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The counterculture movement of the 1960s provided a number of memorable personalities, including a former stand-up comic and folk music promoter nicknamed Wavy Gravy. Wavy Gravy's real name was Hugh Romney, and he was the founder of a communal performance group called the Hog Farm Collective. Members of the group were a mixture of hippies, political activists and drop-outs from mainstream society. If groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Weather Underground were the most politically radical extensions of the counterculture, the Hog Farm could be considered the comic relief.
First formed on a ranch near Los Angeles, California, the Hog Farm earned its name from an arrangement between Romney and a local pig farmer. After the farmer suffered a stroke, the group was allowed to occupy his farmland in exchange for slopping, or feeding, 45 hogs. Life on the farm was fairly idyllic, but Romney had other ambitions for the politically active performers. One such idea called for a temporary relocation to New York City. While living in New York, the Hog Farm was approached by a man representing Woodstock Ventures, Inc. The promoters of the proposed Woodstock music festival wanted Romney and his troupe to provide security and other services at Max Yasgur's farm.
Despite the many logistics problems at Woodstock, members of the farm handled their assignments competently. Security guards routinely enforced rules through polite requests, asking concert-goers to please stop illegal activities. Other members provided rudimentary medical facilities and refreshment stands.
Hugh Romney became the unofficial master of ceremonies, entertaining the crowds between musical acts. When food supplies ran perilously low, it was Romney and other Hog Farm members who got creative in feeding the masses. One of Wavy Gravy's most infamous quotes from Woodstock is, "What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000 people."
Following the success of Woodstock, the Hog Farm followed through on plans to start a new farm in New Mexico. At another musical concert in Texas, legendary blues guitarist BB King gave Hugh Romney the nickname Wavy Gravy. The collective continued to flourish in both New Mexico and several auxiliary locations in California. In the early 1970s, Wavy Gravy became interested in an organization called Seva, which provided free vision care and surgical procedures to indigent families. The partnership between Seva and the Hog Farm continues well into the 2000s.
Another branch of the organization formed Camp Winnarainbow, a children's camp dedicated to circus arts and other forms of artistic expression. Every year, the Hog Farm sponsors a large musical concert and party called the Pig Nic. Several major alternative and folk rock groups headline this fundraising event, and many of the surviving members of the 1960s counterculture hold the occasional reunion. When ice cream makers Ben and Jerry created a flavor in honor of Wavy Gravy, much of the profit was earmarked for social programs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What was the Hog Farm and why is it significant in history?
The Hog Farm was an influential commune established in the 1960s, known for its countercultural and communal living ethos. It gained historical significance as a symbol of the hippie movement and for its role in organizing the food and security at the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969. The Hog Farm exemplified alternative lifestyles and the peace movement, leaving a lasting impact on American cultural and social history.
Who founded the Hog Farm and what was its original purpose?
The Hog Farm was founded by Hugh Romney, who later became known as Wavy Gravy, a well-known peace activist and clown. Originally, it started as a collective in North Hollywood in 1966 to take care of a hog farm, hence the name. However, it quickly evolved into a commune that embraced ideals of self-sufficiency, communal living, and shared responsibilities, reflecting the broader counterculture movement of the era.
How did the Hog Farm contribute to the Woodstock Festival?
The Hog Farm was invited by the organizers of the Woodstock Festival to help with the event's logistics. They set up a free kitchen, provided security, and offered medical assistance, earning them the title of the "Please Force," a non-violent alternative to traditional security. Their contribution was crucial in maintaining order and providing care among the massive crowd of festival-goers, which was estimated to be over 400,000 people.
What are some of the lasting impacts of the Hog Farm on society?
The Hog Farm's legacy includes promoting sustainable living practices and community-oriented values. They were pioneers in demonstrating the viability of communal living and influenced subsequent generations to explore alternative lifestyles. The Hog Farm also showed the power of collective action and peace-driven approaches to large-scale event management, setting precedents for future festivals and gatherings.
Is the Hog Farm still active today, and if so, what are its current activities?
Yes, the Hog Farm is still active today. It continues to embody its founding principles by hosting events, workshops, and communal activities that promote peace, sustainability, and social justice. The Hog Farm also operates Camp Winnarainbow, a circus and performing arts camp for children and adults, which aims to teach self-esteem and community living skills through creative expression.