Salmon Creek Farm was established as a commune in 1971 by a group of young people disenchanted with mainstream society and searching for something else. Along with many other communes in Albion, California, SCF grew out of the student protest culture of the late 60’s, resisting the Vietnam war and general mindless consumer conformity, while promoting issues like civil rights, gay liberation, and environmental consciousness. Turning their back on systems they no longer believed in, they learned how to build their own homes, make their own clothes, grow their own food while living communally, exploring Native American rituals, and practicing consensus decision-making.
One by one the original communards moved away – three of whom settled on three sides of the property – until an official closing ceremony was held in 2012. With its purchase by artist Fritz Haeg in November 2014, Salmon Creek Farm continues as a place to take a step back from contemporary urban society and starts a new chapter as a long-term art project formed by many hands, a new sort of commune-farm-homestead-sanctuary-school hybrid. An extended community of regularly returning comrades contribute to it’s revival and daily operations, propose projects, host gatherings, lead workshops, and shape it’s future during stays of a week up to a few months. Each person on the land asks how their skills/interests/curiosities meet the needs/potentials/resources of the place.
Salmon Creek Farm is located two miles from California’s Mendocino coast on 35 acres of mostly second-growth redwoods. From gardens, meadows and fruit orchard on a ridge-top, the property slopes down to Big Salmon Creek in the valley. A cottage in the orchard is followed by eight hand-built cabins secluded on footpaths throughout the property, a few small abandoned cabins hidden in the wilds across a tributary that bisects the land, a recently restored octagonal sauna and various out-houses & out-buildings.
Salmon Creek Farm is not open to the public. The commune is officially in session from April through October and (as of Fall 2017) cabins are available for short-term rentals from November through February. The secluded cabins are rustic but fully furnished with kitchenette, hot water, outdoor shower, outhouse, wood stove, electricity and wifi. There is a shared sauna, work area, lounge, kitchen and dining hall for daily communal meals.
Trial visits by students and recent grads (21 years and up), experienced carpenters/builders, and farmer/gardeners are occasionally offered. Send a brief letter of interest describing what you would want to learn/do and what you could offer/share, including complete contact information and any links to your work: Salmon Creek Farm, P.O. Box 909, Albion, CA 95410.
The annual calendar is anchored by seasonal projects and activities in the cabins, woods, gardens, orchard, coast and local landscapes. Spring / Summer: planting, sowing, cultivating, weeding, building, tending. Fall / Winter: harvesting, preserving, trail-blazing, foraging, pruning, chopping, knitting, writing. And always cooking, cleaning, dancing/moving, publishing, repairing, resource/waste managing (water, power, compost, humanure) and exploring. There are visits to the neighboring swimming hole when warm and local hot springs when cool…
“The ’60s communards came to Albion Ridge as settlers looking for land. In 1968, the commune at Table Mountain Ranch became the first of many on Albion Ridge. In the decade following, hundreds of young people would join them on the Ridge, sometimes permanently, more often not; thousands would pass through. This is the story of the Albion “nation”—a community of communards and back-to-the-landers, as well as a miscellany of antinomians who made their homes here. It begins a little known but important chapter in the history of utopia in Northern California, one that focuses neither on media stars, nor on the most bizarre and outlandish but on the experience of groups of ordinary young people who came to the Mendocino coast in the ’60s and ’70s, many of whom continue to reside here.
In 1971, Robert Greenway, a Sonoma State professor and Sally Shook, formerly a suburban Washington, D.C., housewife, and their collective seven children settled at nearby Salmon Creek Farm on Middle Ridge and invited others to join them. Closer to Albion, Carmen Goodyear and her partner Jeannie Tetrault established Thai Farm, a “women’s land” and a small collective/commune. Trillium, also a women’s commune, was settled just down the road. It was not so intentional. “We were just trying to get to more of a country scene. I didn’t move up here to be a commune. I didn’t move up here because of the women. I just saw the beauty, the Mendocino coast” (Weed). One estimate is that by the mid-’70s, the communards/back-to-the-landers, that is, “‘permanent’ settlers on Albion Ridge may have numbered 500 or more” (Moonlight)
The house at Table Mountain had to be rebuilt, sleeping quarters constructed—they were scattered around the house in woods connected by paths. Gardens were begun, animals—goats, sheep, geese, a pony, and chickens—gathered and tended in a process that became the norm and was followed at Salmon Creek Farm and at the women’s communes down the ridge. The sleeping houses were built sometimes from the rag-tag outbuildings that abounded on such homesteads, sometimes from scratch by hand. The “big” house was communal, with a kitchen and a place for important gatherings; the sleeping houses were more or less private. Times Change Press at Salmon Creek Farm published accounts of communal life…”
– excerpt from West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California