Plenty was founded in 1974 by the intentional community in Tennessee called the Farm. The Farm had started out in 1971 with about 250 young idealistic hippies. By 1974 the Farm had reached high enough levels of competence and self-sufficiency that, when Farm founder, Stephen Gaskin, proposed that the community consider setting up an organization to lend a hand to our neighbors, both locally and around the world, the community embraced the idea. There were now around 500 folks, mostly young adults with an expanding population of children. Plenty International was incorporated in October of 1974 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) non-governmental organization (NGO). The founding charter read, “To help protect and share the world’s abundance and knowledge for the benefit of all.” In fact, we really had no clue what that was going to actually mean but we were confident it would get figured out and it has. Plenty has been called the “hippie peace corps,” and has played a part in dozens of projects supporting disaster relief, promoting community health and welfare, economic self-sufficiency, cultural integrity, and environmental responsibility in 21 countries around the world. Plenty projects are staffed by Farm members and other volunteers, but most often now by people who live where the projects are taking place.
For more about Plenty or to donate visit the website at www.plenty.org or visit the Facebook pages: Plenty International, or Kids To The Country or Books To Kids. Email us at email@example.com to ask to join Friends of Plenty International, which is a (free) Facebook membership site.
Welcome to The Roots of Plenty online, a new interactive incarnation of the Roots of Plenty book published in 2016. While the book covered Plenty’s early years, Roots of Plenty online includes subsequent decades of Plenty’s activities and will continue to be updated. We invite you to explore and enjoy this easily searchable database of people, projects, and locations.
The Roots of Plenty has had an extraordinarily long gestation, in the conventional sense — thirty years! Things manifest in their own proper time and place, and the timing of this release is just right.
Around Plenty’s 10th anniversary, someone suggested, “we should write a book.” The idea remained an interesting thought that would periodically resurface, to much nodding of heads, and then be relegated to a future when surely, there would be more time. Around the 35th anniversary, the Plenty board recommitted our intent — really, we must do it, before more of our friends and their stories are no longer with us.
In 2011 Jerry Hutchens began the book project in earnest. Along with searching through stacks of project files and boxes of Plenty’s history, he contacted and interviewed dozens of former Plenty volunteers, collecting, recording, and compiling their stories. These became part of the larger Plenty Archives along with our paper, digital, photographic, and audio records.
The time finally came to birth this baby. It was difficult though, to come to a final decision about what scope to cover, and where to stop. One story led to another. Projects had evolved and expanded over time, like seeds sown and spread by winds and travelers. How can you track down all the plants that have sprouted, matured, and reseeded from the mother plant over time? In fairness, we wanted to include it all.
We decided to stay true to the book title, The Roots of Plenty, and capture the stories of Plenty volunteers from the Farm’s collective period through the economic “change-over” in 1983. This was a time when Farm members shared their lives with the vibrancy, naiveté, and adventurousness of youth. The ideals of the sixties led us to join in community with its shared vision, collective power and rootedness, with the unshakeable conviction that we were out to save the world. One way to fulfill that commitment was to create Plenty as a vehicle to respond to people in need. Like a rope swing Plenty launched Farm members further in to the deep blue pool of the world and expanded our global consciousness upon impact. The stories in this book reflect some of what happened in that collective mix over Plenty’s first decade or so.
The Plenty network includes thousands of people who have given something of themselves to help — their time, talents, financial support, and in some cases, their lives. We are immensely grateful to a very special base of faithful donors made up of individuals, family foundations, and a number of civic and religious groups that have enabled the possible. It’s important to note that while Plenty was the first nonprofit created by the Farm, the contemporary land based Farm Community and larger Farm community network includes many friends and family who are dedicated to various inspiring and effective activist volunteer and nonprofit causes.
At the heart and soul of Plenty are courageous, visionary people working to improve the lives of their families and communities in the midst of deeply challenging and sometimes heartbreaking circumstances. Plenty volunteers can join them and help where they can, but over time, volunteers have the option of moving on. The people in these places most often do not. We dedicate whatever small efforts Plenty has made and will make to them.
— Lisa Wartinger