As part of the Pride in Agriculture series, today we’ll hear from Tanner Lopez (he/him), who lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Tanner shares a great perspective of how finding an inclusive community can be an important factor in a sense of belonging in the industry. You can connect with Tanner on Instagram (@Tannerlane8), Facebook, and LinkedIn.
How are you involved in the agriculture community?
I grew up in the small rural town and ranching community of Raymond, California. My family owns and operates a water well pump company specializing in residential and rural water system development and installation. I have been involved in the beef industry from a very young age as my family runs a small herd of stocker steers each year.
I grew up heavily involved in rodeo – team roping and calf roping – competing in junior rodeos through high school. In high school, I became involved in FFA where I was an active chapter and regional officer, competed in meats judging, showed cattle, and started my own small breeding operation of shorthorn-influenced show cattle.
It was my upbringing and passion for the industry that led me to Oklahoma State University, where I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Agricultural Communications. My degrees have allowed me the opportunity to communicate our industry’s story and share my passion for the industry that feeds the world.
Today, I live in Stillwater, Oklahoma with my fiancé, Colton, and work remotely for Midan Marketing, a full-service marketing agency centered in the meat industry. I work with an amazing team who works tirelessly with our various clients to develop messages to keep meat at the center of the consumer’s plate.
Before coming to Midan, I worked for the Ferguson College of Agriculture at OSU in a Student Development role. This past semester I also served as an adjunct instructor, teaching a written communications course for non-agricultural communications students in the college of agriculture.
Why are you proud to be part of the agriculture community?
I am proud to be part of the ag community because of its dedication and passion for feeding the world, even in times of tribulation, and often without reward. The industry is truly a community that comes together to help those in need and never asks for anything in return.
The resiliency of producers and industry partners is unmatched. Living and working in the industry is not easy, especially in today’s era where consumers seem to lack an understanding of where their food comes from.
This does not scare our community away but only inspires us to stand together and continue to be good stewards of the land to protect our natural resources and provide nutrient-rich food for the entire world while doing our best to be transparent for the end consumer.
How have you felt or seen support for LGBTQ+ in the agriculture community?
Although it has not always been this way and we still have a lot of work to do, the agriculture community has made strides in becoming more inclusive and accepting.
I did not come out until I was in graduate school, which was just a couple of years ago. Having my entire world evolve around being deeply engrained in the industry. I did not truly accept myself until this point, and it took time for me to fully understand my sexuality due to the fear of what the reaction from my family, friends, colleagues, and the industry would be.
Today, I have felt and received tremendous support from my family and small rural community back home in California, my friends turned family in Oklahoma, and colleagues. I am given the space to live the life of being my full authentic self, and it is such an incredible feeling.
I know everyone’s experience is different, but I am blessed to be a part of the agriculture community where I have felt an outpouring of love and am seen.
What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ members of the agriculture community?
My advice for LGBTQ+ members in the community is to surround yourself with an amazing tribe of people who are trusted friends and allies. An inclusive community truly makes a difference.
If you are out and proud, please, share your story and be engaged in the conversations of diversity, equity, and inclusion within agriculture. Your story matters and can help advance inclusivity in the space and pave the way for those still navigating the journey of living their authentic lives in agriculture.
Seeing you share your story and live your authentic life might just give a member of the community who is not out the courage to take the next step in their journey and see that they, too, can be themselves fully and still be a part of the industry.
If you are not out, that is okay. No one can dictate when and how you share your story. You do not have to navigate your journey alone. There is a community that supports you and wants to give you the space to be your true self. No one gets to dictate your happiness and those who try don’t deserve to be a part of your life and journey.
What can people in the larger agriculture community do to be strong allies of LGBTQ+?
Allow your perspective to be challenged and changed and be willing to sit in discomfort. Sometimes as an ally, you have to be willing just to listen, even if it can be uncomfortable.
If you are a leader in the industry and have a seat at the table, engage in brave conversations surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. And, if you are personally connected to someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, invite them to the table and give them the space to share their story.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am proud to have grown up in the agriculture industry and am proud I have remained in the industry and am still given the space to be my authentic self – out and proud.
We have to continue working on becoming a more inclusive community as a whole and celebrating diversity.
As an industry, we have the challenge of feeding a growing population with a trajectory of 9 billion people by 2050. This gets harder and harder to accomplish when fewer young people are going back to family farms and into the industry. Our industry needs our LGTBQ+ people because the challenge becomes much harder without us.
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 to the Cultivating Change Foundation, whose mission is to value and elevate LGBTQ+ agriculturists through advocacy, education, and community.