This week I attended a preview of Out Here: A Queer Farmer Film Project. A work-in-progress, this documentary centers around queer farmers helping shape today’s movement of do-it-yourselfers bringing an umm, rainbow of real food to America’s tables.
For nearly three years I was a farmer (I like to say I’m retired). I also identify as a gay man, so I was excited to see a clip of this project. Yet, part of me wondered: why a film about queer farmers? And who is this movie for? In many ways the queerness factor has nothing to do with farming. But, when you actually ask if it does you’ll spark an interesting discussion.
The panel featured queer urban farmers from NYC’s Greenthumb program, Just Food’s Livestock Training Program, the NYC Community Gardens Coalition, and a woman from Darling Doe Farm in Saugerties in the Hudson Valley.
The audience and on-screen interviewees seemed to reach consensus that there’s a natural affinity drawing us queers to agriculture today – especially in the urban environment. Is it because as gays and lesbians we’re demonstrating that alternative ways of viewing the world have equal merit? We’re successfully challenging the norms of the traditional family, so perhaps participation in new food systems and community planning are natural extensions.
I leave it to social scientists to come up with data, but discussion pointed to a seeming tendency for queer agriculturalists to address the social justice issues at play in the food system. Likely, this is because queers too, face societal injustices every day.
When we talk “identity” politics and sociology we uncover diverse perspectives, but may still overlook others. One panelist noted that skin color was the identifier people notice first – not her sexuality. Queerness has nothing to do ability to teach another how to transplant tomatoes, but race and gender certainly may provide an element of “legitimacy” in one’s work in disadvantaged communities for whom the current food system disproportionately serves.