As part of the Pride in Agriculture series, today we’ll hear from Stuart Chutter (he/him), who lives in Killay, Saskatchewan. I’ve connected with Stuart over the past few years through a shared love for red cattle and fitness adventures, but it was his response to an ag-trade publication that featured him in a story that “challeng[ed] typical farmer stereotypes but completely washed the gay out of it,” that has launched several conversations about how agriculture handles LGBTQ+ conversations. You can connect with Stuart on Instagram (@stuartchutter).
How are you involved in the agriculture community?
I grew up on a cattle ranch in British Columbia. After University, I moved to Saskatchewan where land is more affordable to start building my own cowherd and establishing a farm.
I now raise 200 registered purebred Red Angus cows on 1,280 acres in eastern Saskatchewan. I would describe my farm as grass-based and directed by the principles of regenerative agriculture. Soil health and conservation is a deep passion of mine.
Why are you proud to be part of the agriculture community?
I love the real connection to Mother Nature that agriculture provides. Farming and nature can be so harsh and heartless but have also provided some of the most beautiful moments and lessons in life. Working with nature provides me so much purpose and satisfaction and the lessons from farming and nature are more and more deep parts of my spirituality as I get older.
Agriculture really is where I grew up and I find the people of Agriculture with similar beliefs, connections to nature, and values are often who I most want to surround myself with in life as grounded, resilient people who embrace community.
How have you felt or seen support for LGBTQ+ in the agriculture community?
It took me a long time to both understand myself and to get comfortable. I didn’t come out until my 30s. I was terrified of the response of the agriculture community but some of the most love and support I received was from a Young Farmer Peer group I was a part of.
This community went out of its way to make sure I was comfortable and embraced in rural agriculture spaces. Their responses and conversations were some of the most valued and positive influences on my own internal dialogue at that time and made for even deeper and more meaningful connections and friendships.
Rural spaces and communities still can have prejudice and hate that signal exclusion to people that are different from the standard farmer stereotype. In my experience, microaggressions and exclusion are way more common rurally than in larger urban centers, especially for those who pay attention or are affected by them.
In spite of that, some of the most wonderful people and best inclusive, community-builders can be found in small towns and farmyards in the countryside – especially in young farmer networks where connections, culture, and diversity are valued. These are the people who keep me so in love with Agriculture.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ members of the agriculture community?
For so long I felt as if I was “the only one.” It was my dream to be a farmer and with such a stereotype of what a farmer was in my mind, being gay and being in agriculture were things I considered mutually exclusive. I felt II had to pick one and I chose my farm dream.
But my advice would be to be everything. Working in agriculture is not only for whatever stereotype of a farmer we have in our minds. In Canada, over a third of farm operators are women. Indigenous reserves are more often farming their own land now. Visible minorities are more and more visible in agriculture. Everyone can and should belong in agriculture, in fact, agriculture NEEDS them.
Also, having a key trusted friend who will listen is such an asset for many elements of life. Hang on to those people always. If you can find that person or be that person for someone else, that is such a beautiful gift.
Regardless of whether you’re out and proud or still navigating who you are, you are doing it perfectly already. Be everything, but there is no rush. Take your time. You are under no obligation to ever stay the same.
What can people in the larger agriculture community do to be strong allies of LGBTQ+?
I’m thankful for leaders in agriculture advancing discussions about mental health in agriculture in the last few years. While sexuality struggles likely are not perceived as a leading farm issue, it is one on a long list of rural issues – isolation, weather disasters, commodity and financial crises, consumer attacks, and production risks – all leading to increasing levels of depression on farms across the world.
The reasons and struggles vary but this new, open discussion among farmers is likely our best way to support each other when we don’t have easy access to urban mental health resources. The farm leaders initiating these discussions are making space and normalizing hard conversations that we all need to learn to be more comfortable with.
Is there anything else you’d like to share during June Pride Month?
I think Agriculture really has to become a leader in creating inclusion and belonging where diversity is visible. Not only because it’s the right way to treat each other, but also to fill labor gaps and to support farmers who might not see themselves in traditional agriculture roles.
In Canada our agriculture labor shortage cost us $2.9 billion in lost revenue in 2017, so we absolutely need every capable and qualified job applicant to feel welcome.
We’ve also lost 70% of the number of young farmers under 35 in the last 25 years, so we absolutely need every aspiring farmer to know they can be a farmer and be themselves.
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.