October 4, 2023

Historically, agriculture in the United States has been a white, male-dominated industry, and many farms across the country have been passed down through generations, sustained by  tradition. According to the Department of Agriculture’s farming census in 2014, around 92 percent of farmers were white and around 86 percent were male. In 2017, the census of agriculture revealed 93 percent of farmers were white and 73 percent were male. While these statistics highlight an obvious racial and gender imbalance, the agricultural census does not account for farmers’ sexual orientation or gender identity, yet queer farmers are entering the spotlight more and more, sharing their unique approach to the agricultural industry. 

The Queer Farming Convergence held its fifth annual meeting a little over a month ago in Decorah, Iowa. The convergence is made up of a network of queer farmers from across the U.S. who meet yearly to share their farming experiences and to learn together how to better take care of the earth. The gathering grants the opportunity to deepen the connections of otherwise isolated farmers across state borders, building a queer community within the traditionally heteronormative farming community. For many, queer farming is not just about creating community, it’s also about transforming farming practices to ethically and sustainably run farms. Coco Faria, a queer farmer in Washington State, explains ‘cooperative ownership, respect for the land, and community prioritisation’ are the three values that make up ‘a queerer vision for American agriculture.’ 

Alongside many spaces that lack diversity, the American agricultural industry is being successfully transformed by intentionality. Because this industry has generally been a complex space for both people of colour as well as queer people, these imbalances must be addressed with inclusive and cooperative farming practices. Ashokra farm in New Mexico engages with this work first hand. As an LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC-owned farm, Ashokra has adopted a non-hierarchical structure to promote a space of equality and a safe community for queer people and people of colour in the agricultural industry. Allinee Flanary, owner of Scrapberry Farm in Oregon, describes the work of farming as a queer, black woman as ‘a very meandering journey, fuelled by those competing forces of trauma and liberation, trying to heal individually while recognising that we are at our best when we work collectively.’

Queer farming is about authenticity and transparency, it strives to dispel division and create connection. For trans farmer Bo Dennis, who lives and works in rural Maine, farming is intrinsically linked with physicality. Dennis believes farming is all about oneness with your body and the land, which requires being the most authentic version of yourself. The work of queer farmers across the U.S. continues to reshape the entirety of the American agricultural industry. Subverting the norm in this way is a hopeful trend, and it opens up the possibility for other heteronormative spaces to become more diverse and welcoming to all. Awareness is essential to furthering this transformation, and the Department of Agriculture’s failure to acquire demographic information concerning sexual orientation and gender identity prevents awareness of the growing community of queer farmers. Nevertheless, the queer farming community continues to flourish, using food to align people on the level of humanity and from this level, creating environments of love and understanding. Allinee Flanary urges all people to simply engage in their neighbourhoods, in the rich community around them. She says, ‘I really believe we’re all going to get free block by block, and that requires you getting to know your neighbours, talking to them, and understanding how the food system operates on your block. That’s huge work.’

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