The Kenyon farmers hosted an open forum on Wednesday to discuss next steps for the Farm’s residential program following January’s announcement that the College would terminate the program next semester.
The forum comes just over two weeks after the Kenyon farmers announced their unanimous decision to authorize an Unfair Labor Practice strike, amid an ongoing battle for union recognition. The farmers announced the strike at a Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) rally on Feb. 7.
In the week prior, the six residential farmers met with Provost Jeffrey Bowman and President Sean Decatur to discuss their desires and expectations going forward for the program. Bowman had indirectly told members of the Student Council that the College spoke with the farmers before announcing the decision, which the farmers denied. The College then published a series of frequently asked questions, in which they continued to attest that students were consulted in the decision-making process, despite the farmers claiming otherwise.
At the forum, the farmers were quick to express their frustration at the absence of administrators. “We’re disappointed — we invited members of the senior staff to join us as well, and I don’t think any of them are here,” said Jack Cheston ’22. “That disappoints us because our basic request is Kenyon live up to its values and its standard of shared governance.” The farmers pointed out that their absence meant the forum could not be used to structure a future for the program.
Earlier this week, Director of Green Initiatives David Heithaus informed the farmers that the College would extend the residential program through the summer. At the forum, the farmers expressed their immense satisfaction with this decision, as it demonstrated the power of collective action.
Most importantly for the group, the extension of the program will allow for proper care of an exciting animal addition to the farm: baby goats. According to Molly Orr ’24, having farmers living on the property will allow the goats to receive the attention they need. “A large part of our concern immediately for this summer was that we have goats that are going to be born in April, and then a month later, we would have had to vacate the house and leave those goats to grow up,” she said.
Beyond the summer, there is no update on the state of the program for the next academic year. According to Decatur, long-term Farm decision-making won’t occur until the College hires a new farm manager, which Decatur cited as the reason for declining an invitation to the forum. “We look forward to opening conversations with students, with alumni, with others, but engaging the new farm manager as a central person to be involved in that effort moving forward,” he said. “This is premature for that conversation to happen.”
At the open forum, farmers expressed concern about this strategy. Rose Cobb ’22, a residential farmer, explained that unless students continue to live on the Farm while the new manager adjusts to the position, they will be adjusting to a Farm that is “non-operational.”
Meanwhile, the farmers continue to advocate for a retraction of the program’s termination. They will host a mutual aid concert event at the Horn Gallery on Saturday night from 6-10 p.m., featuring music from student bands and merchandise for sale in order to gather further funding and support for their strike.
News Editor Amelia Carnell contributed to reporting.