This week’s Humans of Agriculture posts are sponsored by Cargill. I thank them for their support of my blog and their work towards diversity in the workplace. To read more about Cargill’s commitment to diversity check out their website HERE.
“For many LGBTQ youth there is a degree of fear and the expectation that you won’t be accepted. This seems especially true in rural communities where the visibility of gay men and women leading an agrarian life is absent. Certainly there are those who unfortunately have the experience of not being accepted or being rejected by family and community but for me this was not the case. When I came out in our small dairy town the reaction was either that it seemed entirely un news worthy or that they had assumed so and where happy that I felt comfortable being myself.
At no point in my life have I not felt completely accepted by the agricultural community. Farmers are practical people and in my experience they seem to place great value on accomplishment and community contribution. To this end I feel that my acceptance in the ag community has much more to do with being a good person and a good farmer than with who I happen to be married to.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to be involved with several different agricultural organizations and have been elected to several board positions by our local industry. When I first became involved in our trade association I had some concerns about how I might be received by other board members from the rest of the state who did not know me. I very quickly discovered that our farms raising angora rabbits for fiber production was by far more interesting to everyone than my being gay. My husband and I have been warmly welcomed at every industry function we have attended.
I have found that the agricultural community is a community that supports its member and is surprisingly diverse once you scratch beneath the surface. People are rarely as simple as we assume or as straightforward as the perception of a label we might tag them with at first sight. I am sure that an average person passing me (in barn boots, dirty Carhartt pants and a Select Sires hat) on the street would easily pigeon hole me into the basic category of “farmer” and all the connotations generally associated with that.
Many people do feel a need for “gay spaces” and “gay community” though I have never found this to be something that I especially valued in my life. I grew up in a rather regionally isolated agrarian area and proceeded to move to another rural community for college. My career in organic niche meats after college took me to yet another small rural community and then I returned to the community I had grown up in to help run the family farm. Thus at no point in my life have I lived in a hub of “gay culture”. The fact that I have not felt a need for this in my life could largely be due to my ability to find a welcoming agricultural community in each of these places, though being something of an introvert probably has played a role.
Farming certainly can be very isolating and we often joke that it’s a big week for me if I make it over the bridge to leave town. Still through the ubiquity of social media it’s easy to connect with others on some level every day. Likewise the farmers and ranchers surrounding us share many common interests and concerns which bring us together and help form friendships. Building friendships based upon common interests and mutual respect has allowed us to build our own little community of people of many different walks of life.
The largest driving force for in my career is something I think many farmers can understand, family tradition. I am the fifth generation of my family to raise Jerseys at our current farm and the seventh generation to dairy here in Humboldt County on the Northern Californian Coast. Seeing the lifework of those who came before each day drives me to be the best I possibly can and do all I can to insure that it will remain for future generations.
Secondly remembering the kid I was growing up in the ag industry, who loved everything about it but was coming to understand who he was and wondered what his place in the industry could be in light of his sexuality. I hope I can show others that they have a place. That sexuality is not a barrier.
Finally, part of me wants to show that a “farmer” is more than the stereotype often perceived. Few people expect to find the liberal millennial synagogue attending gay guy in the milk barn at 3am milking cows. Much less do they expect that he would be the person selected to represent his industry at the state capital. “