Geographically the Republic of Awesome is the Midwest and the Great Plains, but some of the Mountain West too. Philosophically its more a collection of contradictions spawned when frontier independence collides with politics and greed. The ROA is a place where “conservatives” froth at Obamacare but champion federal farm subsidies. A place where ranchers are celebrated for refusing to pay for grazing their cattle on public land and sparking a near violent clash with law enforcement while hungry children and veterans on food stamps are considered “moochers.” It’s a place planted with a sea of laboratory-approved, genetically-modified corn, but the science behind man-made climate change is considered a hoax. The ROA is a place of staggering wild beauty, big skies and abundant natural resources that are under constant assault by polluters and profiteers. Why me? I’ve written about music, movies, politics, food, farming and the environment for outlets like the Washington DC City Paper, Politico, Grist, Civil Eats, the Huffington Post, and the Food and Environment Reporting Network. From my family’s fourth-generation South Dakota farm, to running the kitchen at a hunting lodge, to farm country political campaigns, to federal agriculture and environmental policy work in Washington, D.C., I’ve been professionally involved in theses issues for the past fifteen years.