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"Josh Slotnick: The Farmer Who Rapped"

HomeFarm, a collection of poems by Josh Slotnick

For the last several years, Robert Stubblefield has invited me to talk about The Write Question with students in one of the classes he teaches at the University of Montana. We talk about specific The Write Question programs students have listened to. Then I answer questions about the process of reading, interviewing, and creating programs for radio and the Web. I also invite each of them to send me an essay they've written in response to a writer they read during the semester.

The following essay about Josh Slotnick was written by Riley Lemm.

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Josh Slotnick:  The Farmer Who Rapped

The room exploded then exploded again following each punch of the rap.  I sat there with a crooked half smile on my face while I listened to this man. I have been to more than one rap concert in my life, but never a performance quite like this one. Not many people rap about farming.  

Josh Slotnick is a man like none other. A strange mix of 80’s punk, anti-consumerist rants, beautiful poetry, and a whole lot of dirt(heart). I had the pleasure of hearing him read his poetry and talk about the important issues in life when he came to my Montana Creative Writers Live class at the University of Montana. He is a farmer/philosopher most simply put. He created the PEAS (Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society) Farm, which is a partnership between the Environmental Studies program here at the University and Josh’s Garden City Harvest, a farm that provides for the community here in Missoula.

Farming, if you didn’t know, is hard work. This is especially true if you are a man like Josh, who isn’t only farming on one farm, but several, as well as teaching at the University of Montana. He turned to art as a way to help let off the pressure that builds up with being a busy man. First he painted, but then turned to poetry, carving out a couple hours every Sunday morning to write. When he spoke to us he never referred to himself as a great poet; he never planned on being a poet and never went to school to be a poet. This showed me that anyone has the ability to be a poet. Poetry is just a form of storytelling.

Sitting there in that classroom, listening to Josh speak, made me realize some things about myself. I realized that I needed a passion. I love writing, I have known that for a long time, but I need something else to be passionate about. I love the rivers, the fish, the mountains, and the trees. I love standing in the river with my fly pole, desperately trying to catch the fish that eat everything in the river but my fly. He made me realize that if you really care about something, you have to work every day to protect it. Josh loves this community, he loves his farm, he loves helping people realize things about themselves. Sitting there listening to Josh speak has made everything I have worked for to this point in college seem, not useless, but rather unimportant, and that is a good thing. I have spent my college career muddling through one major, and then the next. Struggling in one class, failing to be passionate about it. I now know what I want thanks to Josh. I want to take time off from school and explore the world around me. Work at a ski resort, then go up to Alaska and work a couple fishing seasons then move to the Philippines. Learn a little about life and then come back with a better idea of what I want with my life.

Even though the future is filled with uncertainty I just have to remember the quote on the wall at the PEAS Farm: “Worry about tomorrow when it comes.”

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About the Author:

Riley Lemm
Riley Lemm

Riley Lemm is currently a junior at the University of Montana pursuing a degree in creative writing. He looks at every single day as a new adventure and plans on taking time off from school to explore the world around him. He is more comfortable outside the walls of society, away from the parties and the noise, in the peace and quiet offered by Montana’s forests and rivers, the lonely roads and the tallest mountains. His dream is to write about nature in a way that inspires people to actively protect and love it.

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