Voluntary Peasants will be available in ebooks and print September, 2017.
Melvyn Stiriss speaks for college classes and groups.
Voluntary Peasants, Far-out life adventures in the joys of sharing and helping others.
CAUTION! This book may blow your mind or cause FlashBack. Voluntary Peasants will at least entertain and transport you, make you laugh and transmit ‘60s energy, vibes and mindscape, focusing on living 13 years as a “voluntary peasant” in America’s ultimate hippie commune, The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee.
True tales of a remarkable experiment in collective living as thousands of good-hearted, high-minded people join forces, pool resources and attempt to create a sustainable, in-touch-with-the-Earth lifestyle the world can afford.
A remarkable history and entertaining read that explores the psyche and nuts & bolts of how to make it through dangerous times and enjoy a good life on a super low-budget. Includes stories and vingettes of extraordinary personal and group transformation.
Leave the ordinary. Let your head soar free and take a trip—a ‘60s trip over the edge. Stiriss takes the reader on an extraordinary journey from Greenwich Village beatniks in the ‘50s through the ‘60s and ‘70s—opening doors to reveal inner realms of those heady, revolutionary times—times rich in lessons that can help us now, as we explore the now relevant question: Can back-to-the-land, friendly collective living save the world?
“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. Journalist/humorist Melvyn Stiriss was a UPI reporter who followed the story of the times over the edge to live the story himself.
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.”
Enter what may seem another world and enter The Farm—a remarkable bold attempt to “get out of the box” and create a better way of life—an Earth-friendly, people-friendly, pacifist, eclectic, agrarian, vegan, spiritual community and pioneering cannabis church—a commune awarded the Swedish Right Livelihood Award—“For caring, sharing and acting with and on behalf of those in need at home and abroad.”
An example of The Farm’s humanitarian outreach: the author worked a year with Mayans and a crew from the community in remote mountain villages after a devastating earthquake in Guatemala—building schools, clinics, houses and a clinic for Mother Teresa.
Over the collective’s 13 years, 5,000 people lived and worked together as “voluntary peasants” sharing labor, life and friendship—living a path with heart—working without pay—to create a globally-affordable, simple, gracious, sustainable lifestyle. The Farm was a grassroots, 24/7 peace demonstration.
We built our own 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!”
Voluntary Peasants includes the author’s deeply personal spiritual student-teacher relationship with cult guru Stephen Gaskin, who taught and preached about God, “how the Universe works,” telepathy, energy, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Allah. The pot-smoking, magic mushroom-eating guru 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. We also examine the whole “guru trip” and groupthink.
Voluntary Peasants will be in print September, 2017
About the Author
In the ’60s, Melvyn Stiriss was a young United Press International wire service reporter who followed the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, over the edge. “There was an exciting, all-pervasive feeling, an intriguing, mysterious energy that beckoned me. I followed that ‘vibe’ in search of fun, adventure, and the meaning of life.” His vision quest brought him to San Francisco where he found his weed-smoking, world wisdom spouting, self-proclaimed guru, Stephen Gaskin.”
Now 74, Melvyn lives in upstate New York, enjoying his “senior career” as an author, publisher, storyteller, and aspiring movie maker. He loves hiking, playing keyboard, photography, travel, movies, and great literature.
Voluntary Peasants Crowd Funder
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Voluntary Peasants is also available in six parts at Amazon Kindle.
Enlightenment—What’s it Good For
Author’s back story 1942-69
Part 1 Genesis of The Farm Commune
Includes the great, round-the-country, save-the-world, hippie bus caravan
Part 2 The Farm Commune—Year One
Part 3, THE FARM—America’s Biggest Commune, 1972-76
Part 4, Hippie Peace Corps
Goes to Guatemala
Part 5, Utopia Myopia
Climax and Conclusion
—This book is so good. It tells the tale of a generation pushing for change and looking for a path to sanity through spirituality. The author does a great job of telling this tale in a very accessible manner. I listened to the audio book, read by the author, and I was surprised at his exceptional skills of delivery. And even though this tale describes an entire movement, the author does a great job of giving us a personal story we can relate to. By doing this, he gives us a way in the door to a movement we may have been too young, too old, or too shy to participate in. Kudos for the great job!
—During the 60’s and early 70’s I followed a traditional path. I went to college, studied hard, got married, got my Ph. D., and became a professor. I have always been very curious about an alternative path that some of my friends followed; a freer life of travel, grass, free love, and few traditional responsibilities. I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to experience this alternative lifestyle. I don’t have to wonder any longer. This wonderful read gives me a first-hand account of life during this time period. It’s very well written, full of energy, and provides an exciting and detailed account of life during one of the most interesting periods of our country. I highly recommend this book.
—Melvyn easily kept me engaged with the telling of the rise and fall of living his dream. I love that even as the policies led to the end of the communal way that the love of living and working with your friends, close to nature, still shines through as a glorious way to live. Reading the whole series as one continuous story deepened my understanding of the journey. Magical and honest.
—Great stuff. So honest. It really invokes the acid visions, the whole feeling of what it was like back then at Monday Night Class and Sunday Services. Well written, humorous account of an inspiring time in the counterculture movement of the 60’s and 70’s. Stiriss has written a psychedelically evocative, unsparingly honest account of what it was really like. I was there. I know what he says is true. I could not put it down. Melvyn is the real chronicler of the whole trip. I hope he takes it all the way for the whole history of The Farm. It’s a big responsibility, and it turns out to be his.
—Melvyn is a gifted storyteller who takes you on a journey into the past to a time and place that never existed before and may never again. Melvyn was able to take me right into his world and make me see it though his eyes.
—I really loved reading this book. I heard of the Farm many years ago, and I was always curious how it operated. This book gives a very detailed personal account of how the farm was created and how it operated. The book is very well written. I felt like I was there. It’s not a sugar-coated story. Beside Melvyn, Stephen Gaskin, the spiritual leader of the Farm, was the central figure in the narrative. It’s clear that the author, like everyone else on the farm, revered Stephen. However, some of Stephen’s flaws were very subtly revealed as the narrative progressed. It was interesting to me how a leader with absolute authority exercises his/her powers. As I was reading, it was the proverbial “couldn’t put it down.”
—I like the look into an unusual American experience. The excitement of a new beginning in the midst of a co-opted US culture comes through. I would love to know more about what individuals other than the author were thinking and doing. My interest is certainly piqued. On balance, the author’s courage in showing himself in process is admirable.
—Entertaining and heartfelt. Full of details that make you feel you are there, at the mind-blowing experience of establishing a successful ‘hippy commune’ in the deep rural south in the 1970s. The author shares a lot of ‘inside’ information that illustrates to what a great extent the Farm was a groundbreaking, and largely successful, social experiment. It makes me want to go live there.