Intentional Communities Today
As the 1970s came to a close, communes began to lose popularity. The 1980s saw a revival of more traditional and conservative values across the nation, making it impossible for many communes to sustain their membership. Many hippies left in mass exoduses from places like New Buffalo and even The Farm, which had grown to 1500 members at one point. Although the passions and sentiments of many hippies remained the same, most communes were no longer viable. Additionally, the counterculture and the mainstream had found many ways to reintegrate with each other. Frank Kavanaugh, a Catholic teacher in San Francisco, published a statement elaborating on the movement of the hippies back towards the center of culture. Mainstream culture had much to learn from the hippies just as the hippies had much to learn from mainstream culture. The hippies' realization of this is what started the building tension and slow degradation of many typical communal structures. What had been a population of more than 2000 communities quickly fell to just a few hundred within a few years.
Although the success of the movement as a whole is highly debatable, some of the communes did find ways to survive, as well as particular elements of communal living. Today people remember the communes as havens of free love, but as we have seen they were much more than that. Those which exist today are still multifaceted. Religiously based communes, of course, have always managed to stick around. These cannot be explicated by the scope of this exhibit. However, those communes with their origins in the counterculture are of particular interest, both for their beginnings and for their evolution through time.
Two of the best examples of hippie communes that have managed to survive are The Farm in Tennessee and Twin Oaks in Virginia. The Farm, as mentioned on the last page, has been the subject of many documentaries. Founded in 1971, it is one of the most famous communes in all of America. Although it was hit very hard by the mass exodus and the dissolution of the counterculture, it maintains today a steady group of members and supports itself through entrepreneurship and small business, including The Midwifery Center, The Book Publishing Company, The Farm Soy Company and The Farm Yoga Studio. The bulk of these small businesses are nonprofits and are simply intended to support the community. The Farm in its modern model is much more integrated with the larger society and offers many Green Living programs and Farm experiences.
Twin Oaks is another one of the oldest hippie communes still in existence today. Located in Louisa County, a rural district in Virginia, it is a small scale communal society. Made up of approximately 100 people, the members relinquish all belongings to the community upon arrival in exchange for food, housing, healthcare, etc. The men and women work 42 hours a week somewhere on the commune in exchange for their living. There are many people in the commune who have lived there for years, while others have recently departed from traditional society. Members have found that some structures within the society are necessary in order to stay viable in the modern world. Similar to The Farm, Twin Oaks has also developed small businesses in order to support their community, rather than living completely off the land. Although much of its infrastructure has changed over time, it did not go through a large, single shift like The Farm did. Members still proudly claim the same values of nonviolence, cooperation and sharing that the original founders did in 1967.