Celebrating All of US
By: Sue Beckwith Posted On: June 28, 2022
June is Pride Month and across the world lesbian, gay, transgender, gender fluid, intersex, queer, and folks of various gender identities and sexual preferences celebrate our freedom to be who we are. I’m going to use the term “queer” to reflect my best effort to include all of us. June is also the month of Juneteenth in Texas and now (yay!) the nation. In 1865 on June 19th Texas residents were officially notified that government-sanctioned slavery had ended. Mind you, this was two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
I’m Sue Beckwith and I work for the Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF). Our fabulous team provides training and technical assistance to farmers markets, farmers, ranchers, and consumers across Texas.
During this month celebrating freedom for so many, I am grateful for this opportunity to celebrate with the farmers market community. Let’s celebrate the farmers market leaders who are deliberate in their values to be open and inclusive – and let’s just say it – create spaces where love shines brighter than hate.
Freedom looks and feels differently to each person. I don’t know what freedom feels like to you and you don’t know what it feels like to me. What we do know is that we all want to feel free to shop and vend at our local farmers market and feel welcome and safe in doing so – right?
Your support is essential for me and so many others, not just because we shop and vend at farmers markets or because the Texas Center for Local Food supports you. But because broad public support is essential to my freedom and the freedom of queer folks to thrive everywhere.
And it’s not just queers. FMC supported the development of the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit to give market operators tools to understand racism and to act in ways that show respect for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. We are all part of our changing world.
As farmers market leaders, you set the tone – you decide the values. Sure, you get input from vendors, customers, and community – yet the decision is yours to make. Whether you’ve codified your values or not, you know your actions reflect your values. You have to make tough decisions all the time and in my observation of 15 years, you are amazing. You are committed to inclusion and belonging and you are strong agents of change!
As a white, middle-class lesbian I’ve had the privilege to be out for most of my adult life and I’ve lived mostly free of harm. As farmers, my then-partner and now spouse Jules and I felt welcomed as vendors at our two farmers markets. One was rural and one urban. Both were in the Austin, Texas area, so we benefited from the generally more open social values found in Austin. In reality, discrimination is not usually overt. When we are discriminated against, we often don’t know it and even when we do know it, we’re not always sure of the reasons. People at farmers markets are nice to us. Were there advantages available to others and not to us? No idea. Were we welcomed because we were a novelty as the token queer farmers? I don’t know.
When I see farmers markets celebrating Pride I feel proud, noticed, and valued. It’s not even so much the big city farmers markets. I mean y’all are great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s markets in smaller cities that really pull my heartstrings, and it’s the rural towns that blow my mind with joy. The farmers market in Brownsville, Texas invites the local Pride org to coordinate a Pride event each June. The market organizers and the Brownsville Wellness Coalition follow the lead of the Pride group that knows best what their community wants and needs in order to feel welcome.
At the Texas Center for Local Food we have a super cool online training network for farmers markets, farmers, ranchers, and consumers called TXFED.org. One of our courses is “Creating a Welcoming Farmers Market” and we talk about letting community organizations lead events, whether it’s Pride, Juneteenth, or Cinco de Mayo. That’s what Brownsville does and it’s awesome to see.
Funny story… well maybe not so funny. When we were creating another TXFED.org course, “Selling at a Farmers Market for Beginners”, I made a little video to walk students through a self-assessment about whether selling at a farmers market is the right choice for their farm. I talked about our farm. Ok, so “our” means my family’s farm, but it was really just me and my spouse, Jules. I get tired of using the euphemism “family” when all the straight people say “my husband and I” or “me and my wife.” I thought, why not take down that filter, I’ll refer to my wife. We’re not breaking the law anymore (thank goodness) and we’re legally married, so let’s be out (unfortunately she could still be fired from her teaching job because… yeah, we’re in Texas). So in the video I said “my wife and I.” In our house, we joke around with the whole “my” thing – the possessive pronoun isn’t really our thing; we consider ourselves partners. Anyway, the course got great reviews including from one student, who then added that it would be best to keep politics out of it saying the reference to “my wife” offended their religious beliefs – as if my relationship with my beloved is a political act.
At first, I was angry and wanted to push back with something like “well your exclusionary behavior offends me.” Thinking better of it, and wondering if I’d made a mistake, I took the student’s concern to our staff, board, and TXFED collaborator team. All of them were completely supportive of me and my family – er, my wife. They assured me I’d made the right call by bringing my unfiltered self to our work. I’m grateful to that student for raising their personal views because now we’ve begun work on our own values statement and inclusion policies for TXFED.org courses.
Farmers markets are community spaces – spaces where we gather and share the bounty of our collective harvest. Your support of Pride is part of our larger society’s acceptance of me and other queer folks. You are essential. We will not hide. We will not go back in the closet. We will be out and we will be proud.
We can only do that because you and the millions like you have our backs. And together, all of us must have each other’s backs, whether it’s June or any other month. For queer folks, and for every single person, it’s up to us to make equity real – and to keep it real.
In solidarity, with justice for all,
Sue Beckwith is the Executive Director at Texas Center for Local Food. Beckwith has initiated and led a variety of breakthrough service projects during her 40+ year career: the “women in non-traditional jobs” program at the City of Austin, the first City of Austin website, the non-profit Austin Free-Net to ensure that all people had access to the internet; she worked alongside lower-income students in St. Louis to design a literacy program using technology. In 2006, she became a farmer and led startup of Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill, the first commercial organic feed mill in Texas and Jeremiah Cunningham’s World’s Best Eggs. She formed the Texas Center for Local Food with farmers to increase sales of healthy Texas-grown foods to Texans which will improve the health of all Texans, preserve farmland, mitigate the effects of climate change and support resilient communities.