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The Legacy of Vermont's Counterculture Communes

07/14/08 12:00PM By Jane Lindholm
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In the 1960s and early seventies, thousands of disaffected young people migrated to rural Vermont and neighboring areas to live together on communal farms. Most of these communes are long gone, but their legacy remains. Our guest Tom Fels of North Bennington has just published a book on the network of communal farms that he was part of in northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont. Also with us is poet and teacher Verandah Porche, who still lives on the farm in Guilford where she settled with her counterculture friends in 1968. Together we examine how the commune movement shaped, and was shaped by, Vermont's culture. (listen)

Jane Lindholm
Jane Lindholm

 

Also on the program, abandoned and feral cats far exceed the numbers of abandoned dogs, and pose a continuing problem for humane societies around the region. Host Jane Lindholm visits an animal shelter to get a handle on the problem. (Listen)

Jane Lindholm

 

 

 

 

 

And comic Martha Tormey talks about her run-ins with some frightening Vermont flora. (Listen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

LISTENER COMMENTS ON THE LEGACY OF VERMONT'S COMMUNES

Arthur from Brattleboro writes:

I have lived in Guilford since '66, and although I didn't live communally, I was a near neighbor of the Guilford communes and watched them develop and evolve from the sidelines.

On today's Vermont Edition, it was said several times that the "movement failed." One caller commented that it wasn't really a movement; people moved into the Vermont countryside for many reasons. I take issue with the notion that the people who lived in the communes (and the rest of us who moved into Vermont at that time for similar reasons) failed.

The Vermont of today, full of art, music, and every sort of creative endeavor is largely the creation of the young idealists who left the lure of the big cities in the 60's and 70's to come "back to the land." We weren't all farmers or into communal living. Some of us moved here, experimented with living on a human scale, and then moved back into the mainstream. Others discovered a world we loved and wanted to live in,and we found ways of making a living while contributing to society as a whole. Many of us were philosophically inclined to the arts and education, but we have found many varied ways to contribute.

The economic vigor of entrepreneurial Vermont today is based on the success, not the failure, of the generation of young people who made Vermont home during this time. Of course, there were wonderful, strong Vermonters (farmers, other business people, and artists) who were here before us and set the stage. And ever since the era of the communes there have been young people, both our children and those who have moved here, young idealists who have continued and enhanced what we have been building.

 
Evan from Townshend writes:

I believe we are in midst of another "back to the land" movement. There are so many young folks working and learning on (especially organic) farms in this region and across the entire country. Myself included. Many of these young people did not necessarily grow up on farms, but have embraced rural lifestyles and have been pursuing agricultural skills that have largely disappeared from our culture.

One of the main differences nowadays however, is the much higher cost of decent agricultural land. Its nearly impossible for young farmers to purchase farm land whose value has been inflated because of development and absentee owners.

We need more young farmers to feed us, and help getting them into land!

 

 

 

 

Related Links

Farm Friends by Tom Fels Martha Tormey
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