As part of the Pride in Agriculture series, today we’ll hear from JJ Jones (he/him), who lives in Council Grove, Kansas. JJ has been a mentor to many through his work as a leader in agriculture. This year, I’ve had the opportunity to begin working with JJ as he leads the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, where I am a participant in the NIAA Leadership program cohort. You can connect with JJ on LinkedIn.
How are you involved in the agriculture community?
I was born into an agricultural family – both branches of our “family tree” have a great passion for raising and caring for livestock. While all in the family instilled this passion in me, I would say my Father was the most significant influence on my decision to pursue a career in animal agriculture.
We often joked that you never asked him whether he loved his Brittany Spaniels, his Quarter Horses, or his family most. While we were 90% sure he would say “family,” we were too scared to ask.
Why are you proud to be part of the agriculture community?
Agriculture – and in particular animal agriculture, is a sector that affects us daily through the nourishment it provides – physically and emotionally and the livelihoods it builds. From enjoying a meal with family and friends to the emotional connection we have with livestock – one that is much different than our pets, and lifting people – especially women, out of poverty, agriculture is an amazing “space” in our world.
Playing a role in the future of animal agriculture to continue its legacy of community building and nourishment is what drives me each and every day.
How have you felt or seen support for LGBTQ+ in the agriculture community?
While there were many who were supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals in agriculture and rural America, the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 was the “tipping point.” Their decision allowed many the comfort to more openly show their support for our community.
Since that time, my husband and I have purchased a property in rural Kansas. We have been welcomed into the community by so many who genuinely care for us. Likewise, in my professional career, I am inspired by how many agricultural companies and organizations are now much more inclusive of LGBTQ+ agriculturalists.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ members of the agriculture community?
Just as there are many philosophies and practices within agricultural production, there are multiple ways to be your authentic self within agriculture and rural America.
Find what works for you and build a community of encouragement and support. And, know that so many have come before you and continue to work to ensure equity and inclusion. Support efforts to strengthen equity and inclusion wherever and whenever you can.
What can people in the larger agriculture community do to be strong allies of LGBTQ+?
While revolutionary change is nice, evolutionary change is more feasible in many cases – being an ally to LGBTQ+ agriculturalists included.
Those who wish to be allies can start “small” – ensuring proper pronoun use or not assuming all are in heterosexual relationships. “Bigger” tasks can be ensuring equal access to benefits – housing, health care, retirement, etc.
Allies who understand that marriage equality is only one part of the puzzle can significantly support change that matters to so many in the LGBTQ+ community. As a minority population, allies will ensure positive change via the legislative process – at the local, regional, state, national, and global levels.
The Pride in Agriculture series highlights voices from LGBTQ+ people and allies in agriculture to feature the diversity and leadership within our industry who work to make our community a better place for everyone. To have your LGBTQ+ or Ally story featured, contact Ryan Goodman here.
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.