Simplicity & Self-Reliance
Growing up the only child of Washington D.C. bureaucrats, senior Zachary Podhorzer struggled to define himself apart from the expectations of his parents and his privileged position. He spent his adolescence in agitation, and he lashed out. “I went way overboard for a long time,” he says, looking away. He eventually recognized he had some painful choices to make, about the life he was living, and the man he wanted to be. “I recognized internally that I was throwing my life away,” he says.
Spurred on by summers immersed in the outdoors, Zach decided to spend the rest of his life in close consul with the Earth. This choice was catalyzed by years spent first as camper and then counselor with Farm & Wilderness, a not-for-profit organization operating camps and immersive wilderness experiences in Plymouth and Mt. Holly, Vt. Its value system is influenced by John Dewey and based in Quaker ideals of simplicity, honesty, self-reliance, and respect for all persons. He calls it “a humongous part of who I am.”
“We do a lot of stuff geared towards being spiritual, a right of passage, towards strengthening the individual to be someone who has passion and compassion,” he says. “You can take that beyond taking care of the planet to taking care of people.”
In between summer stints at Farm & Wilderness Zach has spent time as a migrant college student, attending three different schools in pursuit of studies close to his ideals, finally settling into Green Mountain College’s sustainable agriculture program for his degree. Though an ag major and volunteer on Cerridwen Farm, he has no illusions about agriculture’s place in human history. “The second someone realized they could use seeds to their advantage was the first domino. The first seed that was planted brought us to debates about internet freedom,” he says.
Zach says he can see a future in Vermont with his fiancé, tending to a plot of land and raising a family, living close to the Earth. “There is unifying spirit that connects us... birds, bees... foxes and rabbits... everyone is connected, and we’re just disconnecting ourselves on purpose,” he says.
By Ryan Dixon '11