’Tis the season for harvesting fava beans, collard gleaning and queer farmer awareness.
In celebration of queer farming and the autumn season, the Rainbow Chard Alliance (RCA) network of queer farmers, the Cantú GLBTI Resource Center, and the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) collaborated to host the first ever Queer Farmers’ Field Day.
On Oct. 10, the UC Santa Cruz Farm became the hub of queer farming activity as 30 participants, who came from all over the Bay Area, spent the day exploring the aspects of farming.
The itinerary for the day included tours of the farm and garden, a chance to work in the garden preparing beds and maintaining fields, and a potluck dinner including food straight from the farm.
“It’s exciting to meet people and see queer people and families come together from all over the Bay Area to share techniques about gardening,” said Maggie Cheney, a UCSC farm apprentice and one of the two organizers of the event.
Originally from Massachusetts, Cheney made her way to California, and eventually to the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship program, which includes about 40 farmers from all over the world.
Cheney found her inspiration for organizing the event after attending a panel that brought together women in the agricultural field. At the end of the panel Cheney asked fellow attendees how many queer farmers they knew of — a question that was met with silence. As a result of this exchange, Cheney thought of creating a Queer Farmers’ Field Day.
To make the event happen, Cheney and her co-organizer Markus Major collaborated with a number of groups, including the Cantú GLBTI Resource Center, which contributed some funding and ideas for the programming.
“The event is to bring queer farmers and gardeners together,” said Deb Abbott, director of the Resource Center. “It is for the camaraderie and connections people make. I’m hoping that there will be a great cross-pollinating.”
One aspect of the program that Abbott came up with was the idea of playing movies at the potluck. She selected films that highlighted the focus of the event, including “Ladies of the Land,” featuring a female alumnus of the UCSC farm and garden apprentice program.
Markus Major, who works on a local farm in San Francisco, also graduated from the apprentice program at UCSC. He helped start the RCA to create a network for queer gardeners and farmers and to provide a space within the farming community to promote queer rights.
“Even organic communities are still traditional,” Major said. “People in some parts of the country farming are much closeted.”
Among those who came out to enjoy the festivities were Candace Hansen from Nevada City and her daughter Coral Morin, who resides in San Francisco.
Hansen and her husband farm in Nevada County, mostly cultivating tomatoes and garlic. Hansen planned the day as a surprise for Morin and kept the secret for a month until the duo set off Sunday morning.
“My mom surprised me,” Morin said. “She wanted to take her queer daughter to a queer event.”
Morin said just looking at the queer farming community at UCSC’s farm made her recognize the importance of the event.
“There are only four queers in [the] apprentice program,” Morin said. “That number is disappointing because it’s small, so having the event is nice.”
According to Morin, networking is a definite key in the queer farming community.
“The gay community [around food] is very small in San Francisco; I’m assuming it’s the same in [Santa Cruz],” Morin said. “It takes a bit of networking but once you know someone, you know someone.”
The temperate weather led many people present to comment on how the day was perfect for farming.
“My heart rate went down ten beats per minute, it’s an amazingly beautiful space,” said Debbie Koski, another event attendee. “We’re all just so happy to be here.”