The Farm Group

History / Outline / Some individuals

The 1960s and 1970s brought considerable change to American society. Among its most notable facets were political and social turmoil, changes in education, reassessment of gender and race, a closer relation to nature, and new movements in religion, culture, and the arts. In western Massachusetts and southeastern Vermont new communities were established, cooperative ventures were formed, and peaceful alternatives to war were explored.

Greenhouse, Montague, 1969At the center of much of this activity were the four sister communal farms of Montague (at right, the greenhouse) and Wendell in western Massachusetts, and Packer Corners and Tree Frog in southern Vermont. For some thirty years these alternative institutions and their extended families, now spread across the nation and the world, have helped define the generation that came of age following World War II. Known particularly for their activism and pursuit of social change, they have for many years forged their way, using imagination and initiative, through the new territory of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The history of the Farm Group begins with the Liberation News Service (LNS). LNS was founded in 1967 by Raymond Mungo, editor of the Boston University News, and Marshall Bloom, editor of the Amherst (College) Student. From 1967 to 1969 LNS provided packets of cultural and political news from an alternative point of view, delivered by mail to the nation’s growing complement of underground newspapers. Its writers, photographers, editors and artists covered marches, riots and social movements, and reported on public figures and peaceworkers in a manner unavailable in the mainstream press. The News Service’s brief career in Washington and New York was interrupted by factional politics, resulting in its move to rural Massachusetts and Vermont, a story colorfully recorded in Mungo’s first book, Famous Long Ago (1970).

Richard Schweid, 2007Starting in 1968 as the rural home of refugees from LNS, Montague and Packer Corners Farms quickly became communal families and organic farms, turning from the pursuits of urban radicals to the more immediate needs of surviving the long summers and cold winters of the rural Northeast, an era of regional life recorded in Mungo’s Total Loss Farm (1970), the early story of Packer Corners, and Steve Diamond’s What the Trees Said (1972), on the first years of Montague Farm. The farms later served as launching points for further political and cultural activism, producing a significant number of writers and becoming deeply involved in the anti-nuclear movment of the 1970s and 1980s. These two original farms were shortly followed by the Wendell Farm, founded in 1969 by a group of recent graduates of Amherst College. The farms’ extended family also includes the nearby Johnson Pasture, as well as numerous other individuals and alternative organizations in the area. All the farms still exist, though their ownership and management have changed in some cases to adapt to the new conditions they have faced over the years.

Today, the farms’ present and former members live throughout the country and as far afield as Africa, Central Europe, Germany and Spain. Besides Mungo and Diamond, some of their better known members have been activists Sam Lovejoy, Harvey Wasserman and Anna Gyorgy, all active in the Clamshell Alliance of the 1970s; and writers Marty Jezer, Stephen Davis, Richard Schweid (above, at his home in Barcelona in 2007) and Jon Maslow. The farm family also includes numerous professionals – physicians, attorneys, teachers, healthcare and socialworkers – committed to social change through more traditional channels.

This Web Site

The FamousLongAgo.org / Rural Science Institute web site is intended to complement the main web site for the farm archive, Famous Long Ago, and its activities, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, currently located at http://scua.wordpress.com . It also serves as the web site for Tom Fels, founder of the archive.

As the web site for the farms, www.famouslongago.org is a place to announce or record new developments and a forum for comments and news. (See Farm News page.) As the web site for Tom Fels it holds a basic outline of his work and serves as a calendar for his current activities. (See Rural Science Institute page.)

Contact for www.famouslongago.org:

Thomas Fels
North Bennington
Vermont 05257-0816
(802) 447-3126
tfels-AT-comcast-DOT-net

Contact for http://scua.wordpress.com:

Robert S. Cox, Head, Special Collections
W. E. B. Du Bois Library
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003-9275
(413) 545-6842
rscox-AT-library.umass-DOT-edu