As part of the Pride in Agriculture series, today we’ll hear from Matthew Winterholler (he/him), who lives in La Salle, Colorado. Matthew and I are former co-workers at an industry organization where we worked together on several agriculture communications projects. You can connect with Matthew on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
How are you involved in the agriculture community?
I have not always been involved in agriculture. I got my start when I joined FFA in high school where I began by showing hogs and competing in FFA’s career development events, like farm management.
After high school, I wanted to make a career out of agriculture. I attended both Casper College and Texas Tech University, focusing on agricultural communications. Those academic experiences led to careers with National Sorghum Producers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and, now, Dairy MAX.
Further, I recently moved out to my fiancé’s family farm in northern Colorado, where we raise registered Boer goats for show, poultry, and a small herd of cattle. My fiancé, Ryan Throckmorton, and I travel across the West and Midwest showing Boer goats competitively.
Why are you proud to be part of the agriculture community?
Though it may not look like it on the surface, agriculture offers such diverse community members–diversity in race, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic background, thought, and so much more.
And even with that diversity, caring for what mother nature produces brings us all together. Preserving the land we operate on and ensuring the welfare of the animals under our care gives us all a purpose in life–and there’s room for all kinds of kinds.
How have you felt or seen support for LGBTQ+ in agriculture communications?
The largest source of support for me came from educators. My high school ag teachers and my professors and instructors at university made it most known that I was accepted in the industry as an LGBTQ+ individual.
It was at Texas Tech that I finally began to see how a gay man could be involved in agriculture, and that was more than exciting for me. It’s that same situation that I often go back to when I need to remind myself of my purpose in encouraging and creating a more equitable industry.
And though they were not involved in agriculture, my mom and dad were the ones who have been there for me at every turn, and coming out as gay didn’t change that. In fact, it likely made it more apparent to me.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ members of the agriculture community?
Stay. I know of so many LGBTQ+ agriculturalists who have left the industry because they felt they were not welcome or there wasn’t a place for them. It’s so important to create space for diversity in any industry, and agriculture is just the same.
If there’s no room at the table for us, we need to pull up a chair to create it ourselves–we can’t depend on anyone else to do it for us.
What can people in the larger agriculture community do to be strong allies of LGBTQ+?
It’s important for everyone to challenge their own thoughts and preconceived notions. Without empathy, it’s impossible to understand where marginalized community members are coming from.
That thoughtfulness can be enlightening, and it can make all the difference in the world for those that just want to be seen and heard.
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.