As a 9-year-old, I commenced in the field of work and agriculture through doing Saturday morning chores on a local dairy farm. It was here that I gained a respect and passion for agriculture and hard work. After my first year exposed to the dairy industry, I joined the local 4-H Dairy Calf Club. From giving reasons for a cow class placement in front of my peers to inquisitions about the Holstein breed, I became more confident addressing and speaking to a group of fellow peers. In the years to follow, I ran and succeeded in leadership positions in my 4-H Club and for the province as a 4-H Ontario Ambassador. 4-H taught me that whether its teamwork in a group, club, community or country, teamwork and reaching synergy is only possible if a group supports and encourages one another along the way.
Growing up I was very focused on academia and extra-curriculars. I never had anything to contribute when the girls were discussing their latest crush and boy-interests. I told myself I was too busy for that and had other priorities. I started at the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Animal Science). I continued my community involvement at University of Guelph through holding various leadership roles and participating in extra-curriculars. Unlike in high school, my social life was in full bloom and I started to try my hand at intimate relationships. I was well into my university Ag degree when I came to terms with being a lesbian. I grew up believing that being gay was a sin and coming out to my parents was no Hallmark moment. This is not to say that I didn’t have the support of my amazing friends and siblings.
When it came time for full-time work in the Ag industry, I felt bold. I believed that I could put everything out on the table. My belief quickly became that I needed prove myself first, be myself later. Before I took my first field assignment, I was told it would be an uphill battle as I was under 25, female and having relocated, my existing Ag experience was not relevant. Did I want to add gay to the list? So I focused on the work. This is how I would earn my place, win people over and gradually come out to those who I felt I could trust. I was fortunate that this resulted in allies though some who I looked up to told me if I was going to be successful in the industry that I needed to keep it to myself. So I did and kept my professional and personal lives separated. The problem with this is there is always work to do and with work being my focus, it ate away at my self-identity. In the last year I have been discovering balance, reclaiming activities that I love outside of work both in and out of Ag and being my most authentic self. It has been extraordinary.
Being LGBTQ+ in Ag can seem lonely and impossible at times. For me, the visibility and presence of this community in agriculture seems non-existent and it is my goal is to help change that. I recently started @prideinag_ on Instagram to help connect, share and celebrate LGBTQ+ voices in agriculture. My hope is that through sharing my story, others will have the courage to share theirs. You are not alone. #PrideInAg