Stephen Gaskin, counterculture activist and founder of “The Farm” commune, died yesterday at the age of 79. Gaskin was born in Denver on February 16, 1935. After serving a short stint in the Marine Corps during the 1950s, he moved to San Francisco and began teaching English.
During his teaching stint he began holding a discussion with students about his experiences with drugs, religion and environmental awareness. Eventually many other people began joining the students, and Gaskin found himself at the forefront of the hippie movement, becoming known as San Francisco’s Acid Guru.
In 1970 he began touring the country, speaking at a number of venues, including churches and other gatherings of free-thinkers and counter-culturalists. His convoy had grown to about 60 buses when Gaskin returned to San Francisco for four months. They then decided to pool their money and buy some land, starting their own commune using the ideals they held dearly.
They purchased the Black Swan Ranch near Nashville, a 1,050 acre plot, and settled in with roughly 300 members. Over the years they grew the community, having their own utility workers, adding 750 acres and even starting a band that toured nationwide.
And they never stopped being hippies. For example, Gaskin was notoriously pro-marijuana. While President Clinton was proclaiming his innocence by stating he “never inhaled” the drug, Gaskin proudly quipped that he “never exhaled.”
They were often ahead of the curve with environmental and green energy technologies, as well, using bio fuels, solar power and environmentally friendly building materials and techniques during the 70s. That work continues today; a geodesic dome was built in 2004, and work was still ongoing on it until 2010.
Gaskin continued to speak out and give interviews to media groups, always proclaiming his beliefs about sustainable living and writing over dozen books during the 70s, 80s and 90s. He was very proud of his legacy, calling himself a “hippie priest and freelance rabble rouser.”
Gaskin died of natural causes after a lengthy illness.