A Short History of the Farm
How is the Farm Community collective?
by Douglas Stevenson
From 1971 to 1983, The Farm (in Summertown, TN)was perhaps the largest "commune" in the United States. Its members held all things in common, which meant no one held personal money and the fruits of all labors where shared. Every job and task, no matter how menial or glorious, was considered to have equal status, because we as human beings were all equal and each person's labor was given respect for their contribution to the whole.
However by the fall of 1983, that system was beginning to crack under its own weight. Shared medical expenses, shared business losses and a struggling economy in the midst of the country's first oil crisis, threatened to put the community into bankruptcy with the land lost to satisfy the many debts that had accumulated over the previous decade.
To remedy the situation , the leadership within the community instituted a grand new plan, known to this day as "The Changeover." The new economic system put the collective burden of supporting the operating costs of the community more directly on the shoulders of its members. It also returned the responsibility of basic living expenses to the individual or to the family.
It was a shock to the system and over the next two years hundreds of people abandoned ship. By 1985, the population had settled to a core group of about 100 adults and 150 kids. These core members paid off all of the debts, secured the land, and began the long journey of emergence into the community as it is today.
While many aspects of the Farm's communal system were forced to change and adapt, at its core The community remains one of the most unique social and collective systems found anywhere in the world.
People often ask, "How is the Farm still collective?" Below you find some of the answers. Every system has its pros and cons and ours is no exception. The Farm continues, based on a foundation of mutual trust and a shared future.