Invasion of Privacy: 'Techie' browses life of leisure, computes sustainability

Nik Varrone measures his life in computers. The walls of his office are a museum of ancient iMac monitors, and in the midst of conversation he pulls down an old computer from his wooden shelves to point out the lacking hard drive or a laughable design flaw. Varrone, a Computing & Information Technology technical support professional, even reveals his first computer upon request, a bulky Commodore VIC­20 from the early 1980s that his dad brought home from work. Varrone describes himself as “a tactile learner,” playing with computer programming toys and gadgets from a young age.

The evolution of Varrone’s computer collection parallels his own personal growth from college student and computer specialist to Apple Store Mac Genius to Geneseo’s resident desktop management enthusiast.

Desktop management is an innovation in tech support meant to make using computers simpler by allowing control from one central hub to prevent widespread glitches and issues across campus. Varrone’s current job at Geneseo promotes ease of use. It involves fixing computer issues for faculty and staff, particularly in Brodie Hall.

“I think it’s understanding the customer more and understanding the systems they use and just making it less annoying,” he said.

Surrounded by aluminum monitors and floppy disk drives, it’s hard to guess that Varrone is also an organic farmer.

He studied horticulture at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. before moving to Geneseo to start up his own farm. Varrone wakes up with or before the sun each morning and works on evenings and weekends to maintain the 19­acre farm with his wife.

Together they care for an enormous variety of animals and grow organic crops from rapinito popcorn and beefsteak tomatoes – all while raising two children, ages 3 and 5.

“There are times when you just have to buckle down and work until the sun goes down,” Varrone said. “You somehow mix that in with being a couple and being a parent and being a taxpayer and having a full time job.”

As chairman of the operations committee of Geneseo’s Environmental Sustainability Commission, sustainable initiatives are one of Varrone’s proudest accomplishments on the farm.Varrone recently purchased draft horses to assist with plowing crops. In his commitment to avoid fossil fuels, Varrone said the horses make short work of a task that once took him days to do by hand.

While Varrone added that he and his wife are “still kind of figuring [themselves] out” as farmers after growing up in Philadelphia, he said he hopes that the farm will someday indulge gourmet, sustainable tastes with a “fully diversified [and] biodynamic set of crops.”

Immersed in technology during the day and plant life in the evening, Varrone is the first to poke fun at his contradictory passions, but he also acknowledges their unmistakable balance.

“I have my really strong interest in tech and I want the fastest and best computer I can possibly get, and I prefer to plow with a horse, so it’s like these two really opposite things, but somehow I make them manage to work the same – in my head anyway,” he said.

Whether it’s through the pastoral splendor of his crops or improving the usability of computers across campus, Varrone strives to communicate ideas with a universal clarity: to make people’s lives easier.