Sexuality and Sustainable Agriculture: Examining Queer Farmers' Quality of Life in Pennsylvania

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,997.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2019
Grant Recipient: The Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Kathleen Sexsmith
Penn State University

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, focus group
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, quality of life, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of this project is to understand how the concept of quality of life is perceived, experienced, and constructed by queer farmers working in sustainable agriculture. Issues of queer farmers’ quality of life such as discrimination, social isolation, and limited inclusion in heterosexual farming programs may hamper their ability to operate successful productive sustainable farms. The family farm has long been the guiding vision of desirable agriculture production. Within sustainable agriculture, maintaining the family farms—synonymous with heterosexual relationships—has remained a key discourse and goal. The deeply entrenched assumption of heteronormativity in farming has excluded queer farmers from full inclusion and benefits from agriculture, even within sustainable agriculture. This is the case despite the theoretical foundation of social equality within sustainable agriculture. Through focus groups and in-depth qualitative interviews with queer farmers in Pennsylvania, this research will examine the woefully understudied role of sexuality in the ability of queer farmers to maintain a successful sustainable farm. The limited research on queer farmers in sustainable agriculture suggests that these farmers have not been evenly accepted by others in the sustainable farming community. More research is needed to understand the role of sexuality in agriculture to effectively recruit and maintain diverse future farmers and to help them succeed at sustainable farming. By identifying barriers experienced by queer farmers and providing evidence-based recommendations, sustainable farming organizations and extension agents can better understand and target resources to queer farmers by recognizing their unique needs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Analyze economic, production-related, and informational barriers queer farmers experience in maintain a productive, sustainable farming operation for queer farmer populations.

    2. Evaluate and asses the ability of queer sustainable farmers to meet quality of life goals in terms of social isolation, farming support, farm security, and social acceptance.

    3. Gather relevant background information on queer farmers in rural America to understand their visibility and inclusion within sustainable agriculture.

    4. Develop evidence-based recommendations for sustainable agriculture organizations to help promote successful farming production and to improve quality of life for queer farmers in sustainable agriculture.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.