Gaskin, founder of The Farm, dies at 79 - WSMV Channel 4

Gaskin, founder of The Farm, dies at 79

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Stephen Gaskin died Tuesday at age 79. Stephen Gaskin died Tuesday at age 79.
SUMMERTOWN, TN (WSMV) -

The most famous "hippie" commune in America has lost its founding father.

Stephen Gaskin, who led a caravan of psychedelic buses to a "promised land" in Summertown, died Tuesday at the age of 79.

Gaskin has been out of the public eye with vision and health problems for some years, but there was a time when he was making regular and radical headlines in Tennessee and across the nation.

It was a mind-blowing idea in 1971 – a place with no money, no guns and like-minded, long-haired people with an intention to live an organic life.

No question, Gaskin was the leader on The Farm, but everyone pitched in.

"We work the same as everybody does," Gaskin said in earlier interviews. "We're not one of the outfits to catch you at the airport and give you a paper flower and get $10 from you."

Eight years into the experiment, The Farm had branched out into printing, construction and solar power. It was breaking even.

Locals had accepted them, even if others still questioned their beliefs.

Gaskin could attract a crowd, but he said he preached nothing different: "Basic mainstream religious theory as reflected in all the major world religions the last 2000 years," said Gaskin.

Gaskin said he didn't grow the plants the authorities found, but took responsibility and went to prison for a year.

He lost his right to vote, but later took his case to the Tennessee Supreme Court and won, clearing the way for other ex-cons to vote again as well.

Gaskins' Farm changed a lot through the years from a true commune to more of a gated community with dues.

But it remained, in his words, transparent and trustworthy.

"You guys have been down here about 50 times, and so has the other channels in town and so has the newspapers and so have the neighbors," said Gaskin. "We're so transparent. Everybody has been through us about 40 times.

"There ain't a whole lot of big secrets in us," he said. "Anybody that says something about The Farm, that we're going to serve poison Kool-Aid or something, there are hundreds and thousands of Tennesseans who know we ain't."

Gaskin died at home surrounded by family.

The Farm has yet to announce any plans for a memorial or funeral service.

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