James Herrick: Discrimination still rife in farming

Socially, I consider myself rather fortunate. 

I’m a white, heterosexual male from a farming background, which sums up the vast majority of us who work in agriculture.

Other than a little bullying at school for being the farm boy among predominantly suburban and inner-city kids, it has all been pretty plain sailing.

That said, I’m not unaware of the prejudices that can sometimes exist within the farming community.

See also: Less topping means more wildlife

Of late, there has been an amazing movement to recognise the roles that women play in agriculture and it’s one I hope continues to flourish.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a worrying stereotype that seems particularly rooted within the farming community. One that has no place in the modern world – homophobia.

Recently, Farmers Weekly published an article detailing a competition to design a rainbow-inspired tractor livery for a Massey Ferguson 8S.

The winner will have their design brought to life and showcased at Birmingham Pride in September – something I thought was a brilliant idea.

However, the comments left by others showed differently.

The sheer quantity of “tag a mate for a laugh” type comments were enough to turn the stomach.

It made it abundantly clear that homophobia and discrimination are rife within the farming community. This is not okay.

Imagine you’re a young gay person who hasn’t yet publicly declared your sexual preferences.

You are passionate about building a future in agriculture, but then you read those comments. How would that make you feel? Pretty terrible.

At a time when agriculture needs support and new blood, such individuals could be driven away from the industry.

Being gay does not affect your ability to work in agriculture; in fact, some of the best farmers, reps and industry professionals I know are gay.

Agriculture should offer a safe space for people who don’t fit the classic stereotypes, not be a hotbed for abuse and discrimination. If this was a school report card, it would be emblazoned with the words “Must do better”.

As for the now-dubbed “Sassy Ferguson”, I would happily show my support for the LGBT community and put it to work on my family farm.