What Was the Hog Farm?
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.
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