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The Gaiety of Farming

blog_slug1UCSC farm presents 2nd annual Queer Farmer Field Day on June 19
With the raucous annual Pride Parade just around the corner in San Francisco, UC Santa Cruz queer students are preparing for a very different celebration: the 2nd annual Queer Farmer Field Day. Because while risqué costume parades and inebriated dance parties are all good and well, the Queer Farmer Field Day celebrates community in quite a different way.

The event, which will take place this Saturday, June 19, is a fun summer day spent on the UCSC farm and is free and open to everyone: queer identifying individuals, queer allies, farmers, city folks, families and children. Combining issues of social justice with issues of food justice, the event celebrates the intersection of the organic, sustainable farming and gardening community with the queer community. “It’s the summer,” says event organizer Maggie Cheney. “It’s a fun event, bringing people together and sharing ideas and sharing communities and networks.”

Festivities begin at 2 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. Between 2 and 5 p.m., staff and apprentices of the farm will give tours around the lush 25-acre farm, which interested participants will learn how to work. Throughout the day, Santa Cruz locals and residents of the Bay Area will be holding various workshops on skills from beekeeping and pickling, to kraut making and canning strawberry jam—sure to leave you feeling like a true DIY rugged pioneer from back in the day. For those feeling inspired, a UCSC professor will set up a booth and hold workshops on creative writing and poetry, which can be shared at the potluck dinner at 6 p.m., in which staff members will be contributing a dish made of fresh ingredients harvested from the farm.

blog_slug2After dinner, the event hopes to shine some light on these issues with the screening of a few short films. “Queer Farmer,“ a short documentary by Bay Area filmmaker Jonah Mossberg, is a collection of interviews of queer farmers from both urban and rural farms throughout the country. Another film, “Ladies of the Land,” features female farmers and discusses gender issues in agriculture.

It was these very issues that inspired the idea for the Queer Farmer Field Day. Now in its second year, the event was conceived after a panel of female farmers from the region paid a visit to the farm to discuss the issues and experiences of being a female farmer. Cheney, who was present at the discussion and curious about other underrepresented minorities in agriculture, asked about the experiences of gay and lesbian farmers in the area. “And then the whole panel was silent,” she says, “because no one had. And to me that was a problem because I know a lot of people who are queer and who are trying to farm and there’s just that disconnect. And there’s a whole group of farmers out there that don’t even know that there’s anyone gay trying to farm.”

Rainbow Chard Alliance (RCA), one of the organizations sponsoring the event, is a group of sustainable and organic queer farmers from the Bay Area, working to include queer identifying individuals into the definition of family farms. Other sponsors include The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food System (CASFS), a program at UCSC dedicated to educating and promoting sustainability and food justice, and UCSC’s Cantu Queer Center, a supportive learning environment for queer individuals of UCSC.

Ultimately, Cheney hopes this event will be an educational experience for those new to the farm and sustainable agriculture. “If we are talking about local food and the sustainable agriculture movement,” she says, “you’ve got to include everyone. You’ve got to cross different boundaries of identities and groups of people.”

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