Posted on Sat, January 09, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
1 Comments | Categories: Events, Farms and Farming, Film/TV/Radio, Food Justice,
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 todays movement of do-it-yourselfers bringing an umm, rainbow of real food to Americas tables.
For nearly three years I was a farmer (I like to say Im 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 youll spark an interesting discussion.
The panel featured queer urban farmers from NYCs Greenthumb program, Just Foods 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 theres a natural affinity drawing us queers to agriculture today especially in the urban environment. Is it because as gays and lesbians were demonstrating that alternative ways of viewing the world have equal merit? Were 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 ones work in disadvantaged communities for whom the current food system disproportionately serves.
I never much reflected on my queer identity while working in low-income communities of color in Rochester. But on the days I walked the hallways of the inner-city high school where I ran a greenhouse, and heard taunts of cracker and the gay slurs teens everywhere seem to use today (these, ironically, while I was covered in dirt and looking nothing like the stereotypical f*g I was being called), I gotta say I was tempted to shout: Hey! Im oppressed too! Is being gay my get-out-of-jail-free card when faced with the burden of white privilege? Im not going there, so lets postpone my crucifixion-by-blogosphere, but the question certainly crossed my mind.
The filmmaker, Jonah Mossberg asked the panelists whether they felt agriculture was a friendly place for queers these days. The best retort can be summed up with the comment that Big Ag isnt people friendly to anyone a painful truth.
Personally, geography poses an intriguing layer to the discussion. One reason I left my previous job in (comparatively) homo-bereft Upstate NY was the realization I cant farm in East Bumble the rest of my life if I cant even find a partner here! Id be curious to see the film address this rural-urban cultural divide too. Id also like to see the issue of undocumented workers and gay marriage tackled too; these topics were admittedly absent.
At the very least http://queerfarmer.blogspot.com/” title=“this project “>this project serves to strengthen connections between our big, gay farming family. Im excited to see the finished product. Hey, were friendly folk, we welcome you to grab a pitchfork and join us!