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Voluntary Peasants

Inside the Ultimate American Commune: The Farm

This is a story about people, life and times, a story I’ve been writing for over thirty years. Voluntary Peasants is my true story of remarkable experiences building, sustaining and living twelve years in a 1,500-member hippie commune in rural Tennessee.

Writing Voluntary Peasants has been a literary labor of love to accurately portray the lifestyles, adventures and misadventures of a grand collective formed with the intention to make the world a better place.

                     “A whirlwind journey toward enlightenment”

             —Peter Coyote, actor, author, Emmy Award-winning narrator, Zen priest

In the sixties, Melvyn Stiriss was a UPI wire service reporter who followed the story of the times over the edge and out of the box to live the story and seek enlightenment. These are Melvyn’s far-out adventures going with the flow, riding the powerful planetary wave of energy that swept the Earth and abruptly raised consciousness,  blew minds, shattered conventional paradigms and blew the lid off all notions of what is possible.

A definitive sixties book, full of adventure, good vibes, warmth, humor and a never-before look into the hearts and  minds of people responding to a horrific, dangerous world situation, people who take comfort in community, marijuana and exploring mind expansion through psychedelic plants.

Entertaining and uplifting. The psychedelic sixties come alive in this multi-level history/memoir.

Where have all the flower children gone? Gone to The Farm, an amazing 1,500-member hippie community nestled in the backwoods of Tennessee.

“Imagine all the people living life in peace.”—John Lennon

That was us. We had it going.

Beyond sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll—beyond hippies, true tales of a remarkable experiment in collective living as thousands of high-minded people join forces, pool resources and attempt to create a gracious, meaningful, sustainable lifestyle the world can afford.

Leave the ordinary. Let your head soar free and take a trip—an extraordinary journey from Greenwich Village beatniks in the ‘50s through the psychedelic ‘60s and ‘70s—channeling those heady, revolutionary times—times rich in lessons that can possibly help now in these troubled times.

In the sixties, Melvyn Stiriss was a UPI wire service reporter who followed the times over the edge to break out, live the sixties and seek enlightenment. These are his far-out adventures going with the flow—riding a powerful wave of energy that blew minds, raised consciousness and shattered conventional paradigms around the world.

Enter what may seem another world—an audacious attempt to create a better way of living—an Earth-friendly, people-friendly, pacifist, eclectic, agrarian, vegan, spiritual community and cannabis church—a commune awarded the “alternative Nobel Prize” the Swedish Right Livelihood Award—“For caring, sharing and acting with and on behalf of those in need at home and abroad.”

After a devastating 1976 earthquake in Guatemala, Melvyn worked with a crew from The Farm and Mayans building schools, clinics and houses in remote mountain villages and a clinic for Mother Teresa in a Guatemala City slum.

Melvyn followed San Francisco hippie guru Stephen Gaskin on a round-the-country, 100-multi-colored, refitted bus caravan with 300 settlers to Tennessee to  live twelve years collectively, building and sharing a town and a fun, peaceful, meaningful lifestyle, living simply and close to nature.

The young man learned new trades as he worked as a farmer, carpenter and mason. He built houses, ran the community kitchen and bakery, was a flour miller, telephone repairman, apprentice auto mechanic, lumberjack, gatekeeper, editor of the town newspaper, and a DJ on the community FM-radio station.

Voluntary Peasants has cool chapter-opening epigraphs, wisdom gems from Buddha,  Plato, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Shakespeare, James Joyce, H.H. Dalai Lama, Bob Dylan and George Carlin, to name a few.

Voluntary Peasants takes an up-close look at Counter Culture Hall of Fame hippie guru Stephen Gaskin—dubbed by High Times, “the Gandhi of the counter culture” and—examines the author’s remarkable student-teacher relationship, the whole guru trip and the insidious workings of the phenomenon known as “groupthink.”

“If you are interested in The Farm, the largest, most successful of the 60’s communes, or indeed any of the many communities that have enlivened the history of the USA, then this book is a must read. Melvyn Stiriss has written a psychedelically evocative, unsparingly honest account of what it was really like.”—John Seward, Amazon review

Voluntary Peasants is available as a Kindle e-book.

Voluntary Peasants is available in paperback exclusively at www.voluntarypeasants.com.

The Voluntary Peasants audiobook is in the works.

Stiriss—“I co-founded and lived thirteen years in America’s biggest commune not undercover but as a full-fledged member of the hippie collective, living the dream, “saving the world.” The idea of writing about the experience came after when I realized the importance of reporting behind-the-scenes, everyday observations of one of the most-amazing social experiments to come out of that far-out era.”

We built our own little town—a village complete with houses, roads, farming, construction, motor pool, soy dairy, clinic, lab, doctors, midwives, bakery, cottage industries, FM radio station, solar-heated school, a dozen satellite communities and humanitarian outreach projects around the world. At peak—1,450 people enjoyed Zero Unemployment, Universal Healthcare, and all necessities on a little more than $100/person a month!”

Stephen Gaskin, who taught and preached about the true nature of God, “how the Universe works,” telepathy, energy, and the common ground of the spiritual paths of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Allah. The pot-smoking, magic mushroom-eating, self-sanctioned purveyor of truth cast a broad world wisdom eclectic message to capture the hearts and minds of desperately searching, disenchanted Christians and Jews, turning conventional people into hippies.

Melvyn is available to speak to classes, groups and organizations interested in learning about communes, The Farm, living collectively, veganism and going back to the land.

      Message Melvyn newbeatbooks@gmail.com

Voluntary Peasants is also available as a 6-part ebook series here

and at Amazon Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A7INM2W