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Stephen Gaskin, founder of country's oldest surviving commune, dies at age 79

Stephen Gaskin, a visionary who established one of the country's oldest surviving communes, located in rural Middle Tennessee, has died at age 79.

Gretchen Bates, who grew up on The Farm and is close to Gaskin's family, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Gaskin died of natural causes at his home in Summertown on Tuesday.

Bates says Gaskin had been ill for a while, and that she recently visited him. She described him as a visionary and spiritual guide who advocated being responsible and giving back to the community.

In 1970, Gaskin and his school bus led a caravan of about 320 hippies to 1,750 acres of rough ridge country where they founded the back-to-basics collective.

The Farm once had a population of more than 1,200 and now has about 200 residents near Summertown.

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