Alex Pope

Farmer

I was born into a farming family going back generations, a career in agriculture was always something I wanted.

My grandad owned our family farm and it passed down to my dad following his death. Sadly my dad decided to sell up following the harvest of 1998.

I was always on the farm given any opportunity growing up. After school, weekends, holidays; you name it, I was there. This resulted in me getting a part time job on my dad’s neighbour’s farm just down the road. This ended up being my step dad’s farm.

Upon finishing school and college, I made the decision not to go to university. A decision I now look back on with a hint of regret. Not necessarily for the degree, but more for the experience.

Following this decision, I was offered a full time job at the farm where I still work today as the manager. We farm around 1800 acres, growing cereals, grass, oilseeds and potatoes. We also have a small herd of beef cattle and a flock of breeding ewes.

I was 13 when I realised I was different to all my peers at school. I wasn’t really sure what the difference was but I knew one was there. It wasn’t until I reached 16-17 when I embraced this and came out to my friends at college. This came with all the fears and worries of not being accepted for who I am.

But I managed it and I got through. Yes, I’ve had some negative comments along the way but I suppose it was a learning curve. It has helped me develop a thicker skin.

I didn’t tell my parents, my work colleagues or any other family members I was gay until fairly recently. It was always something I consciously kept hidden from people in my life down to the fear of their reaction. Agriculture is renowned for its outdated views on sexuality and it was hard to avoid letting the mask slip.

It wasn’t until I met my partner, Sam, aged 23 that I came out to these people in my life.

It actually happened completely out of the blue one day, when my step dad and I were stood in the barn doorway. As the rain poured down hampering our plans, he turned to me and said “Can I ask something fairly personal? I don’t know whether I should or not but what the hell. Are you gay?”

I was totally unprepared for this but in the split moment I thought “Why lie?Here’s my opportunity.” So I took it and replied “I am, yeah”

His reaction was not at all how I had expected. He said “Thought so. It doesn’t change anything, you know. No one will think any differently or act any differently, there’s no need to hide yourself away from it.”

Following this, the “news” spread at a regular pace through people I worked with and other farmers I know. Some brought it up in conversation to assure me that they didn’t have any problem at all with it and some acknowledged it but never brought it up. I’ve not had any negativity directed at me from anyone in my family or the industry. It made me feel a little daft, having worried about it for years, to it then all being out there with no negativity.

My family and work colleagues have been fantastic. They made me feel at ease with myself. I often think where would I be now if my step dad hadn’t have asked me outright that day?

Just because my experience has been a pleasant one, it doesn’t mean that everyone else’s has or will be. I believe and feel passionately that this experience should be a positive one and that we need to support one another.

I’ve met a few fantastic friends so far through this experience, and I would love to be able to help other people in a similar situation. I am looking forward to meeting new people, making new friends and promoting and raising awareness of the LGBTQ+ people working in agriculture. Our community is not mentioned nearly enough and it should be!  “Coming out” really isn’t as much of a big thing as we all believe it to be and gradually we want it to become the norm.

We all get one life, so let’s live it how we want to live it, and love who we want to love.

Matthew NaylorAlex Pope