LGBT+ History Month - diversity in agriculture
Karen Fisher is our Farming Advisor based on the Herefordshire and Welsh borders. She delivers and provides advice on organic and agroecological farming projects within the Soil Association Farm and Land use team. Karen is also involved with Agrespect, a pioneering network for rural LGBT+ communities aiming to celebrate and encourage greater diversity and inclusiveness in the farming world.
In this blog, Karen tells us about growing up in rural Shropshire, studying and working in agriculture and being part of the LGBT+ community.
I've long held an interest in local food and sheep production. This led me to Aberystwyth University where I was the only English female studying for a higher national diploma in Agriculture. I would like to think it was easier for me than it was for the founder of the Soil Association, Lady Eve Balfour, who was one of the first women to study for a diploma in Agriculture at Reading University during the First World War. I feel lucky to work for an organisation that was founded by such an inspiring person.
Growing up in rural Shropshire in the 1980s and 1990s I did not know anybody in the LGBT+ community. Heteronormative relationships were all I experienced. Something I am accepting later in life is that I identify as part of the LGBT+ community. I feel a lack of diversity within the rural community and the agricultural industry generally, amongst other societal factors contributed to my hesitation to embrace this part of myself.
Throughout my 20+ year career in agriculture, I have been predominately surrounded by ‘cishet’ (cisgender and heterosexual) white males. When studying for my agricultural degree at Harper Adams, there were rumours this was the only university in the UK without an LGBT+ student union. Fortunately, this has now changed.
I have only recently had the confidence to accept my sexuality and do not feel the need to label myself. Living in a Herefordshire village there is still minimum representation. I feel privileged to work for an organisation that does not only accept diversity in the workplace but celebrates it. I am hopeful that younger generations will be able to realise, explore and accept themselves and their sexuality with less apprehension.
Learn more about Agrespect here www.agrespect.com and on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.