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  • Writer's pictureAnneliese Abbott

Long Hair, Love, and Organic Farming: Euell Gibbons and the Counterculture


Euell Gibbons and a hippie
Euell Gibbons helped get a new generation excited about foraging and organic farming

One stereotype of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s was that young people didn’t listen to—or trust—anyone over thirty. That may have been true when it came to their parents, teachers, politicians, or other despised authority figures. But when it came to organic farming and the environmental movement, the hippies actually did listen to a few select older folks. And one of them was Euell Gibbons.

 

While hippies had been buying his books for years, Euell first connected personally with the counterculture during the Earth Day festivities in April 1970. Born in 1911, Euell was nearly 59 years old on Earth Day—way over thirty. Like many people his age, he was initially turned off by the long hair and strange clothes of his hippie audience. But he quickly discovered that they were “serious and truly concerned about the erosion of the quality of life due to the massive befouling of the earth, air and water.”

 

Euell was impressed by how passionate the young people who listened to him were about the environment. “They are willing and eager to bring youthful energy, dedication, and intelligence to the conservation cause, and this is the most hopeful sign that I have seen that the present destructive trend might be reversed,” he reported in his 1971 book Stalking the Good Life.

 

In his solidarity for the hippies, Euell even decided to declare “my own head a natural area,” at least temporarily. But he found long hair an uncomfortable bother, so he decided that “as soon as I have convinced some of the youngsters that they have no monopoly on either concern for the environment or the ability to grow hair, I think I’ll shorten it.”

 

While he was excited about hippie interest in environmental issues, Euell felt that “too many of them saw the situation as a battle between them and the establishment.” He couldn’t blame them for being angry, but he hoped that they would “act out of their genuine concern for a better world, and not out of their anger." "I oppose name-calling, violence, and even some forms of militant pressure, not only because they are wrong, but because they are stupid," he explained. “Inevitably, such tactics delay solution of the problem.”

 

The only solution, Euell believed, was love—both for nature and for other humans. After all, “even the polluting industrialist is a human being, who loves and is loved,” he reminded his audience. “Let our own humanity and love speak to his humanity and love in working for a better environment….For love is a powerful form of pressure which few are prepared to resist. The solution of our ecological problems starts in your heart.”

 

Organic gardening—done out of love, of course—was also a major part of the solution. “The organic gardener has been a sort of literary joke, considered by the ‘economic man’ as a kook, a crank, a crackpot, or a cultist,” he wrote. “But now the public is grinning out of the other side of its mouth, and millions are ready to concede that the organic people have been right.” Organic gardening could be “the leavening, the way-shower to a better mode of living, where the environment would be constantly improving, rather than deteriorating as it is now,” Euell wrote in his 1973 book Stalking the Faraway Places. “Your demonstrations of the practicality of growing food without harming the land, water or the air may be the key to man’s survival on this planet.”

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