Amelia Levin Kent '05 in Extensive Q&A on U.S. Cattle Ranching
Amelia Levin Kent ’05 and her husband Russell were featured in the Guardian U.K. on July 15 as part of a series on working America. The couple runs Kent Farms, a cattle operation with more than 300 cows in Louisiana, near the Mississippi border.
The Guardian interview is followed by an open comment section online, where Amelia Kent answers questions as she can fit in time at the computer between checking on cows, managing the hay crop, and tending to horses and machinery. Kent, an economics and religion double major at Wellesley, grew up on farms. Her husband too came from an agricultural background.
Kent told the Guardian that the farming career really chose her and her husband rather than the reverse: “Russell started building his herd straight out of high school and continued growing throughout college. I … wasn't able to really think about having my own farm until after graduation.” She went on to say, “Unlike many farms that are multi-generational, we are largely independent from our families' operations. When we met 5½ years ago, we each had a small herd of our own. Through the course of our relationship, we each acquired additional lease ground and purchased more cows. During our engagement, we acquired a large lease together and began combining our individual operations. We have been fortunate to continue to grow since then, but have done so in a conservative fashion.”
Kent, who'd been an excellent high school student with plenty of agricultural extracurriculars, chose to go to Wellesley after her father suggested she consider some liberal arts colleges along with the ag schools she was contemplating. She visited many schools in the Northeast, but Wellesley was the only one she chose.
While at Wellesley she says, she did toy with the idea of an off-farm career, though always agriculturally related. On campus she kept busy with novice crew, Lake House Senate, being a student admission rep, and working at Molly's Pub (now Punch's Alley). Between her sophomore and junior years she spent the summer on a cattle station in the Northern Territory of Australia with 23,000 cattle, 400 horses, and 15 people on 3 million acres 1,000 km south of Darwin.
"My background on a farm in Louisiana and a ranch in Colorado was ever-present with me during my time at Wellesley," she says. "I graduated with the plan of heading to my father's ranch in Colorado. Not all plans nor all family businesses work out, so I went back to Louisiana to drop tack and the next plan was to head to a ski resort with some Wellesley classmates for the winter. While those plans were coming together, Hurricane Katrina hit, and I've been in south Louisiana ever since." Kent began a logistics company specific to live plants, in which she was able to work with her family's wholesale plant nursery and quickly starting building her cow herd while cleaning up from the storm.
Recalling her Wellesley years she says, "My economics studies are absolutely helpful in our daily business and my basic entrepreneurial skills in general. Both fields of study [econ and religion] and my Wellesley experience as a whole are always present, whether in my work ethic and love of continued learning, to my approach on diversified marketing and selling some of our calves to local restaurants. Wellesley is never very far away!"
In the Guardian Q&A continuing through July 16, Kent cheerfully and forthrightly answers nearly all the questions posed, from the price of hay to how she felt visiting slaughterhouses, to “Is your life more like Dallas or Bonanza?” (Answer: More like Dallas, but without the oil wells and extravagance.)