There are 4 of us who personal the farm: me, Karen Washington, Lorrie Clevenger, and Jane Hayes-Hodge, who I’m married to. All of us met in city agriculture in New York Metropolis and went by GrowNYC’s Farm Beginnings program collectively. Coming from the town, we acknowledge the present of area we now have 60 miles north in Chester, New York. We’re rooted in social justice, and I all the time prefer to say that it’s our accountability to share this present (and the tomatoes, cucumbers, rosemary, calendula, and extra that we develop) with different folks and communities which have traditionally been pushed out of agriculture, significantly BIPOC and queer of us.
I used to prepare dinner in New York Metropolis eating places, and the tradition was that after your shift you’d exit and drink at a bar. I’m not a drinker, so I discovered a unique neighborhood the place we’d go trip bikes across the metropolis after work at, like, 2 a.m. I take into consideration that usually in phrases of how we create areas. Having an area the place you’re welcome as a queer individual is so necessary. Rise & Root is a part of the agricultural middle in Chester, the place plenty of the farms are run by folks of coloration, however I feel we may be the one farm that identifies as queer. So how will we present up in these areas, create the system that we need to be a part of, and preserve queering the norm?
Out of 57,000 farmers in New York state, about 139 of them are Black—a statistic that displays a historical past of suppression of individuals of coloration. There are county gala’s in this state that also permit the sale of racist merchandise and distributors who promote Accomplice flags. How can we count on folks of coloration to get into agriculture once we’re permitting these things at locations the place little children are going with their households? As I used to be studying about all of this, I considered how we’d like our personal county honest for BIPOC and LGBTQI+ of us. We have to deliver pleasure, energy, and queerness again to agriculture. So in 2019 we did a Farm Delight Tea Dance in the Chester Agricultural Middle barn. It was so enjoyable; some farmers got here all the best way from Vermont.
After the bloodbath at Pulse Nightclub, we had an emergency therapeutic workday on the farm—we’ve finished this for years, inviting folks to return and work with us, to reconnect and actually get grounded. We’re lucky sufficient to farm in the black grime area of Orange County, the place the soil is wealthy and exquisite and fertile, so having folks come to our farm and see the soil itself is superb. I have to have that neighborhood. I have to have us round one another, coming collectively. A good friend of ours as soon as introduced a trans good friend of hers who began crying as a result of it was the primary time that they ever felt welcome in an agricultural area. It was a second of overwhelming pleasure.
Agriculture is hard in the U.S. as a result of there’s such a traumatic historical past that began with the theft of native lands and continued with the dehumanization, kidnapping, and enslavement of African folks. So in the context of constructing a enterprise, how will we do issues equitably? We now have a check-in with our employees each week, and we created a self-care stipend since, proper now, we will’t afford to pay for medical insurance for everybody. We did that for ourselves too. This 12 months is possibly the primary 12 months that we, as homeowners, are going to receives a commission as a lot as our employees. Right here we’re constructing a spot that helps us all really feel safer. We’re altering the narrative.
Try a few of Michaela Hayes-Hodge’s favourite queer-owned farms and organizations in New York and past:
- Homestead Ranch (Oskaloosa, KS): Courtney and Denise Skeeba develop produce, increase animals, and make superb goat’s-milk cleaning soap, lotion, and different merchandise out there on-line.
- Hudson Valley Seed Firm (Accord, NY): Based by Ok Greene and his companion, Doug Muller, the corporate grows and sells open-pollinated and heirloom seeds.
- Humble Arms Harvest (Decorah, IA): This worker-owned farm hosts the annual Queer Farmer Convergence, a community-building, workshop-based convention so common that this fall’s program already has a ready checklist.
- Linke Fligl (Millerton, NY): This queer Jewish hen farm and organizing mission’s land-based cultural work confronts colonialism, antisemitism, and assimilation.
- Moxie Ridge Farm (Argyle, NY): Lee Hennessy, an out trans man, takes his goat’s milk and goat cheese to the following stage utilizing conventional cheesemaking practices—the Bulgarian feta is a must-try.
- TransGenerational Farm (Accord, NY): Founder Jayne Henson is a trans farmer and good friend who has taught me a lot at varied tractor and mechanics courses—and he or she DJ’d our first Delight Tea Dance!
Queer Farmer Community is a superb useful resource, that includes a web-based listing of queer farms in all areas of the nation.