The dream of trading in the rat race for bucolic farm life is entertained by legions of city slickers. But escaping the grip of urban life and professional success is no easy task, leading many back-to-the-land romantics to settle for a backyard chicken coop and a flock of city hens. (If you can’t have the farm, at least you can have the farm-fresh eggs.)
Which is why the story of New York news media star Dylan Ratigan is eliciting so much admiration — and presumably, an equal amount of envy.
After a career spent scaling the dizzying heights of the New York media world — Bloomberg wire-service reporter, anchor at Bloomberg TV and CNBC, a self-titled show on MSNBC, and a bestselling book — Ratigan tossed in the towel last June. He announced that he has taken up residence in sunny Southern California to join forces with a former Marine, Colin Archipley, to create a network of hydroponic greenhouses aimed at employing veterans.
And that's a big change. Known during his media career for advocating on issues of joblessness, as well as resource scarcity and resource management, he has found a working solution to address the whole mess; and rather than just talk the talk (to the cameras), he is walking the walk.
It all started last fall when Ratigan became acquainted with Archipley and members of Lima 3/1 Company, a group that had seen true hell during combat. Impressed by their lack of resentment and self-absorption, Ratigan had an epiphany.
“I had all my hesitations about my own assets and my own life. I was just like, ‘F#ck it.’ Understanding what they had been through, all I had to do was move across the country,” said Ratigan.
He sold his Tribeca loft, along with his Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and moved to a 1933 log cabin near Dana Point, Calif. “The only thing I own inside of it is my clothing,” he says.
With the move, Ratigan joined in with the work of Archipley and his wife Karen, who started their farm in 2007. Their mission has a double agenda: to operate a successful small-scale organic farm and also help soldiers make the transition from war to agriculture ... and financial independence.
Now that Ratigan is on board, the team has started a new venture: the building of a 30,000-square-foot prototype for a hydroponic organic greenhouse that saves water, produces food and employs vets.
The plan is to create a network of small (one-acre) farms of hydroponic greenhouses; each “farmlet” will create 10 jobs on site and 25 jobs in other parts of the economy. Archipley already has three greenhouses on his property near San Diego, and they are aiming to set up more in Boston, San Antonio, Texas, and San Bernardino, Calif., by the end of 2013.
“After 780 hours of political cable news, 6,000 hours of live financial television, 45 cities, two national jobs tours, 277,963 signatures to amend the Constitution, 245 pages of book, and a promotion tour for 'Greedy Bastards,; I was exhausted,” Ratigan wrote on his blog when talking about his decision.
In comparison, repairing the broken food system and mending the lives of war veterans will be easy.
Below, watch Al Madrigal from "The Daily Show" gently roast the eloquent (and very good sport) Ratigan about "leaving cable news for the less angry world of hydroponic farming."
Related stories on MNN:
- Going off the grid: Why more people are choosing to live life unplugged
- Affordable housing meets hydroponic farming in Morrisania
- Growing green: Interview with organic farmer Daniel Mays