Agriculture and rural America are communities filled with diverse people, voices, and cultures who work hard to produce food, fiber, and, fuel products. My blogging efforts kicked off in 2010 by featuring the voices of people in these communities who are proud of their roles in agriculture. Today, I want to kick off a different type of conversation about the people in our communities with the Pride in Agriculture series.
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When I first began Agriculture Proud in 2010, I fully believed (and still do) in the importance of sharing our stories and having pride in what we do. However, I never really, fully shared my story.
In 2019, I began publicly sharing my authentic story as an LGBTQ+ member of this community. At first, it was through an anonymous post on a friend’s blog, which was slowly followed by my coming out as gay to larger circles of friends and peers. While many people are supportive, others have distanced themselves after learning more about who I am.
Throughout my entire life, I’ve heard the way people talk about others who are different. It doesn’t matter if it’s the color of their skin, how they speak, or who they love. While there are often many great experiences, people in agriculture and rural America can be cruel and discriminatory.
I want to change that.
There are far too many discriminatory actions taking place in agriculture and our rural communities today. This doesn’t have to be big or intentional actions. Oftentimes, it’s in how we say things or even an unconscious bias. Many people will dismiss the suggestion that diversity is even an issue we need to address, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Discrimination in Agriculture
I’ve shared parts of my story. In 2020, I shared my experiences with discrimination that led to my leaving a job that I truly loved. I’ve also shared how other colleagues felt the same discrimination by the organization’s CEO when he was approached about the omission of diversity and inclusion in a new culture document for the organization.
Just as I said in 2020, Diversity leads to greater things and we should celebrate those contributions. I understand we do not all share or prioritize the same values, but we can have high expectations of others to respect the diversity of our communities and work to make inclusion more than just words on paper.
Agriculture and rural communities have a significant amount of work to do in becoming more inclusive spaces for those who are different than the status quo – that’s not exclusive to LGBTQ+ issues. And there are many great people who are making positive contributions toward those goals. Instead of focusing on the negative, I want to do something that can create change and influence positive conversations.
“Diversity is counting every person in the room. Inclusion is making every person in the room count.”
Pride in Agriculture
June is Pride Month and over the next four weeks, I’m taking the opportunity to explore the conversations. You’ll be introduced to several people from agriculture and our rural communities who are leading and influencing positive change. Many of these people identify as LGBTQ+. Others are allies in this effort to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This isn’t intended to be a rainbow flag-waving celebration – though if you want to show your pride in that manner, please do so! Instead, I want to help us understand how to learn and grow in these conversations to be more inclusive of everyone in our communities.
How do LGBTQ+ people feel seen and heard in agriculture? How can we be stronger allies in agriculture and rural communities?
Features throughout the month will introduce you to someone who is making an impact, each in their own way. I encourage you to read their responses to a series of questions I’ve asked, connect with them, learn from their experiences, and apply what you learn to better understand how we all can make our community a better place for everyone.
Some perspectives may make you uncomfortable – that’s part of growth and understanding. Many people may disagree and be hateful in return, but we’re not going to fan their flames.
If you have questions, ask. Leave a public comment or send a direct message with your thoughts and opinions. I want to spark a dialogue that continues well beyond June Pride Month so that we can all impact positive change.
I hope reading these experiences and perspectives from other people leaves you feeling a stronger pride in agriculture.
Click here to read all stories in the Pride In Agriculture series. To have your story featured or to contribute to the conversation, contact me.
Consider making a contribution this month to the Cultivating Change Foundation, whose mission is to value and elevate LGBTQ+ agriculturists through advocacy, education, and community.