Back to the Farm: Former residents go home

Friday, October 21, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 43
By Tim Ghianni

Judith Dodge, 70, and James Dodge, 69, talk about life on The Farm, both then and now.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

THE FARM – James and Judith Dodge were a part of the original caravan of settlers to arrive here in 1971. He’s 69, she’s 70. “I’ll be 70 soon enough,’’ he adds, diplomatically as the two settle in at their dining room table in a home made entirely of materials picked up in yard sales and on Craigslist.

Judith came on a bus from San Francisco. “James was picked up in New York.”

He had been an Army helicopter repairman in Vietnam and was pondering taking off on a Harley to see America.

Instead, he and two buddies, after learning about the caravan and its destination, invested in two Nabisco (vans) they drove down here to join in the grand social experiment.

Judith pulls out her iPad to show pictures of the original Farm caravan

“This was my bus,” she says, pointing at one photo.

The bus Judith Dodge rode from California to the Tennessee Farm back in the ’70s.

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The bus, which was gutted to make room for the eight or nine travelers and their bathroom and sleep needs, “kept breaking down” on the journey.

James – enlisted by idealistic guru/spiritual leader Stephen Gaskin to run the motor pool, keeping the buses operating – came in plenty handy.

“That’s my daughter in school class,” she says, pointing at a photo of a young Abigail.

James kept the buses going for many trips, including seven round-trips to Guatemala, where Farm residents helped build for and aid people.

The couple didn’t stay at The Farm long after “the changeover,” though.

In 1985, they moved to Nashville “to support ourselves.” Others did similarly.

Their family in the early years at The Farm.

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James went to work as the driver of buses for country stars. Among his clients: Porter Wagoner, Charlie Daniels, Kathy Mattea and Foster and Lloyd.

“I drove Porter when he had a six-girl band.” He laughs. “Porter was a nice guy.”

Since she was trained as a midwife and knew how to help patients deal with pain, Judith went to work as a physical therapist at a rehab facility for knee and hip-replacement patients.

“We had always had the idea of coming back when we got close to retirement,” she says, noting that they began their journey “home” in 2009.

“We asked ourselves: do we have enough faith in the future? There were some nice young folk in here then, so it was a leap of faith.

“It was sort of ‘pay your money, take your chances,’” Judith says with a laugh.

After living in temporary housing, they finished up their permanent home and settled in for the long haul.

“We were fully aware of the good and the bad of the community,” she says.

Mostly it’s good, but, “There’s always this grumbling around the edges. In the middle it’s awesome. But it’s not for everybody.”