TitleQueer Farmers: Sexuality and the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLeslie, I. S.
JournalRural Sociology
Start Page747
KeywordsAgriculture and Forestry

Intimate relationships are foundational to farm viability. They affect how farmers share tasks, earn income, and access land, yet the role of sexuality and heteronormativity in agriculture remains understudied. Furthermore, queer people are largely ignored as potential farmers by the sustainable agriculture and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movements. I document the lived experiences of queer farmers, an underresearched group, through participant observation and interviews with 30 sustainable farmers of various genders and sexualities in New England. I use a queer perspective to illuminate sexualized and heteronormative patterns in sustainable agriculture. Whereas the perception of rural heterosexism can discourage queer participation in agriculture, queer farmers faced less overt heterosexism than they expected. However, they did experience heterosexism particular to sustainable agriculture, and confronting it might jeopardize relationships important for economic and environmental sustainability and land access. Some farmers were attracted to sustainable agriculture for reasons specific to gender, sexuality, and anticapitalist values. I argue that sexuality and heteronormativity are embedded in farmer recruitment, retention, and land acquisition, which are critical for the transition to sustainable agriculture. I offer the sustainable agriculture movement a lens for envisioning alternatives for farm families, homes, and workplaces.