Findhorn, the hippie home of huge cabbages, faces cash crisis

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The Findhorn Foundation, the collective of spiritual gardeners in northern Scotland that was virtually the prototype of the modern New Age community, has run into serious money problems.

The group, which became world-famous and an international hippie shrine for its original philosophy of interacting with plants and has gone on to become a kind of alternative university of personal growth, now has a much more mundane concern pressing upon it: if it cannot persuade the Bank of Scotland to raise its overdraft limit from £450,000 to £650,000, it will not be able to pay its current bills.

It may have to sell some of the properties which house the foundation and its many activities on a windswept sandy peninsula near the village of Findhorn on the shores of the Moray Firth, and is appealing for financial help from friends and supporters,

The group, 40 years old next year, says that necessary but substantial spending on infrastructure projects such as a new entrance road and rewiring of accommodation is the cause of its financial crisis, while other sources suggest there has been a fall-off in the number of visitors who come from all over the world to Findhorn for spiritual development courses.

Mari Hollander, focaliser (the chief executive, in non-Findhorn speak) of the foundation's management team, said yesterday that if the overdraft was not extended, "things will be tense and tighter", but she said the foundation would carry on. "We're not going anywhere," she said.

Findhorn ­ as the foundation and the community are together known throughout the alternative world, to the annoyance of the inhabitants of the eponymous village ­ has an immovable place in New Age lore because of the legend of the giant vegetables.

In the Sixties, unshakeable hippie myth has it, enormous cabbages and other crops were grown on the sparse sandy soil of the site because the community's 1962 founders, Peter and Eileen Caddy and their friend Dorothy MacLean, communicated with them directly, receiving messages from the "devas", or intelligent angels, associated with each plant.

Another early member of the community, R Ogilvie Crombie, better known as Roc, went further and claimed to be able to communicate with the god Pan.

Although actual evidence of 42lb cabbages is hard to come by, and such feats had ceased by the time the nascent community began to attract international publicity in the early Seventies, the legend remains firmly fixed in the alternative canon. "I don't think there's any reason to suppose it didn't happen," Mari Hollander said.

But growth through communication is regarded with unswerving scepticism by David Morgan, editor of the local paper, theForres Gazette, who has long followed the foundation's doings. "We've simply got a very good growing climate here," he said. "There's a microclimate in Moray which doesn't exist in other parts of northern Scotland."

Some people have since regarded the community as cranky, while others have revered it. Others still see both sides. "They're as weird as a tuppenny watch in some ways, but quite enlightened in others," Mr Morgan said.

Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that the foundation is still going after four decades. It is certainly the case that the ecological and spiritual development courses offered by Findhorn continue to attract thousands of people every year. It can also boast a number of celebrity students: Burt Lancaster, Ruby Wax and Shirley MacLaine have all attended.