Tent Life

Photos by Haley Nelson
#balance #goodflow #wellshot #campfires #oldtrucks #coldbeans

  • Comm 481 Multimedia Reporting
  • Professor Will Yurman, “Tent Life captures the dichotomy between the solitude of living off-campus in a tent and the on-campus undergraduate experience with an interesting balance of well-shot photographs.”

Zack Troyer, a senior plant science major at Penn State, decided to take on a bet with his friends that he could live in a tent on a nearby farm for his entire fall semester in State College, Pa.

In August of 2015, Troyer set up his old 10 foot by 14 foot canvas tent secluded in a small stand of mature trees on Meyer Dairy Farm. He also began to work several days a week for Denny Meyer, the owner of the farm.

It might seem natural for Zack to seek out this work since he grew up on his family’s potato farm in Waterford, Pa. The challenge of the tent was just added fun for him.

Living in partial solitude, with a diet consisting of mainly canned beans and tuna for several months, through a high of 90 degrees in the summer and a low of 23 degrees in early winter, Zack slept with a shotgun next to his pillow to defend himself from bears. Troyer says this is just one thing he has done in a lifetime of proving that it doesn’t take much to live an interesting and fulfilling life.

Zach Troyer, dressed in flannel, jeans, and boots swings an ax above his head to split a log.

Zack Troyer splits firewood for a campfire he will have with some visiting friends from his hometown of Waterford, Pa. the upcoming weekend.

Zach and Steve Meyer empty corn from a red bin.

Troyer and Steve Meyer, the stepson of the owner of Meyer Dairy, load corn into the silo for cow feed.

The sun sets behind a stand of trees with rows of corn in the foreground.

The sun casts a golden glow across Meyer Dairy Farm, the home for Zack Troyer for his fall semester of 2015.

Sparks fly from a campfire as Matt McWilliams leans over to stoke the fire.

Matt McWilliams blows on the fire to stoke the flames in the stand of woods on the Meyer Dairy Farm with Troyer and some of his other firends from his hometown, Waterford, Pa. on December 5, 2015. The group came down to State College to visit Troyer at his tent in the woods on one of his last weekends living on the farm.

Silhouettes of a group of friends hanging out in a stand of trees around a campfire.

Troyer and a group of his friends from his hometown of Waterford, Pa. gather around the campfire to drink and talk.

Zack undoing a screw to replace a headlight on a 1968 International picku up truck

Zack Troyer replaces the headlights on his 1968 International in a shed on Meyer Dairy Farm on November 19, 2015. He has another newer car at the farm as well, but has a sentimental attachment to the old truck.

A work shed lit up at night with Zack working inside on an old red, 1968 International pickup truck

Zack Troyer replaces the headlights on his 1968 International in a shed on Meyer Dairy Farm on November 19, 2015. He originally bought the truck in Colorado over the summer and drove it all the way back to his home in Pennsylvania with his brother.

Zack driving his pickup down a gravel road on the Meyer Dairy farm

Zack Troyer drives his 1968 International truck to his campsite on the Meyer Dairy farm in State College, Pa.

Zack in a grey hooded sweatshirt and work boots shoveling feed into a trough where cows are eating.

Zack Troyer shovels feed into the cows’ trough at Meyer Dairy Farm on the foggy morning of December 6, 2015.

“Through isolation and simplicity I’ve actually formed more relationships and learned how to thrive in the real world,” he said. Troyer has enjoyed his experience so much and found it so rewarding that he wants to “take it to the next level” after he leaves State College in mid-December 2015.
Zack sits in front of a campfire eating out of a can of beans with a spoon.

Zack Troyer eats a can of cold beans in front of a campfire in front of his tent at Meyer Dairy Farm on October 15, 2015. For most of the fall semester, Troyer's diet mainly consisted of canned beans, canned tuna, and bottles of milk from Meyer Dairy.

Zack dressed ina= a suit talking to recruiters at a career fair.

Zack Troyer talks to two recruiters from Syngenta, a Swiss agribusiness, at the Penn State Agriculture Career Fair in the Bryce Jordan Center on campus on October 20, 2015.

Zack sitting in front of a computer in a classroom with a glass bottle of fresh milk sitting in front of him.

Zack Troyer sits in his Business of Agriculture class with a bottle of Meyer Dairy milk in front of him. Troyer gets fresh milk from the dairy where he lives and works every day.

A canvas tent glows yellow from lighting inside with a stand of pine trees in the background.

Zack Troyer reads Tolstoy’s War and Peace in his tent on Meyer Dairy Farm in State College, Pa. on November 2, 2015.

Zack's pant leg and boot visible under the open door of his truck.

Troyer leans into his truck to start the engine so it will warm up as he makes coffee and prepares to leave for school.

Zack and his friend Paul look at each other while singing along to live music.

Zack Troyer and his friend, Paul Kemper, sing along at Pickle’s Country Night on November 18, 2015.

Zack pulling corn out of a red trailer for transferring into a silo.

Troyer pulls corn out of the trailer to transfer it into a silo on Meyer Dairy Farm. Troyer lives on the farm for free, and works for Denny Meyer for pay.

The sun shines brightly through the window as Zack drives his truck through a green farm field.

Zack Troyer drives his truck along Farm Lane through fallow fields towards his campsite on Meyer Dairy Farm.

Burnt cans, wood, and other trash sit in a fire pit.

Cans, utensils, shotgun shells, and other trash lay in Troyer’s fire pit. He tries to burn a lot of his trash instead of having to haul it out of the woods to dispose of it.

Inside his tent, Zack rubs his eyes as he gets up for class.

Troyer rubs his face, still waking up, as he prepares to go to class.

Zack dressed in a red flannel shirt jacket carries a black duffel bag.

Troyer slings his bag over his shoulder before heading to his truck to go to campus.

Zack sits at a desk in his tent, arranging school papers.

Zack Troyer arranges his school papers in his tent. Troyer does most of his schoolwork on campus where he has access to electricity.

Zack standing under a blue tarp brewing coffee in the morning.

Troyer makes coffee on his camp stove one morning before class. About halfway through the semester he build his kitchen station, allowing him to diversify his diet with cooked vegetables and venison among other things.

Zack ad Paul with dramatic faces as they sing along to a country song at Bill Pickles' Taproom

Troyer and his friend, Paul Kemper, sing along to the music at Pickles’ country night. Troyer attends country night every Tuesday with his friends.

Zack leans across several beers on the bar at Bill Pickles' talking to the bartender

Zack Troyer leans across the bar to speak with the bartender at Pickle’s in State College, Pa.

Thistles with frost on them in the foreground of a winter frosted field.

Meyer Dairy farm freezes under a layer of frost one chilly morning in early December. Troyer tried to bring a heater into his tent for the cold nights in State College but it ended up being too dangerous to use.