Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Thomas Safford

Second Advisor

Cliff Brown

Third Advisor

Nicole Fox


Intimate relationships are foundational to farm viability. Such relationships affect how farmers share tasks, earn income, and access land, yet the role of sexuality and heteronormativity in agriculture remains understudied. Furthermore, queers are largely ignored as potential farmers by the sustainable agriculture and LGBT movements. Through participant observation and interviews with 30 sustainable farmers of various genders and sexualities in New England, I document the lived experiences of queer sustainable farmers, an under-researched group, and examine whether sexuality and gender affects why they farm. Whereas the perception of rural heterosexism can discourage queer participation in agriculture, queer farmers faced less overt heterosexism than expected. However, they did experience heterosexism particular to sustainable agriculture, and confronting it jeopardized relationships important for economic and environmental sustainability and land access. Some were attracted to sustainable agriculture for reasons specific to gender, sexuality, and anti-consumerist values. I offer the sustainable agriculture movement a lens for observing how sexuality and heteronormativity are embedded in farmer recruitment, retention, and land acquisition.