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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
United Shades of America: Off the Grid. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 22, 2016 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
W. KAMAU BELL, SOCIO-POLITICAL COMEDIAN: So in this episode were talking with people who live off the grid. Yikes. Does anyone else think that sounds horrible? Yeah. Ugh.
Off the grid, off, off the grid. I'm just going to say it. I love the grid. I'm a big fan of the grid. Grid me, grid me. I'm big fan of the grid.
I get that the grid means that the government is watching you at all times and keeping tabs on everything you do.
As a black person, I'm like yeah, the government is watching me at all times, keeping tabs on everything I do. But, the grid comes with free Wi-Fi. That's kind of an upgrade.
My name is W. Kamau Bell. As a comedian, I've made a living finding humor in the parts of America I don't understand. And challenging myself to dig deeper. I'm on a mission to reach out and experience the all the cultures and believes that add color to this crazy country. This is the United Shades of America.
Our world has never been more fast-paced, interconnected and distracting. We are constantly barraged with text, tweets and stock video of people typing quickly. I like the idea of being connected even with the distractions. But, there are people who don't. Those people want to get off the grid.
The idea of getting off the grid is different for everyone. For some, off the grid means getting closer to nature of being more echo friendly. For others, living off the grid is only way to escape n oppressive government and preserve their freedom.
For me, off the grid means turning my phone to airplane mode and watching Netflix. Luckily, there is one city that caters to people of all stripes, Asheville, North Carolina.
In the late 1800s, Asheville became known as the destination for health seekers everywhere. It's clean mountain air welcomes people from all across the country and created an unusually cosmopolitan country.
Today, Asheville has retained the spirit and is well known as the refuge for all people looking to go their own way.
BELL: Hi, my name is Kamau.
HOPE: Hi, I'm hope.
CROW: I'm Crow.
BELL: Crow, nice to meet you.
It is my first day in Asheville, and we are here because Asheville, all over the country is known as the place where people can come and reinvent themselves and start over.
CROW: It is definitely a place where a lot of different cultures can come together as one and not have a lot of judgments against each other.
BELL: You can let your freak flag fly as high as you want to. And just be.
We used to do that in the bay area than the property values went up to high. We're shipping our freak flags out now. People all over the country said Asheville is the place, and start hunting and reinvent yourself. Do you think this is the place for that?
FEMALE SPEAKER: Yes. I'm trying to go back to college. I weld I want to finish that.
BELL: You're going to be a welder here in Asheville?
FEMALE SPEAKER: Or blacksmith.
BELL: Old school?
FEMALE SPEAKER: Yes.
BELL: I don't mean to profile you but here I go. You seem to be outside of the mainstream.
FEMALE SPEAKER: We think we are in the mainstream. We are part of the world's oldest religion.
BELL: What religion is that?
FEMALE SPEAKER: Paganism and Wicca.
MALE SPEAKER: And wicca.
MALE SPEAKER: We are witches.
BELL: Asheville is known as a place for people to start their own communities and be outside the mainstream? Why is Asheville the place for that? FEMALE SPEAKER: Mountain folk will give people a shot matter how outside the mainstream they seem to be and if you are cool, you can win with their respect and be into free rights for dogs or anything.
BELL: I like that you went to a wacky place for free rights for dogs. For a lot of people watching on TV, they probably already think this is already pretty wild place.
Hippies, blacksmiths and a couple of witches. When I talk diversity this isn't usually what I mean. But, I'm down.
MALE SPEAKER: Here, every day is open. You can talk to anybody. You can make contact. It is really different. Personally, I live for Christ. It is cool. It is not a lot of judgmental hate. It is cool.
BELL: I know I mean a special place. In the last half hour, you hear many top to wiccan, a person who is living for Christ and they are about hundred feet apart from each other. Not a lot of places on the planet where that is the case.
MALE SPEAKER: That's right. There's no part - - It's all friendly man.
BELL: Spencer, nice to meet you.
SPENCER: Being a part of the counterculture in Asheville is really like the norm. There some communities up in the mountains that are just completely self-sustaining. That's so crazy to me that's even possible in a world that is so connected right now.
BELL: Exactly. That's why we're here. I want to know who are about how those people survive in the hills.
Asheville is not only supportive of people who want to live off the grid. They have do-it-yourself stores for it. Like this one, villagers, which is one-stop shopping for those looking to create a self-sustaining Eco friendly life. The owner, Natalie Poweller, is going to give me the scoop.
If I am tired of the man hold me down keeping his hand in my pocket, I can come here, buy some stuff and then get off the grid and start my whole new life?
NATALIE POWELLER, VILLAGERS SHOP OWNER: You can totally do that, get your going out there, and not - - cancel your phone.
BELL: I can do that? I guess I'm not as extreme. I would still like phone service. Guess I want the man's hands lightly out of my pocket.
POWELLER: A little taste of that.
BELL: When you are here, how do you live in your life that is reflected in the principles that you have here?
POWELLER: I live in a tiny home.
BELL: A tiny home?
BELL: One of those little tiny homes.
POWELLER: It's tiny.
BELL: I have seen pictures of them. You live in a tiny home?
BELL: That's so cool.
POWELLER: You're welcome to come and check it out if you want.
BELL: Can I check out the tiny home?
POWELLER: You might hit your head.
BELL: That's fine. Did that regularly.
BELL: In the last 40 years American homes have gotten significantly bigger. In 1973, the median home was 1500 square feet. By 2010, it had grown to over 2100 square feet. The size increase of over 40%. Yet, some people are choosing to shrink their home to 400 square feet or less in what's being called a tiny home movement. There are many reasons people are downsizing to tiny homes. A tiny home can cost less than $25,000 compared to the national average of $341,000.
POWELLER: So, this is my house.
BELL: Natalie's tiny home is 265 square feet of heaven. Just like heaven, here is not room for everybody.
POWELLER: You have entered the kitchen.
BELL: That was quick.
POWELLER: It is quick.
BELL: I guess the whole idea behind a tiny house, quick to get places.
POWELLER: Very efficient. This is the food prep area where I cook, got some burners and all my appliances.
POWELLER: In a little fridge down here. On the side in my kitchen sink. I don't have running water hooked up yet. That's why I have this crock here. So, I shower at the gym and just do sort of the bare minimum as far as water.
BELL: have regular size bananas. I thought you might have many bananas. POWELLER: Everything regular size fits in a tiny home. This little ladder leads up to the loft, which you are welcome to poke your head up there.
BELL: That the bedroom?
POWELLER: That the bedroom.
BELL: Can I look up there?
POWELLER: You can.
BELL: I feel like this home is so - - I feel like I might break this home.
POWELLER: It is built so solid, he can handle you.
BELL: Wait a minute. This is nice. Not bad. Have to be honest. When I saw it from upstairs, I have thought, there is no way to have a romantic evening up here.
POWELLER: You can. There is not room two.
BELL: A little - - Good for you. I thought maybe missionary but you can cycle through some of the Kama Sutra up here. Good job.
POWELLER: You're welcome to take a seat. When you sit down, it becomes the dining room.
BELL: Nice. I'm a very lazy person. I actually like that. The tiny home movement, is there word or a way to describe this? What is this called?
POWELLER: I think you would call it minimal. People are choosing to scale back to get to the essence of things.
BELL: I'm certainly a person who likes stuff. I'm a stuffist. You are minimalist. I may stuffist. I do know that mainstream society, the more stuff you have, is in the happier you are. You're saying this in the reverse.
BELL: Thank you for inviting me over.
POWELLER: Would you like a cup of tea before you go?
BELL: Sure, that would be great.
BELL: I'm trying to understand people who live off the grid. My producers got this great idea, I should go visit a real life prepper in the woods. The kind I won't tell us his name and insists that we come unharmed but he didn't let us insist that he be unarmed. Weird how that works. So where did the prepper phenomenon come from?
Back in the 1950s and 60s the government was telling children to hide under the desks to protect themselves from nuclear bombs. Back then, I guess, desks were built out of special nuclear bomb proof materials. The government was telling his kids parents to build fallout shelters. Where they could keep a stockpile to live off of during the postnuclear war mad Max era.
When the Cold War ended and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation passed, many predators more into patriot, and it is of food and water. Pages are also hoarding guns and ammunition. I wonder what made them so afraid? Here is the graph of the number of patient groups in the US in 1997.
Back then, their numbers were falling. I wonder if 9/11 will spike their numbers? No. What about the Iraq war? No. Hurricane Katrina? No. Barack Obama becoming president? No. Huh? Go figure.
Wonder if they will spike again when he figure out a way to run for his third term?
So, I'm 30 miles outside of Asheville heading to meet a prepper. Apparently, the only thing the guy likes more than his guns is being left alone. Oh, and he wants to wear a mask because he doesn't want anybody to know his identity.
Wait, is that my dad?
JOHN: I see you made it up that mountain all right.
BELL: Nice to meet you.
JOHN: Nice to meet you too. Let me show you around a little bit.
BELL: Is this off the grid?
BELL: Are you a prepper, a survivalist?
JOHN: Kind of like all of the above. I believe in living as simply as possible. I don't have neighbors that I have to listen to.
BELL: What do you like about living so far away from mainstream society?
JOHN: Freedom, absolutely. Absolutely. Nobody telling me what to do or how to live my life. This is an unzoned If I wanted to put pigs down that area I could. If my wife would permit that I could.
BELL: That's the funny thing about freedom. Eventually there is somebody you have to talk to about freedom. This is pretty much what I expect to see as a prepper camp, solar panels, tanks of propane, strange broken down generator, check. And a dog who is thinking, how come I don't get to wear a mask? Check. There is a stigma about people who live off the grid like this and people would call you crazy or like you got a screw loose. How do you feel about that stigma?
JOHN: I think the same about them.
BELL: Fair enough. Why do you think that about them?
JOHN: With the government is going and the NSA, inclusions into people's lives. I think more and more people find this lifestyle more accommodating. What they don't have the right in Washington to do, is to tell you or me what to do when it is in violation of the Constitution. I think Obama even said that the Constitution gets in his way.
BELL: So are you willing - - what are you willing to do to keep your freedom? How far you willing to go?
JOHN: I'll die.
JOHN: I'll die. And everybody I know around will do the same.
BELL: That sounds fine to me. I just hope we both agree that that day is today.
JOHN: Have you ever shot a gun?
BELL: Not proficient with it. I don't own a gun
JOHN: Everybody should have a gun to protect our nation from regime change.
BELL: I just feel like on not ice cream for the sake of a better society, we have to restrict how we deal with guns different than we restrict ice cream. We should also restrict some ice cream. If you look at my gut, you could tell this is not ice cream.
JOHN: This is an inalienable right.
BELL: We can have an enjoyable debate about these things. After I watch you load that gun, I see your point.
JOHN: Talking about guns and all.
BELL: What is this right here?
JOHN: That's an AR-15.
BELL: Thank you. Got to hold it like I'm holding a baby. Go to sleep little baby don't cry.
JOHN: That thing is just an intimate piece of plastic and metal just like a car. It won't kill anybody unless you pull the trigger after it is loaded and then it can be extremely deadly. BELL: The difference between a gun and a car, this can drop the kids off at soccer practice.
JOHN: That's a fact, but I can sure motivate them to go to soccer.
BELL: I guess we have different parenting styles, John. But, yes that's true.
JOHN: You would like to fire this, I know you do.
BELL: When in Rome.
JOHN: You hold that. You keep that muzzle up straight up for me. Absolutely. There is no one in the chamber but there's plenty in that clip.
BELL: I don't want to be too critical of John's prepping style but he did just give a gun to a total stranger and turned his back.
JOHN: Here we go.
BELL: Honey, where did I put my extra ammo?
JOHN: You can take it right on up. And let it go.
BELL: Yes, ok.
JOHN: Now you're ready.
BELL: This is like losing my virginity. It takes a lot more effort than I expected. Here we go. Wow. I don't think I want to do that again. You clearly are proficient. Respectful of the technology and people TV will see that. Also, they will see a man living up on the mountain in the woods wearing a mask, dressed in camo, talking about people taking our guns away. That's going to scare some people.
JOHN: We are not the enemy of law-enforcement or anybody. We just want to live in peace and quiet. I'm wearing a mask for personal reasons. I'm not a bad guy. I get along with everybody.
BELL: Asheville Board of tourism is probably not going to use this as the poster for, come to Asheville.
JOHN: Probably not.
BELL: I visited John, the masked patriot the lives off the grid. He still has modern conveniences like solar panels, cell phone, and rocket launcher that he didn't show me.
I want to find somebody way off the grid. Somebody that is so out of touch that I can walk up to him and say, hi, I'm Don lemon.
I am on my way to meet Tod Krishaw. He's so off the grid and outside the box that he spells Tod with one D. Damn. Tod used to be an ordinary city slicker like me, but he became so
concerned about the damage that humans were doing to the planet. He took the time to less civilization behind to live a little more eco- friendly life in the woods. He lives 40 miles outside of Asheville, somewhere around here-ish I think.
Following some vague directions, I think I'm in the right place. You know, nothing around for miles. No cell phone service, and that annoying smell of fresh air. od is going to take me on some mountain fantasy camp to teach me how to survive one step at a time. I hope they will be baby steps. Please, God, let them to be baby steps.
TOD KRISHAW, SURVIVALIST: Hey, there.
BELL: Hi. My name is Kamau.
KRISHAW: I'm Tod. Glad you made it. Welcome.
BELL: Thank you.
KRISHAW: I have a few things in trying to get done before dark.
BELL: I'll help you do whatever I can. I'm a city fella. If you need me to log on to any Wi-Fi or order you a mocha, I can do those things.
KRISHAW: Which of these would you like to carry?
BELL: I will take this one.
KRISHAW: You sure about that?
BELL: This seems dangerous enough. We don't need to get more dangerous.
KRISHAW: What you don't want to do is fall down on top of that.
BELL: That's a good rule, a good rule of thumb.
KRISHAW: I've done it.
BELL: A good rule of thumb and how not to lose your thumbs. Just like that, I'm off in the woods with the guy I just met, and a tool from a horror movie. Oh, dammit, I'm the black guy.
KRISHAW: You can see what it is like when you get off the trail. It is pretty steep.
BELL: Are we going down into that?
KRISHAW: Not very far. It is just off the trail. I wouldn't do that to you.
BELL: I appreciate it.
KRISHAW: This is a lot we're going to work on here.
KRISHAW: Just hop on the other side of the tree there. Let's just make a cut right here. Go ahead and grab the handle and pull it straight towards you, very gently, not down. You want to go straight across the log. This kind of float is first. Here we go. Very gentle and slow. People think it is a big, rough, macho thing. It is more of anything then it is macho. If we were cutting this whole log out and your back is broken by the end. You are just leaning over.
BELL: Oh, yes. Isn't that how they say, lift with your back.
KRISHAW: They cut this forest down to nothing was always like this.
KRISHAW: Really impressed your cutting abilities for the first time.
BELL: Maybe I'm a cutting mutant. It is a skill just manifesting itself.
KRISHAW: That could be. Maybe you should quit TV and go in the logging.
BELL: That's the same advice my last agent gave me before I fired him.
KRISHAW: This is the house I live in. I guess I should mention.
BELL: Oh, cool.
KRISHAW: If you would like to come in and take a look, you're welcome.
KRISHAW: This is it. This is the main section. This is the East wing over here.
BELL: If you wanted to, you can have space. You could build a bigger space. You like the tiny-iness of the house?
KRISHAW: I don't need anything else. It is different if you have a bedroom any Dan and all the other things. This is the bedroom and the forest in the living room. If you're done admiring the view, we could go up to the stream of fill up the water. Just lead the way.
BELL: I think you should the way.
KRISHAW: I'll lead the way. There a lot of oak trees around here. We hired acorns in the fall. You have to leech the talons out. Sometimes episodes them for a month award for their ready-to-eat.
BELL: These are acorns? KRISHAW: These are acorns. If you take a bite of these before they are fully leaked, they one point in you but they don't taste very good. You and are going to find out if there are ready to eat.
BELL: Sounds great.
KRISHAW: I'm not going to say anything. I'm going to let you try first.
BELL: This is a acorns? It just looks like dirt.
KRISHAW: Are you questioning me.
BELL: I'm just making an observation. I expected to see like a nut of some sort.
KRISHAW: These are ground up.
BELL: You ground these up?
KRISHAW: We get them, we grind them up, leech them, then we eat them.
BELL: Let's get all the camera angles we can right now. This is going to be a one time and one-time only proposition. Enjoy it while it happens. You know how long it took me to eat sushi. Tod. I'm a slow adopter to the new cuisines.
KRISHAW: You're probably tasted the worse things, haven't you?
BELL: Not a purpose. It tastes like sawdust aftertaste.
KRISHAW: Sawdust, you're right about that. There you go. You have gone and it.
BELL: Even though it is in a bucket, acorns, not on my bucket list.
KRISHAW: I don't know if we need to split any more wood that maybe get a fire going.
BELL: I'm down with that. Let's get a fire going and cook me a cheeseburger.
W. KAMAU BELL: So yeah, so one of the great things about travel shows is the food. I say about most travel shows because it's not this one. This episode, a guy brought a bucket filled with like, toilet water and like a bunch of brown paste that looks like the kind of stuff that they use to put IKEA futons together.
He's like would you like to eat some? And I was like no, and my producer says, here's your contract Kamau and I said yes I would like to eat some. They keep the contract with them a lot on this show. Have you seen this? Oh, I need to fire all my people.
GUEST: You haven't had duck eggs before? BELL: No, no, no, no, I haven't had duck eggs.
GUEST: They're very rich. They're much richer than chicken eggs. Oh, look at that, there they are.
BELL: There they go.
GUEST: You want to grab them?
BELL: Yes. So I'm 40 miles outside of Ashville, North Carolina, hanging some dinner.
KERSHAW: I think the bear meat should go in first don't you?
BELL: Oh yes.
KERSHAW: I can these here over an open fire.
BELL: That's right, canned bear. You can the bear. What's that liquid in there?
KERSHAW: Bear juice.
BELL: Bear juice.
KERSHAW: And then, mmm...smells like canned bear.
BELL: Oh yes. Yes. Is that what that smell is?
KERSHAW: That's that smell. Put that in there, and actually it really doesn't need to cook, but I always cook it for a bit just - -
KERSHAW: - - what the heck you know? I didn't spice it, it's not fancy, it's bear meat, bear fat and onions, and duck eggs.
BELL: Is that yellow? Al right, here we go this is my first taste of bear meat.
KERSHAW: And? And? Better than acorns, come on.
BELL: Yes, it's better than acorns. Yes, no, it tastes like - -
BELL: Yes, well yes. It tastes whatever it tastes like bear. It's sort of like ground, sort of like stew meat you would put in - -
KERSHAW: You're lucky I didn't try to feed you some rat.
BELL: Yes, I am lucky.
KERSHAW: Rat's really good though. You know what it tastes like?
BELL: What? KERSHAW: Rat.
BELL: OK. Yes, I'm pretty lucky about, I feel pretty lucky. Wow. So how long have you been living out here and what brought you out here?
KERSHAW: Well, I've been living here somewhere in the neighborhood of nine years. But you notice I don't - -
BELL: You say in the neighbor of nine years because you don't know what year it is?
KERSHAW: I can't remember exactly when I got here and the past that led me here, you know, I guess it could start at birth. But you know, I went through high school, I went to college, almost went in the Marines. Then I decided to go into engineering because I really felt this very strong feeling that I should try to change the environmental situation. And at the time, I believe that higher technology would help make the world a better place. So I got a degree in electrical engineering when I was 33 from the University of Washington, worked as an engineer for a while. And about the time I was finishing up my masters, I came to my personal conclusion that it's all a bunch of bullshit and we have a lot of, I think very realistic fear of where we're going as a planet.
In my opinion, in every single economic action that we take in society as it exists is contributing to our own self-destruction. And you know, I'm not above that. I love my half decaf soy latte, I admit, al right, it doesn't go with my image, I know but it's true.
BELL: Yes. Yes. Yes. I understand what you're saying. But I certainly, like a lot of people incapable of putting that all out of my mind while I sit on my couch and drive in my car, and use my electric devices. I love being comfortable. You know what I mean, like, and I come out here and I see all this. I'm impressed with all the work you've done out here. But I couldn't imagine the amount of intentionality you have to have around living out here.
KERSHAW: So, I've experienced your life. I was an engineer. I owned a brand new car. I owned a house. I did that whole thing, but the funny thing is that I moved out here and my life is so much, so much better than at any previous time in my life. You know I've tried many different things and I have the luxury of not knowing what time it is. I have the luxury of not knowing what day it is.
I have the luxury of drinking water that hasn't been pumped full of fluoride and chlorine that someone else is telling me is good for me. I have such an easy life. I have tons of freedom and to me that's well.
BELL: Al right. You know you win this round Todd. You say a lot of good things. I can't even imagine sleeping here.
KERSHAW: That's too bad because I was going to invite you to sleep here.
BELL: Hey Camilla (ph), hey whose this? Did you like the TV show? Yes, I'm on the TV show. What do I do? Oh we travel around, meet people, oh like Bourdain, eating good food and hanging out on beaches. That sounds good. Yes, I'll tape one of those TV shows. Sons of Bitches.
So if you're wondering what it would be like if an entire community lived off the grid, wonder no more. Deep in Tennessee is the most famous commune in the world the legendary, intentional community known as the Farm. In case you didn't know the 1960's didn't actually end in the 1960's. In the early '70's, San Fransisco is still the era of flower power. That's right. Free love, psychedelics and long haired dope smoking hippies. I get a contact high just thinking about it.
But once the haze of the air cleared, some of them found themselves yearning for more. So they bought an armada of school buses and started a cross country caravan to preach peace and love. And when they were ready to settle down, they made their way to rural Tennessee. Like you do. There they bought 4,000 acres of land and established a new community that they named The Farm.
And at that point, none of them actually knew anything about farming. But I guess when your back is up against the backwoods of Tennessee, you'll figure it out. They grew food to feed themselves, built houses and had a lot of babies, like a lot of babies. What else you gonna do without a TV? And as part as their new communal society they banned money and shared everything.
At it's height, there were over 1,500 people living on the Farm and they took in over 10,000 visitors a year. But eventually they learned that even if you don't believe in money, everything comes with a cost. Moo cows, I am in the middle of no where. So I'm 60 miles southwest of Nashville, Tennessee and I'm about to meet with Doug Stevenson, the Farm's historian who's been here since 1975.
STEVENSON: So well.
BELL: Hey Douglas.
STEVENSON: Hey welcome to the Farm.
BELL: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
STEVENSON: You want to see the place.
STEVENSON: Let's go.
BELL: I guess we should probably take your car. This is probably not Farm appropriate.
STEVENSON: Yes, this one is a little greener. BELL: OK. Al right.
STEVENSON: You know we've got about three square miles of land here.
STEVENSON: It's the community and then we've got another 1,400 acres that's an H preserve, beyond that it's about 4,000 acres all together.
BELL: OK. I'm from the city so I don't know what an acre is but even if they're small, that sounds like a lot.
STEVENSON: Yes. We get spoiled on the country life. We like the peace and quiet, close to nature.
STEVENSON: So we're coming up here, this is a recycle center. This is a woodshop. This is our soy dairy, where we make tofu and other soy products because the Farm was founded as a vegetarian community. This is our clinic. We're well known around the world for our midwifery program. This building up here on the left, is a cabin for people coming in to have their baby.
BELL: So people fly in, from all over to have babies here. Doug told me that the Farm's original mission was to get people back to the land so they could live more naturally. And to build a peaceful community that rejected consumerism and the use of money. But what I'm wondering is, in this legendary commune, how come I'm not seeing any people? So how many people used to live here?
STEVENSON: About 1,400.
BELL: OK. And how many people live here now?
STEVENSON: Well then it settled down to like 100 adults and 150 kids.
BELL: You think 1,400 were too many people maybe?
STEVENSON: Well, it was fun. So we're coming in to downtown here.
BELL: Wait, wait, we are?
STEVENSON: It was very much about living with nature.
BELL: Can you point me in the direction where you see downtown?
STEVENSON: It's coming up here. See that thing over there, that's our dome.
BELL: Man, no matter where you go, downtown is always congested. After Doug drops me off, I want to walk around and see if I can meet any of the residents. That is if I can find any? The solitude and quiet are great I guess, but where are the drum circles? Isn't there a sak that need to be hackied? And most troubling, I don't smell any weed anywhere. But I do smell something brewing which leads me to these people. Who look to be hanging out at the Farm's equivalent of a frat house. Hello.
BELL: Hey everybody. I'm new to the Farm, I live here now.
GUEST: Oh cool.
BELL: None of that is true. Hi, Kamau. So this looks like we're making some beer.
GUEST: You're right, we are.
BELL: OK. Al right.
GUEST: It's a Belgium dark. It's going to be quite thick but lovely.
BELL: OK. They get lovely. That's what they said about me in high school. So what exactly is in here?
GUEST: Well - -
BELL: You not want to tell me. Is it a secret recipe? Is it people that worked at the Farm that didn't work out? Kind of a weird laugh you guys just had there.
GUEST: If you want to step over to our testing table.
BELL: To the wine bar.
GUEST: Yes. This one here is a sweet potato ale.
BELL: Sweet potato ale.
GUEST: Yes. BELL: Uh oh. Sweet potatoes we grew here?
GUEST: That's right.
BELL: As a black person, sweet potatoes are very important to our culture. So the sweet potato ale - -
GUEST: Well polish that off then. It's all yours.
BELL: Yes. I'm just saying. If I tell the black people you guys messed with the sweet potatoes you might have some people showing up. That is good use of the sweet potato everybody.
BELL: So, why, wine and beer? How is it connected to the belief system of living on the Farm?
GUEST: All the beer we're getting here is coming from hundreds of miles away pretty much right? Why not do it here? Because all the energy that goes into bringing it to us, we can do it for free. All the fruits that we use to make all this wine, either I'll feed the ingredients to my chickens or I'll use them in my compost so then it becomes a full circle, holistic management system.
BELL: Nothing is getting thrown away.
BELL: OK. Sustainable beer and wine. That's sounding more like the Farm I've heard about, but these dudes making a case of beer and a few bottles of wine isn't keeping the lights on. But there is an industry here, and of course it's tofu.
GUEST: Would you like to take a look at how we do stuff?
BELL: Yes, let's do it.
GUEST: You're going to have to sport one of these before we do.
BELL: Oh yay, that's OK. I sleep in one of these every night. Yes.
GUEST: That's a good look. They've been making tofu right here for 40 years.
BELL: So they've been making tofu here since way before it was cool.
GUEST: Since way before it was cool.
BELL: But to the people who work here, it's a job. But do they get paid money or they being paid in tofu? How intense of a community is this.
GUEST: If I was lucky, I'd get paid in tofu. But, no, it's a straight up gig. They get a paycheck - -
BELL: So you're not that far off the grid.
GUEST: No, no. no.
BELL: You still have to deal with Uncle Sam.
GUEST: Yes. Absolutely.
BELL: Al right. Al right. That's right it doesn't matter how outside of mainstream society you are, even if you're making free love hippy tofu, Uncle Sam wants his slice.
GUEST: Do you want to come on over? Yes.
BELL: And the Farm has another business, making babies. They have an international renowned midwifery program, which has helped bring 1,000's of babies in to the world, the way mother nature intended. No hospitals, no doctor and most importantly, no drugs.
So do a lot of people that don't live here make a choice to have their baby delivered here?
GUEST: You know, one of the things that people really like about midwifery care is the individualized attention that you get. I don't just show up at the end and catch the baby. I'm there for the whole birth.
BELL: It sort of seems like this is the, I know they make tofu here and other things. But this seems like this is the central industry of the Farm.
GUEST: Well this is one of our biggest crops. Yes.
BELL: One of our biggest crops is humans. That's a good crop. People are always going to want more of that. Yes. I'm surprised. Not what I expected from the world's most famous commune, from there original altruistic society to ban money, the Farm is like any other community in America. People have jobs and bills to pay. I can't help but wonder if happened. If the old school farmers are OK with this change. So I'm going to sit down with old timer Peter Schweitzer (ph). So after the Farm was up and running did it feel like a dream come true?
(SCHWEITZER): I remember thinking that we were on the cutting edge of where this country was going. I'll tell you, I believed that. I believed that in 10 years, we'd all be living like this.
BELL: Well you've got to dream big. By the fall of disco, we'll all be living on farms. So I know you guys were up to 1,500 people at some point, and somebody I've heard call the change over happened. So tell me about that?
(SCHWEITZER): You were asking about what it was like with 1,500 people, well it was too much. And in the early '80's, we had big bills. So we're getting in financial trouble. So the community gets together and decides, everybody's going to have to chip in to cover this bill or we're going to lose our land.
BELL: That's right. In the community that outlawed money, everyone now had to do what their parents had told them to do in the first place and get a job.
(SCHWEITZER): Everything changed you know. There was this massive exodus of people looking for work.
BELL: Yes. I would imagine, even being here today, if I decided I wanted to live on the Farm and needed a job, I don't see a lot of help wanted signs on the Farm.
(SCHWEITZER): No. Yes. Stuck.
BELL: How do you think you're doing these days? (SCHWEITZER): I love the younger generation that's coming along. Already way ahead of where we were at the same age when we came here. They're coming with skills and awareness that we, took us a lifetime to develop.
BELL: So do you think you're holding on to that core mission from back in the day?
(SCHWEITZER): Look at this place that we ended up with. I feel just incredibly lucky to be able to have got to live here. And to be living here at my age now, I can't ask for anything better. You know. A couple more teeth maybe, but otherwise I'm good.
BELL: To me, off the grid, means that I'm in a neighborhood that doesn't have a coffee shop with an open outlet and a bathroom, you know what I'm saying? You ever been in that position, where your phone is about to die and you walk around looking for an outlet, and you feel like your time on this planet is coming to an end?
Walk into businesses where you have no business being in looking at the floor? They're like, what do you need? Nothing, I'm good, I'm good. I feel like sometimes I should send a tweet out, tell my love ones I love them. I'm never going to see them again.
I've finished my very unscientific tour of the Farm and now I'm meeting back up with my tour guide Doug to see if he can give me the final sales pitch of the benefits of living out here. Sell me Doug. Sell me. It's very restful out here. I can see the appeal, I consider myself to be a big city person but I certainly see the appeal of like getting away. Off the grid as they say.
STEVENSON: It's a good quality life.
BELL: I even think about, like this morning, I think I turned on the lights and I was like wait. When you guys moved in there probably, there was no electricity.
STEVENSON: No. We did live without electricity for the first 12 years.
BELL: Twelve years without electricity.
STEVENSON: Yes. Well you know, actually, took technology one step at a time. Like we started with nothing, and then if something made sense, we added it.
BELL: And so what would you say to somebody whose sitting at home right now, who maybe has just seen this for the first time and is going huh? I never, maybe that's a thing. How would you - - what would you tell them?
STEVENSON: Yes you can grow your own food. Yes you can build your own home with natural materials. You can take charge of how your babies are born. You can keep yourself healthy. You can find like minded people. It's really about being part of something greater than yourself. You know, there's like 1,200 different communities of all different flavors already going.
You don't have to start from scratch. Come join us.
BELL: I've met a lot of interesting people on my off the grid tour. People determined to live their life the way they want to. And that's great for them. And as much as I thought I'd come out of this feeling sorry for these people, it's clear they feel way more sorry for the rest of us. Constantly plugged into, and enslaved by our phones and laptops and smart devices and - - hold on - - woo, I just got a tweet. OK. I need to respond to this. It's - - sorry.
I think when we hear commune we think of like people naked and partying. We don't think of people making tofu and delivering babies.
STEVENSON: It's all about keeping a balance. You don't have to wait to live your dreams. You can find peace and sanity in this world right now. But it does take attention and dedication and a lot of hard work, but if you persevere you'll get there.
BELL: Well, again, thank you for letting me come out here. I appreciate it.
KERSHAW: This is applejack like has been made in these mountains for many years.
BELL: Al right. This is my first product endorsement. Apple jack moonshine.
KERSHAW: And applejack, of course just means that it's made of moonshine. You can make raisin jack, applejack, peach jack, anything like that. It's good isn't it?
BELL: Yes, it's good.
KERSHAW: Better than the acorns.
BELL: Yes. It takes the taste of acorns right out of your mouth.
KERSHAW: Yes it does.
BELL: And some of your taste buds, it takes those off too.