Friday, January 07, 2011

Lifeboats: A Memoir

[This is a guest post by Albert, whose amazing erudition and experience gives him the right to tell just about anyone to sit down, shut up and listen—although he is far too nice to actually say that. But I am not, so I will: sit down, shut up and listen.]
During the early days of The Farm, 1971-1973, we learned a number of lessons that will be useful again now that a rapid petrocollapse scenario is likely to come to pass. The Farm spiritual community emerged from a 50-bus caravan of 320 Haight-Ashbury refugees fleeing hard drugs, exploitation and counterculture tourism. After a year on the road the gypsy vagabonds pooled inheritances and purchased 1050 acres (450 hectares) of land 80 miles (130 km) from Nashville. It was US$70 per acre.

The Farm grew to a standing population of well over 1000, with 20 satellite centers, then, in the early 1980s, declined and decollectivized, bringing its population to under 200. Since then it has experienced something of a renaissance, finding new popularity amongst permaculturists, ecovillagers, and roving students. But let’s begin at the beginning, when our group landed in Tennessee.

Living in remodeled school buses was quite an adequate introduction to “roughing it,” especially for those of us who had never gone camping as children. The “honey pot” latrine bucket, mosquito-proof backpacker tents, canteens, flashlights, storm lanterns, and two-burner Coleman stoves were familiar to the pioneer settlers by the time they first stepped off the bus.

The land itself was barren of amenities save a small log cabin, a horse barn and a line shack, and so the first order of business was setting up facilities for bathing, sanitation, kitchen and sleeping. I’ll skip over the organizational aspects here because they would require a lengthier and more nuanced discussion; suffice it to say that circumnavigating North America in a 50-bus caravan required a degree of organization similar to running a rock-and-roll band tour. That’s enough organization to get you started in designing and constructing a settlement, although perhaps not enough to keep it intact for very long.

For pumped water, an engine was lifted from a Volkswagen Bug and set on blocks in a springhouse. A well-used and rusting 5700 liter (1500 gallon) water tower was purchased for scrap value, repaired and erected atop a hill above the springhouse. This required minor welding and auto mechanics, as well as a continuous supply of petrol. Some years later, when power lines came in, the VW engine and springhouse were replaced with a submersible pump and well. Today it would have been built with photovoltaics or wind power, but such technology, while already available in the 1970s, was well beyond the reach of a community that subsisted on average per capita cash income of US$1 per day for its first 13 years.

After the first winter, a second, larger water tower was erected near a 100 meter (300 foot) well with good aquifer recharge. The tower was salvaged from a railroad company for a purchase price of US$1, but moving and erecting the tower and tank required a crane. From the towers, water was delivered to homes in 20 liter (5 gallon) jugs by horse wagon.

While the buses provided initial shelter, with more than 6 residents per bus on average, after 8 to 12 months of living on the road most people wanted to get out into better housing, as quickly as possible. At the time, the government of the State of Tennessee held monthly auctions of surplus property, and Korean War vintage army tents could be bought for as little as US$15. These formed the basis of our first foray into home construction. With salvaged materials from construction sites and dumpsters, they morphed into “touses and hents.” Going into a partnership with a nearby sawmill allowed us to add some beautiful timber-frame buildings and D-frames. Common buildings such as the community kitchen, motor pool, canning & freezing, print shop, clinic and school sprang almost entirely from salvaged materials. Scraping mortar off cement blocks and straightening nails become well-practiced skills.

There was limited electricity to the site, and for an entire decade almost all of our electricity came from 12-volt DC systems powered by car batteries. Initially the batteries were charged by switching them through vehicles every day, but full discharge cycles make for short battery life, so after trying novel methods of pedal power, bamboo wind generators and other wacky ideas, most houses went to a “trickle charge” system — a long copper cable run through the trees to a central power center that took its electrons from Tennessee Valley Authority (although we always sent them back in the next nanosecond). 

At one of these power centers, where we did our canning and freezing, we erected walk-in coolers and freezers. Refrigeration was a necessity that is as difficult to avoid as it is to achieve. A few of the buses came with propane-powered fridges and they were a blessing. Most of the households relied on a system of 5-gallon (20 liter) buckets that rotated to the walk-in coolers and freezers near the cannery. Buckets with tight lids were obtained from dumpsters behind the McDonalds in town. The other essential item was a Flexible Flyer wooden wagon with slatted sides. If you couldn’t get your parents to give one of those to their grandchildren for Christmas, the next best thing was to weld a bike trailer or pushcart to get your buckets to the neighborhood cooler.

Buckets were also employed to carry diapers and laundry to a communal laundromat, which was set up near another trickle-charge node. Salvaged coin-op equipment was purchased in bulk, the coin slots replaced with toggle switches, and a large diaper rinse and centrifuge babe-manure extractor installed. The grey- and black-water flowed to a constructed wetlands and rainbird, creating what today, 40 years later, are some of the richest soils on the property.

Communal unisex showering facilities were constructed in places with good supplies of water and a way to heat it: downhill from the original water tower; beside Canning & Freezing and the Farm Store; at the Farm School and print shop.

A flour mill took over the tack room in the horse barn. Initially we used a small stone mill to grind corn meal. Later we bought a larger, 3-break steel feed mill and set it up in the line shack, connected to 3-phase AC power. Arrayed around the roller mill were Clipper seed cleaners, sifters, a coffee roaster, an oat huller, and bagging racks. Within a year the mill was churning out a ton per day of wheat, corn, soy and buckwheat flours, pastry flours, corn meal, grits, groats, mixed cereals and porridges, horse feed, soy nuts, popcorn, coffee, and peanut butter.

Transportation and communications were priorities, because our sustainability depended on commerce, and without good transportation and communications any attempts to create a business would have been hampered. Bear in mind that for the first 13 years the experiment was communal, meaning shared purse. Just as many societies throughout history, we have found that in times of difficulty a reversion to communal economics provides greater survival advantages than the exercise of individuated private property rights. After achieving stability, most drop the communal form in order to stimulate greater enterprise. This was the path taken by Amana, Oneida, many kibbutzim, The Farm, the People's Republic of China, and, now, Cuba.

Any group that can cross the country in 30-year-old school buses will learn something about automotive mechanics. Our motor pool and junkyard became one of the technology hubs for The Farm, a place where anything from a hay rake to a fire truck could be machined and rebuilt, nearly from scratch.

The first two teams of horses, black Belgians and white Percherons, were acquired from neighboring Old Order Amish. They laughed at our feeble attempts, as vegans, to replace leather harness with more hippy-kosher canvas and Naugahide. “How’d you raise that nauga?” they’d ask. Interesting koan!

Communication was accomplished through a rapid succession of home and business devices. The log cabin became the business center with two phone lines. On US$1 per person per day, personal long distance charges were unaffordable, but one of our caravaners was an Eagle Scout with a ham radio merit badge, and he made a radio shack in the horse barn and began training ham radio operators to staff an amateur band Farm Net. Before the Internet I was WB4LXJ.

A 12-volt telephone system was installed to link every bus, tent, home and business. The dial tone was replaced with a Grateful Dead or reggae melody or a public service announcement (1000 jars of catsup planned today, canners needed; line at the laundry is now 90 minutes; bean shucking and banjo at horse barn 7 pm). The dial itself was replaced with a pushbutton that you used for Morse code to signal where you were calling. Four shorts meant “all points.” It was a party line, but there was a second carrier band, the “Hot Line,” used for emergencies. A toggle switch flipped you over to that band where an operator was always on call, sitting at a phone console to summon fire, police and ambulance and to assume management of the emergency. This pre-dated most emergency telephone services.

Emergencies were taken seriously, and fire marshals, gate and patrol security, and emergency medical responders were treated as actual jobs from the very beginning. Each became more sophisticated as the body of experience grew. Naive hippies learned to adjust to the rigors of self-reliance, which could sometimes be terrifying, such as when a kerosene lamp tips over in a canvas tent, the Ku-Klux-Klan rides up to the front gate or a deputy sheriff wanders into the marijuana patch while hunting deer.

Finding additional uses for the copper wires we passed through the treetops, we sent a TV signal through the phone lines, and could download direct network feeds from a 12-foot (3.7 meter) dish made of pine 2x4s and chicken wire. We watched the Watergate hearings that way. We produced our own shows, too, sent from the Bandland Studio tent to 12-volt TVs in tents and buses. If you were within 30 feet of the phone line, you could pick up the signal on channel 3. We watched Greenpeace work out its chess moves with the Spanish Navy in real time, using a slo-scan ham TV transmitter installed on the bridge of the Rainbow Warrior, sort of a proto-Animal-Planet pilot.

Eventually, when CB radios became popular, we were able to install them in our vehicles and interface them with the ham radio and “Beatnik Bell” phone system. Free international calls became possible. Our “Extra Class” hams grew in proficiency and could link to satellites, monitor police, military and secret service sidebands, and bounce audio, digital and TV signals around the world to an expanding Farm Net.

A weekly newspaper, Amazing Tales of Real Life, began coming out of the print shop, along with a host of do-it-yourself books that turned into a brand. A brisk traffic in daily visitors, more than a hundred some days, required tour crews and a large hostel tent, but also supplied nearly free labor for the fields.

From the very first arrival of the buses and through the first 5 years a community dining facility was an essential efficiency, and one of the main reasons that living could be so cheap. Milk was made from soybeans, which became tofu, mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream. Soybeans were also made into coffee, tempeh, soysage (from okara), soyburgers and stroganoffs. A bushel of dry soybeans (35 liters) cost US$3 (US$7 today). The protein needs (with all 8 essential amino acids in good proportion) for a hard-laboring farm worker can be supplied on less than a pound (450 grams) per day, rehydrated and made into gourmet vegan cuisine. Thinking of storing food for emergencies? Include soybeans.

Tracing back down memory lane to my experience then: a young man of 25 arriving at The Farm in 1972 with just a backpack; being greeted by the Night Sentry and shown a place to sleep; going for a breakfast at the Community Kitchen, porridge and sorghum molasses, soysage and corn biscuits; then to the field in a horse wagon; harvesting sorghum cane with a machete and piling it into the wagon; at the end of the day returning to my assigned, dirt-floored army tent lit by candles; supper of bean soup and cornbread with pickled japape├▒os; guitars and song around a fire under the canopy of stars; abiding sense of harmony in the world; community.


Doyu Shonin said...

Love this! We were members of a farm commune in north Georgia and met Stephen and company in Piedmont Park in Atlanta. The talk was very inspiring. I think The Farm happened after that.

Striking out on our own, we homesteaded a place in the coastal mountains of Oregon and adopted 12 volt technology there. Nostalgic video here.

Our method was to run a battery isolator and golf cart batteries in the car, and hook the car up to the house at night. The next owner could afford to, and did, go solar (and still does, though the house was rebuilt somewhat to please some county inspector types).

It was a good life. Two babies were born there; they are now entering middle age ...

Cliff Figallo said...

Great to see Albert posting our story here. I agree that the communal arrangement - and the strong shared sense of mission - was the only way we could have kept developing the basics of food, shelter and transportation during the first 4-6 years. The transition from a collective to a cooperative (what would you call it now, Albert?) was a bit clumsy. The agreements started breaking down.

Unknown said...

Thanks Al and Dmitry,
I spent most of my time on the satellite Farms. We had our ups and downs, but for me the Farm was much more valuable than a college education.

Lauren said...

It was an education indeed. I quit college to go there and did quite a bit of growing up there. I remember working hard. I helped retool the washing machines and the rewiring of dozens of telephones to be used in our first network as well as many hours in the fields and helping with the horses and the community kitchen. I missed being a Ham 0perator by a few points on the test tho. Oh well. It was fun learning all the math and science necessary for that test...what kind of degree do you think I'd have qualified for :-) The biggest thing though was learning how to live with a large group of people from all kinds of backgrounds. And when it comes down to it, you have to have that to accomplish anything at all. When I think about how much must have been learned on the Caravan, I understand the dynamics better. Great point Albert!

Anonymous said...

As one with 20 years' roots in the printing industry, I am super crazy interested in the print shop. What type of press did you use? How did you procure paper, ink, & parts? Did you ever make ink from the soybeans? Fascinating that it was among one of the first things you got up and running in the early days — what needed to be printed?

ausPPC said...

Thanks Albert! And Dmitry! I really appreciate being able to read about things like this.

Robin Datta said...

The communal identity is the necessary motivation to pool the skills and abilities of the group in the endeavour to survive. No one person can master all the skills and acquire all the abilities needed for even a minimally human existence.

One might expect repetitions of The Farm experiment many times over in the transition to a post-industrial society: they may have even less of the outside world to depend upon, and not only will their success depend on the retention and transmission of the many low-tech skills, but in no small measure on the ability to foster the community spirit and maintain the community identity.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the post on 'The Farm'. for those of us who were part of the back to the land movement of the late 60's early 70's, we are seeing a bit of deja vu all over again. it brought back memories of my lucky find of a Jacob's 32 volt windcharger with 16 intact 2 volt glass batteries out in west central Minnesota...

the book 'Living the Good Life' by Scott and Helen Nearing was one of our primers in those days, but when i met Scott in 1970, it was clear as a NON astroeconomist (i think he was Harvard trained) he foresaw exactly the dimensions, if not the scope, of the current situation worldwide based on a clear and penetrating analysis of the underpinnings of our economy and trajectory at that time. his book directly addressed each and every issue and what we could do at the household level. the book by his wife following his death 'Loving and Leaving the Good Life' is a useful read for those wondering how best to situate ourselves to check out at the appropriate time. in death, as in life, Scott demonstrated what a civilized person he was, and how we might be.

i hope to see more postings regarding the amazing and practical projects of those times, and the social arrangements that emerged or were engendered.

as i recall, one of the games on 'The Farm' was to see who could eat the most super hot jalapeno peppers out in the field without passing out. was that so, any who were there? such was part of the fun of rural living...

vera said...

Albert, thank you! A fabulous narrative. I've always wondered what happened in the early 80s when things changed. Please please do another installment!

Purple Quill (Annie) said...

It's fine for famine food, but I question the appropriatness of trying to "live" on soy. It's hard to digest and contains anti-nutrients which BLOCK vitamins and minerals (most notably, calcium). Also, when consumed daily in amounts as small as 10 grams, the phyto-estrogens begin to act as a drug. You will eventually chemical castrate yourself, if you don't destroy your thyroid first.

Check out "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Keith or "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. Since we're going to have to take a major step back from technology, we should look to what healthy, robust cultures ate for thousands of years prior to subjugation--rather than what technology has only recently created and supported with it's complex medical industry.

Wendy said...

What a wonderful story! It must have been an incredible experiencing. I have a copy of Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery. Amazing book!

We can learn so many important lessons about how we are likely to be living in the not too distant future by looking to projects like The Farm.

Stephen Bach said...

Cooperative living is a great form of social organization. One of the critical elements is governance: decision-making, and then implementation management. Check out the Fellowship for Intentional Community, and the Communities Directory.

Cliff Figallo said...

We all shared a pantheon of heroes, from the local Amish to the Nearings to Stewart Brand, spiritual leaders from the past and present. Declaring a spiritual but not religious foundation encouraged us to trust one another, which helped grease the wheels for getting things done. As Albert wrote, we were resourceful by necessity. We didn't have to stay there and do that. People left all the time, but there was a stable core.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating, I live just a few hours from the farm and always wondered about its history. I have friends that are part of the return to the farm movement in S. Korea and I have also know people who lived in even more primitive ways directly off the land. What I gather from their, rather than my own, experiences is that learning to live with a lot less (less heat, less food, less of everything) and having reasonable expectations, rather than grandiose visions, for what can actually be accomplished with the available resources are important ingredients for those who survive in these communities over the long term. Coming to terms with political economy that you and your group are still very much a part of also seems important. Most of my friends who remain on their farms, often in relatively primitive living conditions without commonly accepted comforts, are people with a very simple vision of what they are trying to accomplish, who accepted and even enjoyed a life of less, and came, albeit in some cases with great difficulty, to terms with the greater political economy surrounding them; a polity from which most the majority were originally trying to escape.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I would love to hear about the "next stages".

Unknown said...

We tried to live by The Golden Rule there. For me, I thought, what have I got to lose...I can always go back to SF and get a regular job, again, if this doesn't work out. It was like pioneering for the first couple of years, getting to know each other, feeding ourselves on a vegetarian diet, living in group households of over 40 sometimes! But, the key was to learn how to build a community from scratch. We knew what was needed-a school, a clinic, farming, house building, roads, vehicle maintenance...but we also tried to be 'spiritual', which was interesting at times, because of the structure of having a 'spiritual teacher' and we used psychedelics to help us learn about our world-inside and outside...

All-n-all it was a good experience with long lasting friendships and skills learned on the fly, but it had some pitfalls, too, like unplanned hierarchy and poor fiscal management, which led to the community going through major changes in the early '80s...but, that's another story...

It's still good to love your neighbor as thyself, but also to recognize the balance between group think vs. freedom of individual expression.

Zed Saldanha said...

Sorry to interrupt the memories guys. But would it be simplistic to say that if should a community such as The Farm be founded today cohesion would be enhanced because:
1) The outside world would be objectively worse.
2) Improvements in technology since the early 70s could make the inside better?

DeVaul said...

"After achieving stability, most drop the communal form in order to stimulate greater enterprise. This was the path taken by Amana, Oneida, many kibbutzim, The Farm, the People's Republic of China, and, now, Cuba."

I found this statement to be the most important part of the entire article. I have thought about it for a long time now, and I am still not sure how I feel about it.

On the one hand, one must ask whether there is any point in creating places like "The Farm" if the ultimate goal or outcome is to achieve "stability", since this leads to what we already have: a relatively stable society that is killing the earth through the process of "free enterprise".

In other words, is communal living just an emergency situation that we accept for a time until we are ready for a more "advanced" form of living? (which we will then later attempt to flee from).

I guess I am still having trouble understanding this part.

Otherwise, a great and informative article on communal living.

Cliff Figallo said...

Benny, I think about those questions from time to time. A lot has changed since 1970 that would affect the social process, including the communications technology. Would everyone give up their cell phones? Well, maybe, if the infrastructure collapsed.

Lauren said...

As my Dad always used to tell me, you can't get away from human nature. I used to get so mad at him. We were going to change the world! Ah...but he was right. Must tend to that no matter what the technology. In fact it's even more critical the more 'sophisticated' the technology gets.

Bakhirun said...

Living in Jakarta, a teeming tropical megapolis of some 18 million souls (many of whom do not lead very healthy lives) I am wondering just how to deal with the breakdown of pharmaceutical manufacturing. Is there any clever, simple, economical fashion to create antibiotics, or tetanus vaccine (no joke this one)? This is not meant to be a stupid question but really sounds like one. How about elementary medications like disinfectants?

(I must confess I have gotten into the rather risky habit of eating sulfate drugs like Sulcolon and antibiotics like Bactrim like candy when I have a problem, as nobody here has much confidence in local medicine men. This got me thinking about post-collapse medications.)

Anonymous said...

Great piece. Thank you! But as a young man with a little cash and not much hope for the current system, this begs the question:

Anyone wanna buy up a large plot of good land and help start something like this up? Anyone have ideas of where to get cheap, good land or any know any giving or like-minded folks with a large lot to sell or donate? I'd throw down some moolah...time to put our money where our mouths are imho.


Unknown said...

Given the vast number of Chinese peasants who make and eat tofu daily, it's hard to believe Purple Quill's remarks about soybeans in the diet!

subgenius said...

A belated thanks for the article Albert. And please write more....


I am at the end of a long stretch of studying (formally - soon to be informally studying for the remainder of my life...) Traditional Chinese Medicine / Classical Chinese Medicine (there is a big difference, but that's another story).

There are many effective techniques for treating what in the biomedicine paradigm would be treated with antibiotics and other petroleum-derived pharmaceuticals.

But (and here is the caveat...) you need to train with serious old-school practitioners to really understand this - modern TCM did a moderately good job of throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it reformulated the Classics, and the convoluted (to a westerner) thought process of the Classical masters takes a lot of effort to even begin to follow - there is no "if A then B"-type logical thought.

I set out on this path as a result of biomedicine failing me and subsequently being successfully treated with herbs by a 70 year-old Taiwanese grandmother with no English... Subsequently I have seen cases of long-standing heart arrhythmias (several cases, each with a history of several failed heart surgeries), several cases of bone marrow problems resulting in frequent blood transfusion and dialysis, cases of mitigating the effects of polio myelitis, recovery of motor function after severe nervous-system injury and stroke, etc.

While I have not seen it used to replace antibiotics (I am studying in the west, and so it is illegal to go against the biomed paradigm), the teachers I study with have treated epidemic disease etc in China, Vietnam, etc.

Actually one of the rasons I took this path was the understanding that the end of cheap petroleum would stand a good chance of bringing down the entire edifice of western biomedicine as currently practiced. There are few in the medical community who are paying attention to the approaching crisis.

DeVaul said...


Yours is a good question, but unfortunately, the current climate does not favor the purchase of rural land here in America. Those that own the land still do not understand that real estate has collapsed in value, so they still hold out hoping to sell for anywhere between $3,000 to $10,000 an acre in many places -- sometimes much, much more.

I know, because I have been searching for a mix of farmland and woodland after my father died and left me a small insurance benefit. The sky-high prices were not within my reach, so I paid off the mortgage on my home instead.

I have been wanting to plant Indian corn again for many years, but I cannot find a person with land to spare or willing to allow me to use a small part for that. It is ridiculously easy to grow, makes great cornmeal, and will grow in the middle of any kind drought, but farmers call it "feed corn", and don't want it except for decorative purposes.

I suggest you wait until landholders finally go under and must sell under duress or at auction. It's a shame, because I can remember when farmland only cost about $500 an acre or so.

Patrick said...


There ARE problems with eating lots of soy, for different reasons. It's not a totally benign "health food."

Check out this article:

Kevin Anderson K9IUA said...

Thanks for writing this, Albert, and for posting this, Dmitry.

A question for the founders of The Farm: Would it have happened if you weren't already formed as a group?

My sense is not. The idea today of a person buying land and then opening it up for a commune wouldn't succeed. But that the farm happened because it is already a group, and a fairly large group at that. So my sense is that to have the farm happen today, one first needs to create the movement, a committed group of people who are already living and traveling together, with the location, the settling down, coming later.

russell1200 said...

I was reading Rossbeth Moss Kanter’s Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective.

She really does a great job of going through a lot of different questions and issues. She is somewhat limited in that she wrote it before the 1970s commune movement had fully run its course.

But time after time, it seems that the single greatest predictor of commune success was the level of commitment required of its members. That initial benchmark of commitment seemed to be the key. How easy it was to leave was almost immaterial.

Albert Bates said...

Prof. Kantner was seminal in the field but I tend to disagree with many of her points. So, for instance, she equates longevity with success, and I think that in any experiment, success comes from what you experience and learn in the process, regardless of how long it lasts. There do seem to be repeated patterns to communal experiments, however, and Prof. Donald Pitzer coined the term "developmental communalism" to describe the phenomenon of decollectivization once a communal group attains material stability. Pitzer notes, however, that the communal option may not be abandoned in its entirety, and some groups even revert when, for instance, aging presents them with similar challenges to those they experience in their youth. I would extend that to the challenge of peak everything and climate chaos.

Whether the experience of The Farm is replicable now misses the point. Of course it is not. But I think Cliff Figallo and others make a good point that the "boot camp" phase is an essential ingredient to unit cohesion. Shared suffering and triumph welds a common bond that is more enduring and deeper than reading an instruction manual or The Witch of Hebron. In my workshops on ecovillage design I use the term "invisible architecture" to describe this aspect of community. I believe it is far more important to construct this part than the visible part. Gemeinschaft must ultimately prevail over gesellschaft. See wikipedia if you need to further understand those terms.

I appreciate that people would like me to explore the later years, but I will leave that to my later years. In the meantime, have a look at Melvyn Stiriss's forthcoming book, Voluntary Peasants; Rupert Fike's collection of oral histories, Voices from The Farm; or some of the other writings that have appeared and are linked from The Farm's website.

As for soybeans, this is a longer and separate discussion and I doubt I would persuade Patrick of anything. This debate has raged since The Farm began. I have been in messy public confrontations with Bill Mollison on this. Soybeans have a trypsin inhibiter that is poisonous to digestion, but can be deactivated by extended cooking (boiling or pressure cooking until the beans are soft enough to mash between your tongue and the roof of your mouth). If you are farting after eating beans, they are still not cooked enough to detox the inhibiter. I'm with Zhu on this; soya goes back 2000 years. I am in a four generation soybean family and our health is excellent, thank you. Like the nixtamalization of maize, the ancients learned they could make the product digestible by curding tofu or fermenting it into tempeh. Soy isolates, like you find in everything from packaged milk to infant formula, are not the same. These are to soy as HFC is to masa. Quite often, they even come packaged in BPA plastics, but don't get me started. I spurn Braggs Aminos in favor of authentic shoyu, in glass or ceramic containers.

more in next comment...

Albert Bates said...

... continued

Lets see, what else? Ah! Printing. We began with a Davidson letter press and kept it going even as we scaled up to larger 4-color presses. When we got to the web-press production scale we did not go that route but farmed jobs out to Donnelly in Chicago. My book, Climate in Crisis (1990) was the first Donnelly ever printed in soy ink on 100% recycled acid-free paper, with the ink clays still embedded (those with first editions will notice how dark the graphics are -- we hadn't recognized yet that leaving the inks unbleached means you need less ink for the next printing). Our 4-color presses ran about 10 years and churned out books, posters, flyers, album covers. The Book Company still exists but no longer prints on site, but it issues 20-30 new titles per year now, including being the world's largest imprint for Native American authors. I was just speaking to one of our residents who has become fluent in Cherokee.

If you visit the website(s) there is information on visiting the Farm, a calendar of events and workshops throughout the year, apprenticeships in permaculture and natural building, and "Farm Experience Weekends." We invite people to come and judge for themselves whether the experiment might be judged what Kantner would call a "success."

sacramentodan said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. I stumbled upon it by chance, and wow, what a treat. I would love to read more about it and learn how it all turned out.

InalienableWrights said...

Thanks for filling in some of the blanks.

I was introduced to the farm in 1982 at the age of 23 by reading "Spiritual Midwifery" which influenced my daughters being born at home.

That was 30 years ago and I am going to make it to the farm here in the next couple of years as I have settled in Missouri.

SlowBro said...

Fascinating story! I'd first read of The Farm from Peter Jenkins' "A Walk Across America."

I read your story on Saturday, then on Sunday bumped into a former Amish who grew up just a few miles from The Farm :-) He may have been with the Amish referenced in the story above. They shared services; for example, his own birth was from a Farm midwife.

Small world. Thanks for sharing.