Why A TV Talking Head Chucked It All For A Life Of Real Meaning

Dylan Ratigan abruptly left his gig as a host on MSNBC last summer. What’s he been doing? Working on a groundbreaking organic farm, training veterans.

Why A TV Talking Head Chucked It All For A Life Of Real Meaning
Dylan Ratigan via Wikipedia Commons

Have you ever dreamed about leaving your high-profile corporate job and spending your days outside instead, trying to make the world a better place?


Dylan Ratigan actually did it last June. He left his successful, eponymous MSNBC show, and New York City, behind him, moved to the country outside San Diego, and invested the earnings from his most recent book (along with a loan from Whole Foods) to build a 30,000-square-foot high-yield hydroponic organic greenhouse. He’s going back online and on-air now to promote the new farm, in hopes of building it into a nationwide network that offers productive and socially positive employment to veterans.

Ratigan writes in his first blog post in nine months, announcing his comeback to the media world.

… I left a highly-successful, self-titled show at MSNBC last June in search of meaning and purpose in my work and life. I had lost both after 18 years in Manhattan and the chaos surrounding the hollow political debates permeating America’s media and politics.

This is actually the second of Ratigan’s migrations of conscience. After 15 years as a financial reporter, he hung up his hat following the financial crisis in 2007 and morphed into the most unabashedly liberal talking head on cable news. But, he writes, even that wasn’t enough:

After 780 hours of political cable news, 6,000 hours of live financial television, 45 cities, 2 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 came to his fork in the road when he had Colin and Karen Archipley as guests on his show in June of last year. Here’s the video from the segment that ended up changing his life.

Colin Archipley, one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People in 2011, is an Iraq vet married to an antiwar activist. Their mission is training other vets for new careers in hydroponic organic farming. At Fast Company‘s Most Creative People live event in New York City in June of 2011, Archipley and his wife blew away the room with the focus and simplicity of their message. Since 2007, the couple has trained over 100 veterans on their small farm in sustainable agriculture techniques that boost yield up to 300% while using 90% less water. After meeting the Archipleys, Ratigan fell under their spell and eventually became their partner. Now he is putting the full weight of his media connections to spreading the Veteran Sustainable Agriculture Training, or VSAT, program, across the country. They are launching this week with segments on ABC and, not surprisingly, MSNBC.

About the author

Anya Kamenetz is the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her 2011 ebook The Edupunks’ Guide was funded by the Gates Foundation.