Agriculture — the caring and curing of soil, the raising of vegetables, fruits, animals and products provided by animals — is one of the few consistent elements all humans share in their ancestry. This core survival and growth instinct prevails and propels mankind more than any skin color, geographic location, religious tradition, cultural adaptation, disability, gender, gender identification or sexual orientation.
Yet change must happen, and where better to rise up and make change than agriculture? It is as much or more critical that it happens in our agricultural communities than any other aspect of society. Where else do we have more in common? Judgement, lack of understanding or personal discomfort in others historically has not isolated the cause of providing food, fiber and well-being to mankind than in the community of agriculture.
We can start by learning from those among us who have faced the challenge of being included, offering their own diverse perspectives to our industry. I believe there is much to learn from their tenacity, perseverance, perspectives and earned humility that can open minds and windows of opportunity for us all. There are individuals who have proven beyond any agenda of their own to want what’s best for our industry. And yet, we must imagine how much more we could accomplish, together, if we become more aware of and subsequently removed the barriers of resistance they have faced.
The most important place to begin is in building awareness. The awareness I am talking about is not awareness of differences, but awareness of how we can be more inclusive, embracing and welcoming of the diversity that both already exists — perhaps overlooked or ignored — and the diversity that we can recruit into our agriculture business, farms and systems to ensure the future prosperity is greater than the past, building upon a key heritage aspect of our rich agriculture past.
And, for sure, there will be opportunities for us all to play a part. Contact me to share your perspective, ask questions and get the conversation started about diversity and inclusion in agriculture.
Sharing my own personal experiences is just one way I hope to bring these conversations to the forefront. While there is more acceptance of LGBTQ people in agriculture today, looking back, I realize I have always struggled — and still do — to be accepted for who I am. But I chose to say, “This is who I am.” I stopped worrying about not being like everyone else and instead chose to blaze my own trail.