New Agrarian Voices

Learn about the impressions and experiences of each year's cohort of apprentices in their own words.





Erik Franklin, APPRENTICE, Blake Ranch, MT

May 2021

A little over a year ago, I was enrolled in a philosophy PhD program at Florida State University. I found the work challenging, my colleagues inspiring, and the future terrifying. A large part of philosophical discourse is dedicated to debating how the world could be a better place and how people should act to bring that idealized world about. I just wanted to know where I fit into it all. I wanted to do something to bring about the reality philosophers spend so much time arguing about. My anxiety rose in proportion to the task I had set before myself. Then, all at once, everything came into focus. 

I was introduced to a small, but thriving community of like-minded individuals who were passionate about organic, regenerative, and sustainable agricultural practices. Their energy and desire helped me see that philosophy was not the only lens through which one could conceive of a better world. I learned that a day of hard, honest labor, can connect someone to the place they live in unspeakable ways. I had spent so much time thinking about how I ought to live, but I couldn’t help but be confronted with the fact that I knew almost nothing about what sustained my actual existence. I needed to know more about the food I ate, the land I lived on, the people I was surrounded by. A life in agriculture was the only route I saw forward. 

In retrospect, my decision making process seems much more concise than it actually was. In reality, I was lost for a long time. I agonized about giving up on the path I had already embarked upon, but I knew I needed something more. In the end, like many times previous in my life, philosophy gave me the answer. I was reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden when I came across the following quote: 

To be a philosopher is not simply to have subtle thoughts, not even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically. 

I realized that, in pursuing my life in agriculture, I need not give up philosophy. In fact, if Thoreau is to be believed, I would be inevitably drawn closer to the practice of philosophy as he so beautifully envisioned it. 

So, I have set out in this apprenticeship to live the life Thoreau described. Not so much for the lifestyle he promoted, but for the person I hope to become. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea whether this apprenticeship will make me a better philosopher. However, I do know that if  I can learn to live a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust, I will be all the better for it.

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