Steven Ring '17, Kenyon Farmer

You may volunteer at the Kenyon Farm every week, or you may not even know where the farm is (it’s about a twenty minute walk down East Wiggin Street, for those of you who are unenlightened). But a few dedicated Kenyon students live at the farm every year, balancing schoolwork and other extracurricular activities with the responsibilities of agricultural work. This week, Her Campus Kenyon was lucky enough to interview one of Kenyon’s student farmers, Steven Ring.

Name: Steven Ring

Class year: Senior

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Major: Anthropology

Minors: Classics, Arabic

 

Hi, Steven! First of all, a lot of Kenyon students probably don’t know exactly what you do as a student farmer. So, what is a typical day at the farm like? What sort of chores do you do?

Well, each day I wake up around 7:30 to do my share of chores. I'm one of six folks who call the farm home, and we generally split the day's chores into groups of three. Three in the morning, three in the afternoon, and one lucky individual to put the animals away at night. In the morning we let out our chickens and ducks, give them feed and water, and do the same for the goats. The daily routine really varies depending on the seasons, but there are a few guarantees. Each day I feed, water, and check in with the animals, check and water the crops, contacting someone about something important, worry about our chickens and ducks a little bit, put some time in on whatever ongoing construction is taking place, wash eggs, chase off predators, have a goofy conversation with my housemates, and fix whatever happens to be broken. The days can be long, and I'd generally say what I end up doing for the farm on any given day is a mixture of things I knew I had to do, and things that I didn't expect to do when I got out of bed.

 

How difficult do you find it managing the time between farm work and your classes?

The farm is a huge commitment, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

How has working at the farm helped your understanding of your anthropology major?

Food production is a pretty darn important aspect of being human. The farm has helped me to contextualize the various agriculture experiences I've read about in class, and given me the ability to see my agricultural experience as part of a larger narrative. I wouldn't say anthropology and farm work dovetail perfectly, but there's a lot of overlap. But the contrast is part of why I like a little variety in how I spend my days. There's something vital for me about spending an afternoon slaughtering an animal and then coming inside to write about The Iliad. And I don't mean to glorify or romanticize farm work in any way, I'm just trying to highlight the funky, but a poignant juxtaposition of academia and farm life.

 

Were you interested in agricultural work before you came to Kenyon? Is it something that you hope to continue to do after graduation?

I had spent a good deal of time doing conservation corps work before arriving at Kenyon, and a little bit on farms. It was something I had dabbled in but didn't expect to commit three years of my life to. Part of what influenced my choice was a strong desire to live in a co-operate space. I'm not sure about farming and me in the future; I think we may need some time apart for now. I would like to work in close collaboration with agriculture and foodways, but as far as running and owning my farm, I don't think that's down the road for me. But ya never know.

 

I remember your presentation on beekeeping in antiquity from our classics senior seminar last semester. Tell me a bit about your beekeeping hobby at the farm.

Our bees have shuffled off the mortal coil. Bees are important, and we're losing them.

 

What advice do you have for somebody who is interested in agriculture? Are there opportunities for Kenyon students to volunteer at the farm if they want to?

Farm volunteer hours are every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 6:15 pm, and Saturday from 1 to 4 pm. It's a hoot; I recommend coming down even if you've never heard of the farm or have zero interest in agriculture. We've been described as "weird" and "culty" and "a helluva time," so we invite you to come down and make your judgment. For students who really are interested in agriculture, we hire new student-farmers every spring. Beyond the Kenyon Farm, there's so much going on agriculturally in Knox County. I get bummed and bitter when I hear students describe Gambier as the 'middle of nowhere.' We live in the middle of a well-established agrarian community, and to the folks who live here, it's not anywhere. So next time you're buying anything fresh from the market, check the label to see where it came from! Lots of the produce, meat, and cheese comes from right around here, and it's not too hard to find someone who knows them if you're willing to ask. Make a visit and get involved; you'll be happy you did.

 

What animal at the farm do you think would be your Patronus?

I'll go with our Pygmy Goat, Grump.  She doesn't take shit from anybody.

 

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Steven!

 

Image credits: Steven Ring