Since its founding in 1971, the commune known as The Farm in rural Lewis County has been cited as a beacon for peace, tolerance and progress on fronts ranging from midwifery to renewable energy. But in recent months, a squabble on social media involving the son of The Farm's ailing founder has produced a flurry of bitter accusations.
While Stephen Gaskin, 78, recovers from health problems away from his home in the intentional community he helped establish more than 40 years ago, his son Sam has faced off with The Farm's board of directors online. Sources directed the Scene to posts Sam Gaskin made on Facebook, in which he claims the commune promotes "a philosophy of Jewish supremacy," "anti-Christian white (men) hating" and a "deviant and decadent drug culture."
The Scene contacted Farm board members as well as former and current Farm members. Almost none would talk about the situation on the record. Some expressed concern over the safety of those close to the conflict. Others want to resolve the dispute discreetly, as something they've always prided themselves on being — a community.
But Neal Bloomfield, a Farm board member who said he would only speak on his own personal behalf, not the board's, dismisses Gaskin's claims. He calls such "stereotyping ... both disturbing and ridiculous."
Multiple attempts to reach Sam Gaskin for comment have not been returned.
The current situation began this summer on The Farm's complex in Summertown. The board of directors temporarily barred Sam Gaskin from the commune after he was involved in a shoving match at The Farm's annual July Ragweed Festival, a sort of homecoming celebration for ex-members. Farm procedure calls for those involved in such an incident to go before the board to discuss what happened.
A source close to the situation, who did not want to be identified, said Sam Gaskin felt he had been assaulted and refused to go before the board. Others involved, however, did so and claimed he was the instigator. A board membership committee barred him from The Farm for two weeks, presumably while the situation was sorted out.
But Gaskin apparently didn't abide by that ruling. The dispute escalated on Aug. 16, when he fired off a long diatribe on his Facebook page describing "[fear] and loathing on the hippy farm." He accused a "deviant and decadent drug culture" there of leading to drug abuse and degradation, and claimed that at The Farm he had seen "first hand" the pushing of Zionism, "a philosophy of Jewish supremacy." In one passage, he wrote (sic):
"The farm has quite a history at pumping out drug dealers and young men with mental illness. Now I have noticed that a huge portion of our drug dealer come from Jewish families and an over whelming percentage of the mentally ill men come from Christian back grounds. Maybe this is just a coincidence. I don't think so. The farm became place of subtle (and plenty not so subtle hating of Christians.. my father was down right Christian hostile and his best friends called him their rabbi) racial revenge against white men in particular. [...]
"You also better believe I have a list of names handed out to friends and militia brothers in case I end up mysteriously dead."
He went on to write, "I have every intention of making that place unsafe to the drug dealing mafia that controls it. Go find another place to pedal (sic) your wares. Some of you have no idea of the wrecked generation that came from there nor how it unfolded.. [...]" He also had harsh words for his father, whom he described as an "acid cult guru."
"If there is one person who I hold most responsible for this catastrophe of addiction, abuse and dealing haven it is definitely my father," Gaskin wrote.
Nevertheless, when Stephen Gaskin fell and injured himself two days later, on Aug. 18, his wife Ina May Gaskin needed help caring for him. She wrote later that she asked the board if Sam could come to the couple's home on The Farm to help her move his father and care for him.
"The answer was no — anybody but Sam could be in my house to help, but not Sam," wrote Ina May, an author and recognized expert on midwifery, on her son's Facebook page. "Pray for sanity."
Regardless, Sam evidently went over to see his father. That's when, according to his own Facebook post on Aug. 18, police were called as he tried to visit.
"I do not live on the farm nor do I ever care to live there with the dishonest madness that place calls normal," Sam Gaskin wrote on Facebook the day his father fell. "They have a problem with my legal ownership of firearms and tell me they would feel better about me visiting or being on the property at all if I would just give them up."
Lewis County Sheriff Dwayne Kilpatrick said his department has met with and assisted both Gaskin and The Farm throughout the disagreement, being present when Sam Gaskin moved his father off The Farm and into Sam's home.
Asked about reports of threats from either party, Kilpatrick says, "Well, it depends on how you paraphrase [the statement]." The sheriff explains that if he had considered it to be a serious threat, "then there would have been charges against someone — nothing to bring charges."
The Gaskins could not be reached for comment. Their phone lines appear to have been disconnected. Facebook messages went unanswered, and others reached by the Scene would not help in contacting the Gaskin family.
Sam Gaskin's Facebook posts regarding The Farm have stopped. According to one source, however, similarly pointed missives have migrated to other message boards or groups, accessed only by those close to The Farm community.
Those close to the situation largely see it as a Gaskin family matter, stating they don't wish to discuss the situation publicly, or cause any strife for their founder and onetime leader.
Bloomfield said of the situation, "It's a difficult time for a family that I'm very close to. ... I care about him [Stephen Gaskin], and I hope for the best for them and everybody else involved."
For now, Farm leaders and Kilpatrick say they're hoping to "bring it to the table" and peacefully resolve the situation. As for Sam Gaskin, he wrote on Facebook back in August: "I'm not looking for retribution. I just want it to end and the true story told. We were told that warrior spirit was wrong and that drugs were spiritual ... and could be profitable ... that has made for very interesting legacy and a very strange place."
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