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Ryan Dixon '11

A Philosophical Farmer

The term “philosophy” stems from the Greek words for “love” (phílos) and “wisdom” (sophía). Philosophy, then, quite literally means the love of wisdom, a sentiment that sophomore Ryan Dixon takes to heart. As he puts it, for him philosophy is “the basic essence of life.”

Ryan is a member of the Progressive Program, a self-directed educational program that lets motivated students shape their own course of study. This program works out well for Ryan because it is flexible enough to accomodate his diverse intellectual interests. Ultimately, he sees himself as a communicator.

“Everything is about communication,” Ryan says. “I want to join the human conversation. I want to affect change through the communication of my perceptions.”

Ryan plans to develop his skills in a variety of art forms to create his own “modular artistic identity”—one that draws on his interests in graphic design, photography, and music to help him get his message across.

“Most specifically, I am concerned with the ecology of being and the relationships inherently involved… I want people to be more aware, to care more about the members of their community.”

Ryan recently traveled to Turin, Italy for Slow Food's Terra Madre 2008 event. At the conference - in front of almost 1,000 people - he had the opportunity to philosophically express his interests in human ecology and stewardship as related to GMC’s Cerridwen Farm. His address was part of a presentation on the Farm and Food Project that was given by Prof. Philip Ackerman-Leist (environmental studies), farm manager Kenneth Mulder, and chef Dave Ondria.

“I worked on the farm last summer, which gave me the opportunity to grow with Kenneth and the project as we laid down the foundation for it to blossom,” Ryan says of his involvement.

Ryan is also an undergraduate research assistant for Prof. Philip Ackerman-Leist, helping him to tackle a book project that explores the various ecological and sociological aspects of homesteading. It's an opportunity that has given Ryan experience in the art of writing.

Over the past 12 years, Ryan has been working on his own piece. As Ryan describes, it’s a book that explores various turbulent human relationships through the “growth of a young family… into an unwieldy cultural conglomerate.” Depending on his financial situation after graduating, he would like to organize the notes he has for this book and eventually publish.

Whatever ends up happening, Ryan has an unfettered optimism about the future. “I have faith in humans, the mind, and us wanting to continue to be… I think as long as we keep evolving, we’ll be fine.”

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