how I became “Brother Martin”

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I was a simple fruit farmer, a member of an intentional community called “The Farm.” I was a much simpler fruit farmer than most, since I didn’t own the land, didn’t buy my farm supplies with my own money, and grew the fruit to share with the other members of my community rather than for sale. Pretty much all the money in the community was handled through a central office, with budget decisions made by a board of the different interests in the community–farmers, construction workers, health workers, school teachers, etc.

Our income, while impressive in total–hundreds of thousands of dollars a year–averaged out to about a dollar a day per person, but the dollars were only a small percentage of our wealth. We provided each other/ourselves with food, medical care, housing, transportation, school for our children, and a host of other things at no cost. It was not paradise. We were dirt poor by any standard, but we had our freedom.

One of the things we eventually came up with was our own community TV station–not broadcast (tho we had a low-power broadcast pirate FM station) but distributed through the community via cable. We used it for internal communication–such as telling the community the Farming Crew’s plans, often via humorous skits. In one of those skits, I “became” Brother Martin, holding a revival in The First Church of Farming.

The community started experiencing social and financial difficulties in the early eighties. Socially, our kids started becoming television-influenced teenagers who wanted things that couldn’t be had on a dollar a day, and many of my generation fell prey to the same neuroses that had bedeviled our parents when we were teenagers, causing general dissatisfaction with our standard of living and the same generation gap that we, as young parents, had sworn we would never create. Financially, we fell prey to the general worsening of the economy that occurred as the seventies faded into the eighties, plus which we were saddled with serious debts due to overly speculative vegetable and field crop farming ventures, serious medical bills incurred by a few community members, and the failure of a local bank that had been very friendly to us. There was increasing debate in the community about whether to continue our communal experiement. I argued strongly against abandoning it, and would appear on the community TV station as “Brother Martin,” railing humorously against changing the community’s nature and calling for a revival of our “old time religion.” My viewpoint did not prevail, and the commune turned into a community in which “all for one and one for all” was replaced with “every man for himself.” I stuck it out for seven years, trying to run the apple orchard as a business and hoping things would change, but by 1990 it was obvious that I wasn’t going to make a living from the apple trees and the community was not going to de-gentrify itself, and I left, a bitter exile from a country that no longer existed. There was no place I could go that felt like home, and home didn’t feel like home any more either.

As the twentieth century staggered to a close, I was working in the produce department of a health food store in Nashville, Tennessee, and starting to get more serious about singing the songs I had occasionally been writing and playing on the pianos that seemed to materialize wherever I went. Out of the blue, an old friend and sympathizer from my days on The Farm started working at the store, too, and she hailed me as “Brother Martin,” the first time anybody had reminded me of my religious sobriquet in many years. I started using it as a musical nom de plume, and then as I became more involved in the internet, it just seemed natural to use it other places as well. I still base my politics on what I consider spiritual principles, such as

Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

We’re all in this together.

We are not separate from each other. (nearly the same as preceding statement, but profoundly different, as well)

“Howsoever ye treat the least of Mine, is how ye treat Me.”

It’s very serioius, but don’t take it too seriously.

so “Brother Martin,” with its strong religious overtones (tho I am neither Protestant nor Catholic, but Buddhist) seems like a good handle. Any questions?



here”s where you can find my humble attempts at music:

on Facebook

and on Reverbnation

26 responses

12 11 2007

Jullay from Ladakh, where trees are bare and skies are blue.

28 12 2007

howdy Brother Martin, just found your site, am heartened by it :)
I am moving too in what I have found to be the Right Direction, am
encouraged and strenghtened by finding Others

26 03 2008

Hi bro

Sounds like a similar story, but very different too.
I was looking up peter berg and luckily stumbled upon deep green perspective and like it a lot.

What happened with the (oh shit, this is a blog. I just popped back to get the right title for that bioregional meeting in jan. and it had Changed On Me to the antarctic icesheet calving event.).

So what happened at that meeting? I guess I should look in the blog archives, ok, I will.

That was genuinely disorienting my friend, one minute in the 70’s and on the farm and having kids at home, next minute Here, Now, brought to us by cnn. Phew. Start over.

Hi nice to meet ya, sounds like we’re alike alot. You must be oldish too, Kids all over the map, raised them on a horse from birth and they haven’t been on one since they left, sound familiar?

Anyway I see bad shit coming down the pike and thought, I have a lifetime of thought and experience in surviving economic depressions and the like, that really shouldn’t just go to waste.

So I got on the silicone highway and here I am. Just like that “mexico on $5 a day guy said”

I should probably get back to you after i have read some more of your stuff so I’m not just asking already answered question. I’ll do that.

Me and joanne are 63 and 53 respectively live beside a pretty big lake in IDFdk3 BC. grow garden, chickens and cats, fish, drive a 84 toyota 4×4 on purpose, run win 98se, on purpose. write and cogitate excessively. I’m an opinionated, eco_logic_aly competent “natural historian” that has an answer for some of the worlds problems. heh heh.

So will read on

bye for now


I’m occasionally tempted to start marketing Organic Hemlock Tea … “The first tea that’s guaranteed to reduce your impact on the environment!”

3 04 2008
brother martin

Dear brother,

I have enjoyed reading your words.

brother martin

19 04 2008

say it loud, I am brother and I’m proud

good to have you as a bro

alan g

8 06 2008

nice words I enjoyed that – lettuce pray together in the church of religious consumerism – oh brother where art thou?

5 09 2008

Hello Hello!! I appreciate knowing you a liittle bit better, Brother Martin!! I’m Brother Free over in Knoxville. I too, came to be known as a Brother of the Light in a very special way. Ten years after I paid for the name Free, One truth after another led me straight to the Light!! Although not a buddhist, I’m ordained as a Universalist we have much in common. May the Light Shine Brightly!! Peace, Brother Free

28 09 2008
» Old orchards and fresh fruit News and Views from The Farm

[…] harvested from trees planted in the late 70’s and early 80’s by Martin Holsinger, aka Brother Martin.  Martin is an old Farmie who know lives down in the Central Basin near Nashville.  Last […]

15 10 2008

i found your words by accident looking for repair info for martin guitars- the phrase i typed was rising tongue martin.
you have a pretty clear head, friend. i’m an american refugee in new zealand, and as the situation worsens i try to understand my former land. i really liked your choices of music for each of your blog entries. we humans surely have got ourselves into a world of shit, and i know new zealand is not far enough. still, i have hope for us all. crazy. anyway, thank you for your kindness and sensibility in the face of the things that just cause me horrific bitter blood-boiling rage.
good luck,
David Reilly

15 10 2008

thanks for your encouraging words…believe me, i’ve thought of heading for NZ plenty of times, but never quite got tot the point of “voting with my feet”–give my regards to the South Island…if I can ever visit NZ by sailing ship, i just might go see ’em…

8 10 2009

Interesting Read.
Are you still a disciple of St. Stephen,
or is this a new sect?

short answer: no to both questions

29 12 2009
frum lady

Some of the idealism involved in the community you were a part of, as mentioned above, sounded good and started with righteous intentions, however as for the part where your kids’ eyes popped out at the wonders of materialism causing general dissatisfaction with the standard of living,- it is my opinion that it is not necessarily evil to see/desire material things one can use, practically, to improve oneself with. It is not a prerequisite that in order to be good, or to be kind to each other one must subsist on a poverty level.
Decling to the average 3rd world peasant’s living standards:
1) renders an individual helpless, as them, putting them in the same position which they are actually trying to relieve others’ from, namely the burden of poverty.
2) Denies the fact that we do need material goods to a certain degree in order to survive the material earth world which is this existence, in order to live. Denying it is not fair nor balanced.
3) Having wealth, or just comfort is a blessing, if one has it. And it should be used to improve life and other’s lives. We should never look down on the blessing of money and yet we should do as the Master of the Universe told Abraham “Get the blessing but rise above it”. He was the most profoundly weathliest man living in the desert, just blessing in everything with everything. But he used it to bring other’s to acknowledge, bless and give thanks to G-d. And not to show off.
I use to know someone who wouldn’t sleep on a bed. They insisted on sleeping merely on a mattress on the bare floor. Its debateable whether or not this did bring them closer to G-d or not, but eventually once they “joined the real world” it became obvious that they had become a valuable and active partner in
G-d’s world, by doing kind deeds for others in their community. And eventually was blessed with more materialism/income with which they now use to give to charity. We have to see material goods for what they are- merely tools to be used in G-d’s Creation and not as weapons to hoard or intimidate others with. Only to do G-d’s Will with. For example an expensive Juicer to enhance your health with. Etc. etc. Or a Lexus to do errands for others and give a lift to the needy. Ok just kidding on the Lexus bit.
There is a specially nice thing we can do “beautify the commandments” we perform, by adorning the utensils, or table, or room, or whatever is involved. For the Sake of Heaven. This is my point. Everything has its purpose.

29 12 2009

Let me clear something up about our “vow of poverty.” It was not a vow to remain impoverished, it was a vow not to take any more for ourselves than we needed, to make sure everybody had enough.

The years I spent living on the Farm on a financial income of about $1/day/person were, initially, the richest years of my life. We had a caring community, which money can’t buy. It’s impossible for anybody who didn’t take part in it to imagine, I think. As time went on, the original inspiration was watered down, bowdlerized, forgotten. People grew selfish. Then poverty became an annoyance. I still regard myself as on a “vow of poverty” and I live in what I consider reasonable comfort and do what (all too little, it seems) I can to make life better for anyone I can help. That’s what it’s about. Yes, everything has its purpose. Thanks for caring enough to write.


29 12 2009
frum lady

Yes, you have a good point about the caring. And the vow not to take any more for yourselves than was needed, making sure everybody had enough. I really like that. In the neighborhood where I live, we often see one family who has luxury and yet the neighbors can’t buy pampers. This is a really religious point that even the most spiritual find themselves falling short in. Greed and desires. I struggle with this.

All the best
Lady Frum

4 03 2010
Anna Gurol

Hi Folks
I like the poverty debate because it actually does point to a very deep dilemma in the sustainability movement: if you are living sustainably, you will be poorer, especially in the short run. Its humiliating and disempowering to be poor, and very much not fun. The problem is, that it IS the moral high ground.
In the Christian mythos there are some very strange stories about this — for example the Prodigal Son, who earned nothing but was given everything. There is also the idea that you can lead a life of sin and repent on your death bed, and go to heaven forever. Then there is the story about the shepherd who abandoned the whole flock of sheep to hunt the one who was lost, whose recklessness turned out to be righteousness. Myself I am not a Christian, but part of their theories seem to support a real lack of justice in terms of earning what you get. If we look at the universe objectively, I see this to be true: there is a large random element going on here. They’re right.
I see several points arising from this fact:
1. I am less panicked because it is frankly my REASON which is scaring the piss out of me. If the universe is whimsical, we may get away with a lot!
2. If you want to live sustainably, do it because you like it, not because you think its righteous. Poverty may be miserable but simplicity is deeply satisfying, as Martin has described, from years of experience. (Aging is a challenge however, unsolved and unaddressed.)
3. The questions around wealth and poverty have to do with the morality of sharing. We naturally share with lovers and children, maybe even with community, but probably not with our region or world. The sustainability movement recognizes that resources are local, it makes little long-term sense to send corn to Africa. But only a jerk would let a family member starve. So I think we are going to have to decide where the limits of community are. Globalization utterly confuses this.
Anyway, love your writing Brother Micheal :)

7 03 2010

Question: what are the limits of community? Evolution tells us we’re all Africans, ultimately, and it’s wrong to let our cousins starve, wrong to mistreat any animal, not just humans. There’s enough hurt in the world already, and it only seems right to me to be as kind as I can to as many beings as I can–but neither I nor we can save every being right now…some will experience pain of one kind or another in spite of all we can do, even if we had the kind of power and wealth at our disposal that is now being used to corral resources for the benefit of the few. The material world has limits and we bump up against them, and frequently, that hurts.

As for the more practical question of dealing with the aged and infirm in the context of community, the Farm community took on a number of seniors over the course of its existence, and I think the greater ease of sharing their care made it easier on their caregivers, while the non-institutional environment made their last years much, much happier than they would have been in more conventional circumstances. I think of one man who much preferred to be naked….no problem in the woods, big problem in a nursing home!

My mother spent the last three years of her life in the care of my son and his neighbors, all people she had known for decades. (Long story about why I was only peripherally involved!) She had already had short stints in nursing homes and did not like them at all. She had no complaints about the family circle.

I think one of the “up sides” of the ongoing collapse is that fewer people will be able to afford nursing homes and more people, being unemployed, will have time to care for their family members….not that there won’t be plenty of downside to all that, too….

25 10 2010
Peter Else

Brother Martin,

Your concord grapes were the best. Best wishes to the Fruit Crew from the Field Crops Crew.


26 10 2010

Fondly remembered, fer sure, tho’ that August ripening date (instead of the later, slower ripening of more northern climes) made ’em very much “here today, gone tomorrow.” The old vineyard site, on that rocky, rocky Bodine soil, is being allowed to return to forest, which I’m kinda glad to see, on the rare occasions when I see it…so….last I heard, you were in Arizona…but your IP address is for Buffalo, NY–that’s a big change! Lotsa grapes up your way, or used to be….good hearing from you!

27 10 2010
Peter Else

No, still in Arizona. Oddly, the only local dial-up carrier in my little town of Mammoth is based in Buffalo, NY. I live in the San Pedro River valley about an hour north of Tucson. I’m glad I stumbled into your blog. Strange days indeed. Lots of things to talk about, and I’m glad you’re talking.

29 10 2010

Thanks for the encouragement! As the grateful Dead have been known to sing, “You know it’s gonna get stranger, so let’s get on with the show!”

3 11 2011
Jerry Andrews

Hey Martin; do you remember Jerry and Linda from the Michigan Farm? Well if you do, then hello to you and hope you are well. Linda passed away about 3 and half years ago, still dealing with that, my daughter lives with me and my son is thirty minutes away, no grandkids as yet. I read a lot of what you wrote and it was real good to hear someone making sense for a change. Some times I think of moving back to “Farm” country, does not sound as easy as it once was, guess everyone has to pay their way. I am sixty six years old and still working full time as a painter for the Health Dept. in Illinois. My house is almost paid for and I drive an old car that is always breaking down but I am getting by. Music sustains me and finally got a set of drums, are you still plalying the sax? Still see Bonnie at all? Have not seen Donald and Katherine in 6 or 8 years, but did go over to North Caroling to see Georgia (now Lynn) Eaton, maybe you still see Zeb Eaton (now John) sometimes. At any rate, keep up the good work and maybe I will see you someday. Peace, Jerry.

4 11 2011

great to hear from you! Will reply in private.

15 05 2012
alex sator

few people know what you walked away from, martin, and when you walked away from it. needless to say you could have had a much different, more material life. in the end, i know that edith respected all of this. it took her a while, haha.she soft pedaled the farm to me on those long drives down, but she was all about arguing your case, not hers. me? i grew up just outside of yellow springs.. so, i was already receptive to your message–but too gutless to actually make a bold move like that. i get it though. it’s all about living large through living small.

i didn’t need a Farm to do that, and you don’t either. you need to be out among us leading by example. jmho.

16 05 2012

Good to hear from you, Alex–at the time I joined the Caravan, before I knew it would become “The Farm,” I felt like a drowning man who had just miraculously grasped a chunk of driftwood that was big enough and stable enough to save his life. Almost left the first winter, but involvement and an upcoming fatherhood I couldn’t see running from kept me there…plus, I started seeing it as the revolutionary movement that everybody else was still floundering around looking for. And so it seemed for the next thirteen years, until the Farm’s bubble popped. At that point, and as I gradually separated from the community over the following years, I came to see myself as having been insulated from the erosive, corrosive changes that so many of my generation had gone through in the course of having failed to escape the mainstream as thoroughly as I did–a kind of human time capsule. Very good for preserving my youthful ideals, if not my energy and enthusiasm, but also, for better and for worse, putting me very out of step with America As It Is. Often, I feel like an observer from a more advanced culture, as I observe “what fools these mortals be,” but seem unable to do much to help educate anyone–because the first rule of giving helpful advice and insight is, “You must wait to give your gift until somebody asks you for it.”

18 04 2013
jackson palmer

Howdy Martin,
Jackson Palmer checking in.I can understand letting go the reins on the radio show,but please don’t drop this blog.I like your perspective on todays world……….Kind of sad to think of the vineyard going wild after all the hours you ,Daryll and I put in,but kind of cool to think of folks 100 years from now finding huge Concord,Delaware,and French Hybrid vines winding up the Oak trees and wondering how the heck they ended up there.
I think about the Farm and the things we learned frequently.I’ve been in leadership positions in the years since with Earth First and other enviro families,as well as organizing Raves,uh..I mean” dance parties”,yeah thats what I meant to say….The most valuable lessons I learned on the Farm were about synchronizing group mind to achieve common goals,What works and what does’nt.
Im 56 now ,married to my 34 year old second wife Hope,we have a 3 year old daughter Ilia Mae and are expecting daughter Lilla in August.Currently in Portland ,we have 40 acres in the mountains of Eastern Oregon and are building our home there…..Drop me an E-mail if you’re ever in Oregon.

20 04 2013

wow–amazing to hear from you again! Thanks for the encouraging words! Glad to hear about what you’ve been up to–not everyone has kept their edge once they got out on their own.

My own personal life has taken some twists and turns since we wuz “hoers” together…:-)…I’ve got grandkids in their 20’s, no great grandkids yet, tho, and split up with Bonnie and remarried after a ten year odyssey…living on my wife’s 23 acres in the woods near Nashville, a tale which has just taken some wild twists i will soon be posting about (check my fbook page if you’re really curious)

The vineyard is going back to oak trees, which is what most of the land it was on should have stayed in–as an EF!’er, I’m sure you appreciate the importance of rewilding!

GOtta go! Love ya, great to hear from ya!

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