The best weekend of my year

I initiated the Queer Farmer Convergence because I was in need of community that was both queer and agricultural. I didn’t expect it to be as become a deal as it feels now, but as it turns out, more people than just me need this community!

Before I tell you all what we did at the QFC this year, I’m going to give you background on why I think the intersection of queerness with sustainable agriculture is relevant to the world. As a person committed to the land for my work and income, the specter of climate change is very real and present as I make plans for the future and decide what to do today. It feels very clear to me that any livable future will be dependent on us developing bioregional regenerative food systems that respect and enhance the diversity of their places, biologically and culturally. If we’re going to thrive despite climate catastrophe, we need to massively transform the way we think and act in relationship to each other (economically) and the earth (ecologically). Re-thinking relationships is one place where queer folks have unique expertise; meanwhile, sustainable agriculturalists are the most essential people to thriving human systems.

So, without too much self-aggrandizement, when you intersect “queer” and “farmer,” you get a key to building the future we need.

Our farm hosted 55 queer farmers this August for the second annual Queer Farmer Convergence, and we came away from it renewed and confident and hopeful. After a morning at farmers market, I came back to a farm that Emily had prepared—lights strung up, tables and chairs arranged in a rented party tent, materials from our sponsors (MOSES, NYFC, PFI, and Dig Inn to name a few) laid out in my yurt home, lunch on the stove. Our co-organizers arrived shortly thereafter, from Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I set them to picking beans while I grabbed the zucchini and Emily harvested tomatoes—in August you gotta keep picking those things, convergence or no. Then we met in the yurt, made a plan of action for the welcome table and opening circle, and we were off!

I had sent emails to the registrants, but the vast majority of them were new faces, and what a delight it was to have them converge on my farm! In a couple hours, the farm was transformed into a little tent city, with cars from many states parked along the garden fence. I introduced myself and started to work at learning names—good thing we had sweet little cloth name tags for everyone!

At opening circle, we acknowledged the land and its history of indigenous stewardship and settler colonization; it’s recent history of conventional row cropping; and its current reality as home to a worker-owned cooperative, diversified farm with a regenerative mission. We got into a circle and heard each other’s names, and then we explored a fun spectrum: with “queer” over by the yurt, and “farmer” 50 feet to the east of that, where do you put yourself on that spectrum? We filled up all the nooks and crannies of that space (Emily held down the “farmer” end, and some queer academics were on the other side) with our diverse approaches to that intersection and it was fun to look at—I’m ready to explore that more next year.

We potlucked that evening and people really stepped up and made wonderful stuff. The rest of the convergence was food that Emily, Sarah, and I had made in advance, and dishes that Emily and volunteer crews whipped together before each meal. Granola and yogurt for breakfast (next year we’re dreaming of hard boiled eggs too), pasta salad, tacos, hummus wraps. It was easy and simple and good.

On Sunday, the main day of the convergence, we started the morning with workshops led by volunteers: Queering Bureaucracy; Creating Sacred Space; Help! I’m an anti-capitalist with access to capital; Crops not cops: a history of permaculture’s white supremacist roots; and an Urban Agriculture panel. Participants came away from each one with new insights, glad to have been there. Then, we had the pleasure of having Maggie Cheney of Rock Steady Farm deliver a keynote. She talked about their farm “coming out” to their community as a queer farm, and she also detailed the ways that they bring new worker-owners into their cooperative as well as the steps they take to support farmer mental health. A mandatory week-long vacation for every worker during the growing season? Sign me up!

Conversations continued over lunch and into our afternoon of free time, but soon attention turned to Boomer Lucinda, the farm’s genderqueer tractor: a perfect site for a sexy queer farmer photoshoot! A couple people took off shirts or exposed panties… then a couple more… and in a few minutes there was a crowd of 20 queer farmers with booties hanging off of pickup trucks. Joy was in the air.

No community-building event, in my book, is complete without a variety show! This year, we invited our neighbors to the event as well, to intersect our communities—giving queers from around the country a taste of our place-based, intergenerational community, and giving our neighbors a sense of the joy and power of our queer farmer network. It was so sweet to juxtapose a hot drag performance with ballads sung by our neighbor Dale—the variety was wide and a good time was had by all.

In the morning, a few people stayed and helped weed the carrots. Hand weeding is such a good thing to do with a crew—the conversation can circle around as it will, everyone feels happy, and gosh, every time I look at those beds of carrots I’m so grateful—we’ll start harvesting them this week. Shout-out to Keo the carrot breeder who was So Impressively Fast at the task.

There are plenty of things I’m thinking about for next year’s convergence, but for now, I have to say I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to host it. We came away from the event with tired eyes and happy hearts, and even as we launched right back into long days of farm work, our energy was renewed. It’s such a good feeling to have people come into our space, to see us for what we’re doing and who we are, and to love it. Here’s to many more years of the QFC!

 


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