commune called The Farm for a few years in the mid-1970’s. I will write up some of my own stories and outlooks on the experience, but for those who want to know what we were about, the following story by a fellow “farmie” should answer….
—————-

The Farm: A Case Study in Creating a New Consciousness and Culture
by Milt Wallace

In the dance between developing individual consciousness and a newly evolving culture, small groups that are in some way isolated from the larger culture can play an important role in creating, incubating and beginning to stabilize the new ideas and values. As the Post Modern paradigm emerged in the 70’s and 80’s, The Farm, a hippy spiritual community was one such group. Because of its size, outreach, and spiritual depth, The Farm’s impact was significant.

Post Modern Culture had its beginnings more than a century ago, but the turbulent years which included the Cold War, the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, the Kent State killings, and much more ignited a cultural revolution that led many baby boomers to question the status quo, and to search for some new meaning to life. Travel any highway and you would find young people and some not so young along the road, leaving their middle class homes or aborting their college educations and looking for something new. Modern Consciousness and Culture had a long run with its roots in the 16th century, but as we passed the middle of the 20th century, many came to feel that things weren’t working so well any more.
Continue reading The Farm – perhaps the most vibrant commune of the “counterculture” era