Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sweet Homo Alabama

Our tour unexpectedly took us to visit with 3 queer farmers managing a certified organic CSA and market farm in Northern Alabama. As we drove into the tiny town of Falkville we were bombarded by religious evangelical messaging signs with firey flamey backgrounds reading, “You think its hot here?” Though it has been over 100 degrees and miserably humid everyday, we wondered if Alabama was a safe space for queers. Spending less than 24 hours listening to the stories of the 3 queer farmers we met with we discovered just how welcoming and safe this part of the rural South can be.

Welcome to Falkville, Alabama. Population: 1, 219.

Meet Oliver Flowers- farm manager. A queer and trans tomatopicker extraordinare with amazing farm fashion! Can you say boots and short shorts?

This is Suze Bono, also farm manager. A Pennsylvania native- traveller, farmer, and food processing genius. She's harvesting herbs and beautiful Zinnias. And she can bake delicious bread.

This is Elijah Mountain, chosen brother of Oliver and queer farm volunteer. Raised in Baltimore and once a student of computer science, Eli is getting his hands dirty on a farm for his first time this year. He is a practicing Christian and attends a local church and he thinks garlic is really gay. I bet you will see him talking in the movie about all of that.

The Northern Alabama farm we visited (which will remain nameless for now) spans over 200 acres and farmers Suze, Oliver and Eli with a rotating crew of WWOOF volunteers grow flowers, herbs, veggies and fruit on 3 acres. Suze and Oliver are partners and found the farm by chance while looking for winter farm work last year. They love it so much they plan to stay on for at least another season.

We joined them for their early morning CSA harvest and had the chance to talk with them about their experiences living and farming as queer people in the buckle of the bible belt. We wanted to know if they were out- they said they weren’t necessarily hiding it but weren’t broadcasting their queerness either. Suze talked to us about how people show they are heterosexual through their behavior, the same way some people show queerness through behavior. All 3 farmers we talked to said that they have been welcomed into Falkville with open arms(they are all not from Alabama), despite being viewed as a little wierd. People tend to see their farm as different than others in the area mainly because of their small scale, because they are farming organically and will spend hours going row by row to look for pests and kill them by hand instead of simply spraying chemicals, and because none of them are from the area.

Queerness seemed to be largely irrelevant to the farms relationship to the larger community- as Suze told us it would be inappropriate to talk about it with a farmer friend who comes over to help about sexual preference and identity. Its just not something that comes up in conversation, rather, they connect deeply with farmers and neighbors over farming techniques and advice. Though their farm is viewed as different, and they are certainly viewed as different both because they are outsiders and due to how they present (Suze mentioned she is often read as male and Oliver talked with us about being an effeminate transgender man- AND they are partners often read as a straight couple or as a gay man and dyke in a relationship...) the bottom line seemed to be that people in the community who have gotten to know them respect them because they are hard workers and good farmers and haven't seemed to care about them being queer or not.

The crew checks in...

Beautiful heirloom tomatoes.

figs from...
this huge 17 year old fig tree!
there were also pecans!

We loved visiting this farm. If you are ever in Alabama, there are a few sweet homos waiting for you there...

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