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Columns

February 3, 2014

The Farm of Franklin became a 'commercial for God' in the 1970s

Their mission was pretty simple.

“We’re out to save the world,” said Martin Goldberg, then 25, speaking about what was called a “spiritual community” near Franklin, better known as The Farm.

Goldberg spoke with The Daily Star in the early days of March 1976, about 15 months after he and about 30 others, ranging in ages from 18 to 40, purchased a farm on Campbell Road, about five miles south of Franklin. The group operated this farm as a religious, nonprofit organization.

The Farm became an offshoot of a parent farm in Lewis County, Tenn., and was one of 15 across the nation, a concept that was born in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco by a religious leader, referred to by Goldberg only as “Stephen.” When times were turbulent in the 1960s, thousands of college-age students turned their backs on conventional society and sought their own alternative lifestyles. Stephen was later identified as Stephen Gaskin, a former teacher at San Francisco State College and founder of the Tennessee farm.

The idea for the local farm began while Goldberg and about a half dozen friends were students at Syracuse University. They visited the farm in Tennessee and liked what they saw. While that farm wasn’t accepting any new members, Gaskin was encouraging the formation of similar communities.

Goldberg and his friends pooled their money and bought land in Franklin in late 1974. Others came to live on the 300 acres, some in trailers, a few in a tent, but most shared a house.

The men of this community — they didn’t like it to be called a commune — worked together as contractors in a firm called Primo Construction to provide a source of income. Profits from the business went into a collective fund. Once a year, after taxes were paid, the income was divided among members. When not out on contract jobs, all members farmed their acreage for vegetables, as they were strict vegetarians.

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