Editor's Note: Catch Phil and Mary Schweitzer’s full story – and that of many others on The Farm -- on HLN's "American Journey", hosted by Ty Pennington, Saturday, December 29th at 8 p.m. ET.
Phil and Mary Schweitzer met and fell in love on The Farm, a former hippy commune in Tennessee. Phil is a founding member of the community. Mary has lived there for about 35 years. Today they live in a beautiful home they built, which they run as a bed and breakfast. But life wasn't always so easy. They talked to HLN about roughing it in the early days and about The Farm's uncertain future.
HLN: So how did you two meet?
Mary Schweitzer: We met several years ago and actually ... .
Phil Schweitzer: Almost 20.
Mary: Yeah, I was actually out on a walk, believe it or not and ran into Phil and met him like that. [On] the old Farm ... I really didn't know Phil. There was that many people here. And there were different segments of The Farm. Like I was in the medical field and he was in the recording field and we just never really new each other.
Phil: It was like we'd already known each other because we were both from the same place.
Mary: I can describe it real easily. It was like camping out for 10 years. That's my standard line. It was hard.
HLN: It must have been tough. It must have been really difficult.
Mary: It was tough. You know, only cold running water and then sometimes not even that. In the winter the pipes would freeze.... We were very committed to being together and doing this thing and raising our kids.
Phil: We were cold in the winter. We were hungry. There were times when it was hard to get shoes on your feet. There were real financial challenges for many years. And one of the things that sustained us was that we didn't just live here but we also went to do relief and development work around the world. And seeing the way people lived in the third world made us feel wealthy.
Jim: Someone described The Farm as being an intentional community. What do you think is the intent behind the Farm?
Mary: Well, we really have a nice group of friends here. We try to live in peace and harmony and not harm the earth.
Phil: We came here as a group because we wanted to have a collective voice that would be loud enough that people could hear. We weren't hiding. We weren't running away. We were saying, 'We have things we'd like to communicate.' But people aren't listening to one or two of us. But if we've got 200 of us, or 1,000 of us, then we're going to have a voice. And people will notice.
As many of the original members begin to reach their golden years, there's a new debate about what will happen in the future. There's concern among many that the Farm will not survive without new blood. Phil and Mary say there's some resistance to that, from some of the current members.
HLN: Tell me about the resistance.
Phil: I can say this. That living in community is not easy. It's not for everyone. So we have challenges that we face. And one of them is, do we continue to grow as a community and bring in new people and allow new people to come in? Or do we become a hippy retirement community and just everybody disappear into old age?
HLN: That's not the spirit in the Summer of Love.
Phil: Absolutely. And there is a conflict within the community about whether or not we're going to expand or contract. My personal view, and I know Mary feels this way, is that, without expansion, then are we really just going to be a one-generation flash in the pan and just disappear?
HLN: Every year the world gets more stressful, more technology and everything's faster and there's more stress. I imagine having an oasis from that, if nothing else, must be great.
Phil: It's interesting because our kids were born here and lived in the country and decided, 'Hey, we're missing out on the culture.' And they've all moved to the city. We, on the other hand, feel absolutely at home. Like this is our museum. These trees are our works of art that we can appreciate. So it's not an escape for us. It's really a way of life.