How “The Daily Show” segment on our work with veteran farming just landed a $625,000 grant

In May 2012, when I was a host at MSNBC, veterans on my show said their mission is to pursue global security through sustainable systems in housing, food, fuel, and water. A month later I resigned and moved to Southern California to learn about this mission.

“The Daily Show” came out to feature my work with these veterans and that feature was seen by Evelyn Ducote of New Iberia. Inspired by “The Daily Show” segment, the people of New Iberia set out to emulate the veterans’ message of security through sustainable systems by experimenting with a solar powered hydroponic greenhouse using rain water capture in their rural fresh food deprived village.

I received a letter from Evelyn Ducote in January 2014. Evelyn humbly explained the initiative she had taken on with others in her community, including veterans. Returning veteran Louis Lancon was a leader in the process, here’s a link to a story about his hydro farm.

What made her letter personal to me was her eagerness to tell me that the old segment of me on “The Daily Show” was what initially struck her interest in sustainable greenhouse technology.

I didn’t realize at the time of Evelyn’s first letter that hosting veterans on MSNBC, going to Southern California, being featured on “The Daily Show”, and my ensuing relationship with the people of New Iberia had become a direct case study of how we can employ returning veterans and develop global security through solutions to housing, food, fuel, and water.

In a sense, “The Daily Show” helped me drop a pebble, Evelyn was a ripple, and New Iberia has become a rapidly growing wave.

Six months later, I am ecstatic to congratulate Evelyn, Phanat Xanamane, and the entire New Iberia community on receiving a $625,000 grant to expand all of their cooperatives. The grant is coming from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. The BCBSLA Foundation was impressed by what New Iberia’s team of innovators had created with a previous grant partner: a monthly farmers Market for the West End, which is a specific area in New Iberia—historically black, with high poverty and unemployment levels. The market’s success transcended produce, technology, and sales as a historically racially segregated town came together as a community.

MayFlash Market

The team in New Iberia is also producing a series of mobile markets, at times alternative to the monthly farmer market. The alternative markets are aimed for when people are getting home from work; generally located in high-density housing areas, so hard-working people can gain access to affordable high quality food, in a convenient way. The first two alternative markets sold out in half an hour, which speaks to the potential to create jobs and new businesses for returning veterans and entire communities through these hydroponic systems.

Evelyn said, “We want to expand the amount of locally grown produce in the area. We developed the cooperatives so people would have an outlet to grow their own crops, which is something that has gone away little-by-little, over the last couple of generations. People find out how much better and fresher the food is when it is locally grown. We also wanted to develop new economic opportunities through local, small-scale agribusiness and year-round crop production. On top of that, the new farmers markets do a great job of bringing a very diverse community together.”

When I explained to Evelyn how she is a ripple that created this New Iberia wave of change, she said, “I am a very quiet, ordinary person. With the help of many other extraordinary people, we have managed to accomplish wonderful things.”

A pebble drops in an ocean and ripples roll outwardly in every direction. It might be impossible for us to follow every ripple to its absolute conclusion, but we should never stop dropping those pebbles, because somewhere in the distance ripples can grow into powerful waves.

For a 21st century renaissance to  everyone from Jon Stewart, to myself, to you must drop pebbles, release ripples, and unleash waves of change. As overwhelming as issues such as empowering veterans or pursuing global security through sustainable systems may seem, communities like New Iberia can show us how to face them on a local level with community solidarity.

Thanks again for showing us, Evelyn.

The Black Elk approach

Life (being awake) is the act of taking seemingly disparate experiences and parts of life and realizing that they are in fact part of one continuous whole.


World Wide Wave of Action looks to New Iberia, Louisiana

Dear Friends,

The World Wide Wave of Action is a push to evolve awareness; millions from all backgrounds coming together to express their vision for a better more connected world. Russell Brand describes it as the ultimate evolution in consciousness. I hope the essence of this cause becomes an expansion of thinking by people from all cultures. World Wide Wave of Action should focus on manifesting local solutions, not counterproductive disruption or rebellion.

This #World Wide Wave of Action launches Friday, April 4th and runs until July 4th.

To me, expansion in thinking means increased gentleness and precision in my own actions, particularly in the way I treat people and the content of my focus. This might sound a little too peace and love for some people, so for those of you who are more practical here is a direct example of what I imagine the World Wide Wave of Action could inspire, if we the people expand our thinking and act with conscious precision.

Welcome to New Iberia in Iberia Parish, Louisiana:


New Iberia has been an impoverished, rural, racially divided area along the Bayou in Louisiana for some time. Like countless communities worldwide, it was severely lacking available fresh local foods. Last year, a small community of people took a new approach to resolving the crisis, with solar-powered hydroponic organic greenhouses. The initiative has impacted New Iberia beyond the realm of fresh foods, as racial barriers are shattering and community members find common ground to form a collective identity.

In this sense, New Iberia exemplifies how an entire community can evolve if a few people take action and get the ball rolling. Last December, Evelyn Ducote, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, Phanat Xanamane, and other local community members got the ball rolling when they purchased basic hydroponic growing equipment and enrolled Louis Lancon, an USA Military veteran, to build and operate a solar-powered hydroponic organic greenhouse in nearby Jeanerette, Louisana.


What I love about this place is, though it’s prone to ecological disturbances (i.e oil spills & hurricanes), the regular folks here have proven to be incredibly resilient and innovative in embracing new systems like hydroponic farming which will help us adapt to and face the most pressing issues in the 21st century.”
-Phanat Xanamane (local community member, on right in picture above, Dylan Ratigan on left)

The greenhouse was built on an open lot in a relatively poor part of town with a predominantly African-American population. What was originally just the one greenhouse quickly became three, after its value became obvious. Now, community members of all ages and races are cultivating the greenhouses together. The culmination of New Iberia’s evolution was the Creole Farmer’s Market in West End Park. They sold out all of the produce while diverse community members showed up and not only coexisted, but totally connected. I was given the honor of ringing the bell for the grand opening.

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(ON LEFT: Dylan Ratigan, Helical Systems cofounder and Chairman rings opening bell; MIDDLE: Kohlie Frantzen, Helical Systems cofounder and CEO speaking with Louis Lancon, USA Military veteran and greenhouse builder in Jeanerette, Louisiana; RIGHT Dylan enjoys local Cajun foods)

New Iberia’s proactive approach to a food crisis transcended cultural differences and perceived barriers, while providing education and nourishment to people of all ages, regardless of race, creed, or color. The progression from a single greenhouse on an empty lot to the vibrance and fluid diversity I witnessed at the Creole market, embodies the necessary intent of World Wide Wave of Action.

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(Dylan chats with local community members and finds fantastic bargains on fresh local foods)

This is not idealogical hyperbole or a ten-step plan to fix the world. World Wide Wave of Action is about finding solutions to crises via new approaches. For all the naysayers, I only need to point to New Iberia as real life proof that positive change is attainable for regular people like you and me.

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(LEFT: Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner, Mike Strain; Helical Systems Chairman and Cofounder, Dylan Ratigan; and famous chef Patrick Mould; RIGHT: Dylan takes tour of facilities)

Inspiration from Iberia, Louisiana

The 21st Century Renaissance is dependent on individuals proactively making a difference. It has been an inspiration for me to meet seemingly ordinary people making remarkable impacts on their communities.

Last week, I was in Louisiana on a business trip when an email from Evelyn Ducote blew me away. Ms. Ducote said she was inspired by the #TeamRenaissance movement and she wanted to find a way to do something similar in her community. After reading her story and then visiting her, I am thrilled to share this story with all of #TeamRenaissance.


Ms. Ducote began working for an agency that promotes economic development in Iberia Parish, Louisiana called Iberia Industrial Development Foundation. Iberia Parish is a small, rural community about 20 miles South of Lafayette, Louisiana. For two years Ms. Ducote researched every avenue she could to find funds to start a hydroponic greenhouse in her community. This past October, her team received some funds to start a hydroponic community garden in one of the poorest sections of New Iberia. Here is the link to the facebook page of that project:

They then started a small cooperative of home-based hydroponic gardeners that are growing heirloom vegetables. Here is their facebook page:

And now they are starting a third hydroponic cooperative garden in a town in her Parish that lost just about all of its business base when the local sugar mill shut down a few years ago. The best thing about this cooperative is that it is being run by a Veteran that did several tours in Iraq. Louis Lancon is using the skills he used in rebuilding towns in Iraq to rebuild the town he lives in. Ms. Ducote was extremely proud of this point, and she should be! Here is the link to his cooperative’s facebook page:

All of the cooperatives will be participating in three local farmer’s markets they developed to serve different areas of their parish. They also hope to produce enough crops to allow the cooperatives to sell their produce wholesale to local and regional restaurants.

Ms. Ducote finished her email to me with this:

So if you ever doubted what you were doing, and ever wondered if you were making a difference, the answer is YES!! Your passion and belief in what you are doing motivated me to find a way to make this happen in our town! People were sick of hearing me go on and on about the amazing thing you were doing, and how I wanted to find a way to make something like that work here. Now they are all believers!”

She also invited me to visit her in Iberia, which I did last week. It was an honor to meet people with an incredible drive to do good in the world. This is what #TeamRenaissance is all about!

Ms. Ducote, thank you so much for all you have done. You have become the change the world needs so desperately. We all owe you our gratitude and support.

Onward and Upward,


DR visits “Real Time”

1205 Group

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. I discussed the transition from my television show on MSNBC to my current  focus on global conflict solutions.  Countless conversations with returning combat veterans have made it clear to me that the path to global security requires the application of technical solutions to global resource management in housing, water, food, and fuel management. A focus on high-performance housing, which is veteran-built, energy-neutral, customizable housing is a great starting point.

Check out these links and tell me what you think #TeamRenaissance…

Backstage interview

Full Real Time episode 



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Men’s Journal Profile on my last 18 months

dr sword


Many have asked what I have been doing since I left MSNBC in June 2012. Men’s Journal’s Mark Healy has been tracking me since before I resigned. He has answers in February’s edition. Please check out  “Revenge of the Cable Guy,” here:


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