Hi Y’all, Albert Bates here. For most of my life I have been working on ideas that could make the world a little better — more fair, more free, more ecologically and economically sustainable, and more fun. In 1972, straight out of law school, I joined The Farm, an experimental utopian hippy community in Summertown, Tennessee. I know, say what you will about hippies, but the fact of the matter is, we got many things right, and even when we were making pretty dumb mistakes, our hearts were in the right place. The Farm is one of the better things that emerged from the Sixties, and it has now become an award-winning ecovillage and a widely-replicated model of climate-aware, limits-aware, 21st century living.
In 1994, our non-profit, Global Village Institute, created the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm. Since then we have trained tens of thousands of people from more than 60 nations in subjects such as permaculture, midwifery, solar electricity, and natural building. Our trainings have been widely replicated, and since we are never one to stand in place for long, we’ve decided to move on to the next big thing. We’ve begun a major overhaul of our site to create more and better opportunities for interaction with the general public — including you!
The Farm is the oldest ecovillage in North America, but it lacks a place where visitors can stay and experience what it has learned about practical sustainability. It has outdoor classrooms that show student groups the practical elements of permaculture, edible landscape and appropriate technology, but lacks an auditorium that reflects its natural building skills, a hostel for overnight stays that is within the comfort zone of most visitors, a world class vegan kitchen stadium, and soaring artistic expressions that celebrate the best work of a generation.
Fifteen years ago we broke ground on a “living and learning” facility we called The Ecovillage Training Center. With a mere shoestring of funding, mostly small donations and volunteer work, we scratched out the core elements for a useful visitor experience: a rustic dormitory; wooded campsites; examples of strawbale, cob, earthships and geodesic domes; solar showers and organic gardens. That served its purpose, and since the mid-1990s hundreds of students have received permaculture design certificates and learned many other skills with which to construct ecovillages of their own. But under the surface, there are problems. There are too few bathrooms and showers, a weak internet connection, building shambles that date from the early 1970s and are falling apart, and far many more people who want to come and visit than can be housed and fed.
What is needed is a giant upgrade. We need a visitor center that can also serve as an ecohostel. We want to open up The Farm. We are calling our project Youre Inn at The Farm.
Tennessee’s most famous contemporary eco-architect, Howard Switzer, has designed a new building with dormitories, dining area, carbon-sequestering auditorium and industrial kitchen. With classrooms and workshops built below grade to eliminate the need for air conditioning, this 18000 sq-ft building will be solar powered, straw-, clay-, and biochar-walled, with roundpole post and beam framing, a living roof, bamboo floors, and carbon-minus winter heating. Constructed wetlands reclaim all liquid wastes, while composting systems and cradle-to-cradle recycling recover all solid wastes. A second, smaller facility will house our biofuel and energy production laboratory. Visitors can relax in the comfort of our Prancing Poet dining hall, share home brews with friends in the Green Dragon Tavern, stroll the grounds of The Farm and explore the trails of our nature preserve.
I know from personal experience that a project of this scale can be done. We didn’t have any grants or loans and we could not get any mortgages when we started The Farm, but we are still here, hundreds of us hippies, with our own schools, businesses, roads, water systems, and farmland. We still can’t get mortgages or bank loans because The Farm is a conservation land trust, and none of its land holdings could ever be foreclosed, or pledged as collateral. And yet, we started the Ecovillage Training Center 20 years ago and it has been running programs ever since. We began the Global Ecovillage Network with just 12 communities and now there are more than 20,000 ecovillages worldwide. All we need are more crazy visionaries like us; people who share a dream of a better world. It is not a world based on avarice and war, but on love and understanding. Ours is a vision of peace with nature, of becoming partners with butterflies, birds, and those with roots in the ground; of living in harmony with all our relations.
What we need and what you get
This campaign is just the first small step in our big idea. We are asking for $40,000 this winter, but we could easily use ten times or a hundred times that, and the project would only become ever better. So this is an open request, and the beginning of a longer conversation. We want your participation, and we invite you to visit and stay a while, but what we really want is to have a larger effect on the world. Here is what you get:
- Satisfaction and (if you want) recognition for helping to invent a better future;
- For $10,000, we build you a cabin onsite;
- For $5,000, you can stay 2 months in a family suite;
- For $1,000, you’ll have unlimited overnights in our dorms or campground, free!
- For $500, you’ll get a 30% discount at the EcoHostel, for life!
- For $100, you’ll get a free 4-day weekend stay, any time in the next 3 years;
- For $50, 10% off all visits by any member of your family for 3 years plus
- For $50, 10% off all items in our bookstore, including by mail;
- For $20, tour the site with Albert Bates for 1 hour, learning about the permacultural and ecological design aspects in detail; and
- If you cannot donate now, please share the link with your friends!
What we are doing here is preserving an important piece of history for future generations to study and learn from, but perhaps more importantly, we are demonstrating a model for what anyone can do, no matter where they are or what they have to begin with.
- The Farm is a model intentional community set on 4,000 acres of rolling Tennessee hills and dales.
- It has adopted the three legs of sustainability: social, ecological, and economic.
- It is net carbon minus — annually sequestering 5 times its own carbon footprint.
- The Farm Midwives are recognized worldwide for their contributions to the safety of home birth.
- The Farm School (K-12) is a 40-year pioneer in alternative education.
- Plenty International and Global Village Institute are award-winning relief and development organizations with amazingly effective projects on six continents.
Come and visit us, spend a weekend, enjoy some of our music festivals, workshops, and holiday events. Kick back, breathe clean air, enjoy our pure, limestone well water, have a lovely meal with friends and family…. at the EcoHostel you helped build!
Other Ways You Can Help
Some people just can’t contribute, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help:
- Ask folks to get the word out and make some noise about our campaign.
- Join our Farm team and take a special sense of pride in what we accomplish.
- Please use the share tools on this page
And that’s all there is to it. Over the last 40+ years, The Farm has become well known for many things, from natural childbirth and midwifery to healthy diet and vegetarian cuisine, creative arts, reforestation and alternative technologies to its partnerships and assistance to native cultures. We choose to live in community where we share our lives and fortunes, good times and hard times. We know that we are better people together than we could be separately, but we are not just the young folks who chose to live at this one place in Tennessee anymore. We are a much larger tribe, one that thinks about big issues and constantly strives to make things better, and to provide positive examples from which people learn. From which things change. Will you help?
Direct your friends to this page, Like our Facebook cause page and visit our website at www.i4at.org. We are a registered, tax-deductible charity. We’ll be posting more in the near future — a new website, videos, progress reports, so please make a small contribution now to stay updated as we go. Thanks!
Oh, and if you liked that music in the video, you can thank Jethro Jeremiah, who is part of our Farm family. The album is called Fire In Me and you can listen to more, for free, at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/fire-in-me/id134744846, If you like it, you should get the whole album!