“Welcome to the farm,” I said warmly, greeting the trio of young women who
stood in front of me. All in their early 20s, each had a remarkably
luxuriant head of hair. One had waist-length light brown locks, the one in
the middle had shoulder-length blonde hair as thick as I had ever seen, and
the one on the other end had mid-back length jet-black hair.
As I walked around them, I noticed the women all appeared to be trim and
fit, and had pin-straight hair. I ran my fingers through each woman’s hair,
lifting it to feel its weight, my expert fingers gauging its thickness and
I returned to stand in front of them. Each stood at a rough approximation of
military attention, but with her hands behind her back. I knew each of them
was handcuffed, and none of them wanted to be here.
I should introduce myself. I’m Jon, and I run the Mountain Air Hair Farm.
It’s a small outfit, with a real niche business model. My clients are buyers
of absolutely top-quality hair. Most of them are stylists to the stars in
search of extensions for their clients, costume designers looking for the
best wigs, or impossibly wealthy and vain women who have lost their hair for
some reason – often chemotherapy or old age. I do not sell anything less
than the best available human hair. I charge a massive premium – a
one-inch-around section of 10-inch-long hair starts at $5000, for common
colors like brown, and can go up to $10,000 for just that small amount of
corn-silk blonde or deep red. Want more hair than that? How high is your
bank balance? I’m about to take a sizeable chunk of it. Cash only, of
My product is cultivated naturally, on the heads of women who are treated to
the best in hair-growth nutrition, products, living conditions, and hair
care. Everything that happens here at the farm is with one thing in mind,
and one thing only: growing the best possible hair. I fund research into
every aspect of hair growth – nutrition, fitness, follicle regeneration,
conditioning treatments, and even how often to shampoo a given type of hair.
I have two sets of women here at the farm. Some are here voluntarily,
choosing to live on the farm for periods of three or five years and
subscribing to the prescribed regimen in return for free room and board
while they’re here, and a sizeable percentage of the ultimate sale price.
They take a bit of a risk – if the market isn’t great, they can stay and
grow their hair longer, or sell for less than they had hoped and leave, but
I’m known for getting good prices. And someone who spends three or five
years here yields far more than a one-inch-around tail 10 inches long…
I’ve had three women leave after five years with $100,000 cash in hand – and
that was only their share!
Most of our five-years leave with between $50,000 and $75,000, which is a
nice chunk of change for them (when was the last time you put away $10,000 a
year in savings?) and still leaves me plenty of profit, even after I pay
every expense related to these women’s lives – clothes, room, lodging, hair
care, exercise classes and equipment, and – for those who offer a
particularly unique product – even travel to places known to help grow
healthy hair. Three-year guests at the farm tend to leave with much less –
more in the $15,000-$20,000 range. But then, their hair is much shorter when
it’s harvested, and they have committed far less of their lives to this.
And it is a commitment – let’s be clear. If someone wishes to come here
voluntarily, there is a very strict contract. And at its heart is the real
key for me – anyone who says they have a product made with Mountain Air hair
must be absolutely guaranteed that the entire length of hair they are using
was grown under my direct supervision and care. Any woman who comes here
voluntarily has two choices – either follow my rules exactly, or leave. And
when they leave, they must do so completely bald.
Of course, the real trouble doesn’t come at the end. It comes at the
beginning. Because of my strict standards, I refuse to sell any hair that
did not grow here. This is not too challenging for the women who arrive here
voluntarily – they know what they’re in for. And if they don’t, my
orientation is purely voluntary. When they learn what’s required, they can
opt out with no penalty at all, and take out the gate the hair they brought
in with them, still streaming from their heads.
Of course I get a lot of women who come here with long hair already, and
they want to hang out here for a few months and then sell their hair and go
away with a lot of cash. That’s not how I operate.
Every woman who checks in here is given a full run-down of the rules – which
include a strict hair care regimen, daily inspections of their growth, a
very specific diet monitored by a nutritionist, and an exercise program
designed by a team of fitness and medical professionals. All of this, as I
have said, is intended to grow the best quality hair on the planet. To do
that requires not only care of the hair, but for the whole being.
I accept women from all races, ethnicities, countries, faiths, economic and
educational backgrounds, everything. But I only accept women between the
ages of 18 and 28. I want only adults, and only young women whose prime
hair-growth period has not ended. They must be subjected to a very stringent
set of examinations of the hair they arrive with, as well as their scalp and
follicle health, and their overall health. If they pass, and if they wish to
proceed knowing what is ahead, they are asked to make a commitment of three
or five years, are then assigned a room (with a roommate, the better to
encourage each other and to assist with hair care), and are made welcome.
The regimen begins immediately.
After one month, however, the true nature of the dedication becomes clear.
For all new arrivals – the voluntary ones, that is – I allow them to get
comfortable in their surroundings first, and for their scalps to adapt to
our routine. After a month, they have their formal induction. If they leave
before the induction, they can leave with their hair, but must pay me the
cost of room, board, and all the procedures and care we have treated them
to. The standard rate is $3000 per month, all-inclusive. Some choose to pay;
others came here willingly and are ready to stay; still others have had
second thoughts, but do not have the ready cash.
At the induction, that month’s inductees – there are usually two or three –
walk to the farm salon, where their hair is shampooed, conditioned, combed
until dry, and then shaven off with a straight razor directly to the scalp.
For some women this is a very trying experience. Many of them arrived at the
farm with long hair. And most of them view their hair as a significant part
of their identity and self-image. Their hair is carefully shaven from their
scalps, and gathered into a long tail. I do not sell this hair – I would
never dream of selling under my own brand hair that I did not grow myself.
But we keep this hair – we find that the women like to compare the hair they
grow with us to the hair they produced on their own. After they finish their
term, we weave the hair into rough fabrics for use around the farm, such as
dish towels and cleaning rags. But for their entire term here, their hair is
kept hanging publicly in the salon so that they may compare their new growth
to it at any time – and so that in our inspections, we may do so as well.
It is a good life – eating, relaxing, working out, doing light chores around
the farm, and so on. It is a life of leisure, but not idleness, though I do
not allow the women to have jobs – their job, such as it is, is growing hair
for me. We have entertainers come to the farm, and show movies, and so on.
In many ways it is like a summer camp. I even allow the women to take
classes online, using my full teleconferencing setup for distance learning,
and high-speed Internet access.
But the women are, in general, not allowed to leave the farm. Most of the
trips I do allow are for specific treatment from professionals who cannot
travel to the farm, or for specific procedures that must be in a certain
place (such as a mud treatment with fresh mud from somewhere). Rather than
allow short day outings with friends of family members who come to the area
for a visit, I welcome the visitors to participate in farm activities. (I’ve
actually gotten a few new farm members this way, such as when teenage nieces
of farm members visit and experience our pampering. It’s common for them to
show up here shortly after their 18th birthday.)
In case of emergency, such as a death in the family, I do allow travel, but
the women are under strict rules to protect their hair. If they are unable
to guarantee proper treatment of their hair, or if the circumstances are
uncertain – such as whether there will be smokers outside a funeral service
– they must take special care to protect their hair, including rolling it,
wearing a hairnet, or even donning a protective plastic cap. And I always
have a farm employee travel with them, to monitor compliance. Failure to
perform requires starting all over again – yes, with a full shave.
That’s the voluntary side of the operation. The women come here willingly,
are treated well, with a few stringent restrictions (all of which are
disclosed up front so there are no surprises) and depart with cash in hand.
These three women standing cuffed before me are part of a second part of my
operation. These are women who have been convicted of crimes and have been
selected by me and my expert teams around the country for participation in
my alternative to prison. Typically these are young women – my age range
still applies, because the hair that is harvested from them is still sold
under my brand – who have been convicted of serious crimes. They are facing
many years of imprisonment – many of the best years of their lives.
Rather than rot in prison, if they and their hair meet my exacting
standards, and they are willing, the judge sentences them to their prison
term, but suspends it, pending successful completion of my program. The
judge determines how much hair they must grow and have harvested under my
supervision – when they meet that requirement, they are free to go (though
often they are subject to probation for some additional time). But a woman
facing a 10-year prison sentence will often welcome the opportunity to live
at my farm until she grows 60 inches of hair for harvest. My farm may be
rigorous, but it’s better than prison. (My agreement does not give credit
for “good time served,” the way many prison systems do – but if the
requisite amount of hair is grown, the commitment is satisfied. So if a
woman works very hard at following my regimen, she may grow hair faster than
half an inch per month, meaning she might get out some time earlier than
For these women, I charge the jurisdiction a fee – usually half of whatever
it costs them to house an inmate in their own prison – and am authorized to
keep all of the proceeds of the hair that I harvest from the inmates. This
is a very lucrative program for me, saves money for law enforcement, and
provides the women themselves a better environment in which to serve their
Their living conditions are as close as possible to those for women who are
on the farm voluntarily. The prisoners are kept separate from the
volunteers, for everyone’s safety. The prisoners sleep in guarded quarters
and have free roam of a large section of the farm, though it is posted with
guards and alarms to prevent escape. Each woman must wear a radio collar
that is impossible to remove without injuring themselves, but otherwise they
are not physically restrained in any way. I also observe basic safety
precautions, like limiting their access to sharp objects and the like. Of
course, the women who are here by court order may not leave whenever they
like. If they fail to follow my program, I can have them sent to prison to
serve the remainder of their time; if they beg to depart, I consider
allowing them to return to prison – whether I do or not depends on my
evaluation of their hair quality and their dedication to the effort. If I do
send them back to prison, I harvest whatever hair they have, and return them
to the corrections system completely bald.
For the most part, inmates who are here appreciate the chance they have to
live a more normal existence and adjust well. In addition to education, hair
care, fitness, and all the other perqs, I do provide counseling to inmates
who wish to avail themselves of it during their stay. That often helps them
both during their stay and afterward.
The major difference between the treatment of the inmates and the volunteers
is that instead of being allowed to grow their hair for a month before their
induction shaving (like the volunteers), the inmates’ heads are shaved the
day they arrive and daily for the first month of their stay. This is often
traumatic for them at first – particularly since we select many women
because of the relatively high quality of the hair they already have at the
time of sentencing.
These three women were about to face the blade for the first time. None of
the three was what you might call a hardened criminal. The brunette was a
recent college graduate who had been drunk one night when driving herself
and a friend home. She crashed the car, killing the friend, and netting
herself 25 years behind bars – or 150 inches. The blonde was convicted of
conspiring to murder a roommate, though she was really a bystander to a
fight between her boyfriend and his previous girlfriend, who was her
roommate. She was in for 35 years, or 210 inches.
The black-haired woman was a bit different. She was a three-strikes convict
for two minor drug charges and then didn’t properly buckle her child into a
car seat – the kid was injured in an accident, though not seriously. But she
faced spending the rest of her life behind bars. I had convinced a judge to
change her sentence to growing 240 inches of hair in my program – which
could take her 40 years, and require her to undergo as many as 10 shavings.
When she had grown that hair, I told the judge, I would either send her back
to prison for the rest of her life – and the state could keep all the money
I had saved taxpayers up to that point – or, if she proved satisfactory, I
would hire her as an employee and keep her here on the farm for the rest of
her life. She had agreed to this deal as well – and promised, at least at
the outset of this decades-long endeavor, to be a model inmate at the farm.
I stood in front of the handcuffed trio, and reminded them they had agreed
to be here, and would be treated well and fairly as long as they behaved. I
did tell them that their headshaving would be photographed and videoed to
prove to the court that they were here and performing as their sentences
I asked them to follow me into the farm’s salon, and they complied. I
ushered each to her own chair in front of a large mirror and asked them to
sit. They complied, quietly, knowing they were shortly to bend their necks
to the razor.
My staff promptly caped the women and combed through their hair one last
time. For all inmate inductees I made sure I did the first section of
shaving, so they knew exactly who was in charge, if it came down to it. I
stepped behind the brunette first, and smoothed her hair back from her
forehead, meeting her gaze in the mirror. I lifted the straight razor and,
while she watched me closely, began shaving off her forelock. With short,
sharp strokes, I cleared an arc above her forehead. I ran my fingers over it
briefly, and then turned the razor over to one of my staff, who expertly
cleared the remainder of her scalp while I began the shaving for the blonde
and the black-haired woman.
After I began the process, I stood back and watched as my staff slowly
scraped their scalps clean. They worked efficiently, gently guiding the
women’s heads this way and that, pushing their chins to their chest several
times in the process, and collecting the hair in a growing pile on the
counter in front of each woman. I noticed that all the women stared either
at themselves in the mirror or at their removed hair on the counter.
Today they got just the cold blade. Tomorrow they would get shaving foam as
well. As they were finished, the women were allowed to sit up and look at
themselves in the mirror again while they waited for what came next.
I also was the one who applied the radio collar to each new inductee. The
brunette, having been finished first, was first to get it. I had them made
specially for me. They weren’t those ridiculous collars you see in the
movies, that explode if they’re removed or anything. They are fastened
simply with a mechanical lock that, if released improperly, would release a
spring that would flick out several short, sharp blades into the woman’s
neck. No batteries, no electronics, no complexity. Simple and dangerous. The
injuries were not fatal, so long as the woman sought immediate medical help.
But anyone so foolish as to attempt such a maneuver would be literally
scarred for life.
I stepped back behind her chair and noticed the brunette’s eyes were filled
with tears. She had just watched herself get shaved bald in the mirror, and
was about to enter the world of the farm. She knew she was getting a good
deal, but I intended to make a strong impression at the beginning – in hopes
of not having to do more later.
I lifted the radio collar and fastened it around her neck, securing it
tightly at her throat. I could fit just one finger between the collar and
her skin – enough room to move, breathe, wash, sleep, and eat – but there
was no way this was coming off until I released her.
I did the same behind the former blonde, whose pale dome shone in the salon
light. And with the black-haired woman, whose resolve was the most steely as
I fastened the collar at her throat.
As I finished fastening each collar, I ran my hands gently over each woman’s
bald head, and smiled warmly at them in the mirror. They knew they would be
back in these seats tomorrow – and for the next 30 days – to be shaved again
and again, until I deemed them ready to begin growing their hair for