From farming to candle making to writing, some UA faculty members use their extra time to build lives out of their passions.
Jared Phillips’ students often ask him what century he lives in, and he likes to confound them with stories about getting kicked by cows and cutting hay on the farm he calls home.
“It’s how I grew up, but I'm of the opinion that everybody ought to spend some time throwing hay bales and stretching barbed wire on a horrible August day,” Phillips said. “It just gives you some perspective in life.”
Before and after his classes teaching as an International and Global Relations professor at the UofA, Phillips spends his time taking care of more than 100 acres of land near Prairie Grove. Separated into areas of hilltop pasture and woods, Phillips said he and his wife are always busy keeping track of their diverse group of animals.
Phillips said his real pride in the farm is their draft horses, which are rare for modern farms outside the Ozarks. This style of farming slows life down, Phillips said.
When he is cutting hay or grooming the horses, he said he gets to engage with nature in ways he could not in a loud tractor, even if it is more effective. The heightened senses of the horses have helped him save baby rabbits, little birds and deer hiding in the grass.
“I used to wish that I could make a full-time living off the farm,” Phillips said. “If I had the opportunity, I would probably think about it, but more and more a lot of us are starting to wonder if that's actually a good model because it puts too much pressure on the farm.”
Back in Fayetteville, Whitney King, a self-proclaimed workaholic and the the assistant director for the UA Center of Ethics said lists are always on the forefront of her mind. Alongside her job at the UofA, King is the owner of a growing candle business, which began during the height of the pandemic.
King started the self-funded business while she was in graduate school at the UofA. She said the initial investment of her graduate student salary forced her to be resourceful — thrifting Mason Jars, reusing discarded packaging materials and offering incentives for people to return candle tins.
Candles by Whitney began with one scent: Black Sea, a combination of sea salt, ozone, citrus, cardamom, plum, musk and amber, according to the business website. Her signature products, candles topped with 24-karat gold leaves, are now stocked on shelves in NWA Whole Foods stores, Ozark Natural Foods and other local businesses.
King said she enjoys the human interaction she gets with members of the community through Candles by Whitney, especially at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market. She invites her students and fellow faculty members to come visit her booth each week.
“When I decided to make the business model, I wanted it to stem around mental health and self care,” King said. “I'm going through therapy myself as I'm making these products, and people are using them for therapeutic ways and that brings me joy.”
Outside life at home with her wife and three cats, the business is her priority, she said.
“There's no handbook on how to make a successful business,” King said, “but I probably don't have the best work-life balance. I definitely put my work ahead of my time or taking care of myself, which I'm working on.”
Similarly, Phillips said he is a farmer first, but he sees his academic job and agricultural life as interconnected, as he teaches about rural development and food security. Being in two different worlds can be exhausting, but he said the cyclical nature of academic and farming seasons tends to give him a break when he is stretched too thin.
As a retiree, Jim Brewer said his experience as a UA faculty member has been much different. He is teaching two sports journalism classes this semester and works as a freelance photographer on the side.
Brewer works as much or as little as he wants, he said, and loves to incorporate his passion for photography into his teaching. As an adjunct professor, he said he has come to respect the amount of time faculty members work outside of the classroom, so he knows this freedom is not possible for those who work full time.
During his time as the director of communications at UA-Monticello, Brewer spent a lot of his extra time writing three books. In 2021, he self-published his most recent book called “They Played For Laughs,” which details the story of the Boil Weevils football team’s unique and entertaining playing style.
“I haven't made a lot of money on this book, but that's not why I wrote it,” Brewer said. “I want the story to get out here. My dream is to sell the rights to some movie production company. And if Tom Hanks would just read the book, it would make a great movie.”
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