As part of the Pride in Agriculture series, today we’ll hear from Devin Gredell (he/him), who lives in St Louis, Missouri. Devin shares how it can often be a challenge to find a true sense of community for LGBTQ people in rural life. But he has succeeded in his own journey to find that while maintaining a career in agriculture. You can connect with Devin on Instagram (@dagredell) and LinkedIn.
How are you involved in the agriculture community?
I found agriculture later in life. As a college freshman at Oklahoma State, I decided to major in animal science. My sophomore year, I joined the meat judging team simply to become more involved but, after interacting more with the meat science department and working in the meat lab, I quickly found a passion for the meat industry.
After OSU, I earned a Masters from Texas Tech and Ph.D. from Colorado State where I researched fresh beef eating quality. Post-graduation, I spent 2 years as an operations research specialist for a major beef and pork packer.
Today, I’m a food applications scientist for a company selling ingredients in the alternative protein industry. I’ve given back to the meat science community by serving on graduate thesis committees, industry research advisory committees, and reviewing papers for scientific journals. I’m where I am today because of the investment so many individuals made in me, so I feel it’s important to give back when I can.
Why are you proud to be part of the agriculture community?
Some of the best people I know I met through agriculture. They’re passionate, hard-working, and willing to give you the shirt off their back. It’s also a large, impactful industry but feels so tight-knit and personable at the same time. I love how you can meet someone and form an instant connection simply because you both work in agriculture.
Unfortunately, discrimination towards minorities or non-conforming individuals still exists, and they often don’t receive the same level of respect and kindness.
The realization of shared values has accelerated the social acceptance of LGBTQ+ communities. We should take advantage of our common passion for agriculture and use it to our advantage when building awareness and acceptance. There are more LGBTQ+ members in the agriculture community than we tend to believe – we just need to show it.
How have you felt or seen support for LGBTQ+ in the agriculture community?
I’ve found more support from individuals than I have from the agriculture community as a whole. There are more allies in agriculture than we tend to believe – they’re there but tend to keep quiet.
We often focus on the loud minority who are vocal about their biases and may never be convinced otherwise.
If we create greater visibility and outwardly express support for LGBTQ+ peers, we can begin to drown out that negativity. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of positive experiences I’ve had in the agriculture community but there’s still plenty of progress to be made.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ members of the agriculture community?
Patience is huge when struggling to find your identity. It’s not easy and progress isn’t linear but it’s such a relief once you start living as your authentic self.
There’s little LGBTQ+ visibility in agriculture so it’s easy to feel alone. Finding a gay community to be a part of has been huge to my coming out journey, which, quite frankly, can be difficult to find in rural ag communities.
Although I still work in the food industry, I recently decided to shift my career slightly farther away from agriculture for the opportunity to live in a city with a larger gay presence.
At the time, it was a difficult decision to make but the personal growth I’ve achieved has made it completely worth it. Having found a genuine group of gay friends has had a substantial impact on my becoming more comfortable with myself.
What can people in the larger agriculture community do to be strong allies of LGBTQ+?
Even if you disagree with a person’s values or lifestyle, you can still show them kindness.
Being cognizant of jokes or comments made at the expense of the LGBTQ+ community, whether ill-intentioned or not, goes a long way in showing support. When you grow up hearing these types of comments on a regular basis, it builds a sense of shame and fear of discrimination simply for being your authentic self.
Unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it’s all too easy to take for granted how these comments affect others.
I have experienced many friends, peers, and mentors making discriminatory comments before I came out which made me terrified that I’d be treated differently if they knew the truth. Fortunately, the relationships I value most have not changed and I’ve learned that the people who matter will respect you regardless.
Is there anything else you’d like to share during June Pride Month?
You don’t have to fit a certain stereotype to be LGBTQ+ or in agriculture, so be proud of who you are. These things don’t define you – you get to choose the type of person you’d like to be.
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.