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Between 1970 and 1974 ten million Americans abandoned the city, and the commercialism, and all the inauthentic bourgeois comforts of the Eisenhower-era America of their parents. Instead, they went back to the land. It was the only time in modern history that urbanization has gone into reverse.

Kate Daloz follows the dreams and ideals of a small group of back-to-the-landers to tell the story of a nationwide movement and moment. And she shows how the faltering, hopeful, but impractical impulses of that first generation sowed the seeds for the organic farming movement and the transformation of American agriculture and food tastes. In the Myrtle Hill commune and neighboring Entropy Acres, high-minded ideas of communal living and shared decision-making crash headlong into the realities of brutal Northern weather and the colossal inconvenience of having no plumbing or electricity. Nature, it turns out, is not always a generous or provident host-frosts are hard, snowfalls smother roads, and small wood fires do not heat imperfectly insulated geodesic domes.

Group living turns out to be harder than expected too. Being free to do what you want and set your own rules leads to some unexpected limitations: once the group starts growing a little marijuana they can no longer call on the protection of the law, especially against a rogue member of a nearby community.

For some of the group, the lifestyle is truly a saving grace; they credit it with their survival. For others, it is a prison sentence. We Are As Gods (the first line of the Whole Earth Catalog, the movement’s bible) is a poignant rediscovery of a seminal moment in American culture, whose influence far outlasted the communities that took to the hills and woods in the late '60s and '70s and remains present in every farmer’s market, every store selling Stonyfield products, or Keen shoes, or Patagonia sportswear.

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