Blogs Roots to Work

Pride Month Special: Celebrating LGBTQ+ food advocates and growers in our network

This June for Pride Month we offer a celebratory spotlight to individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ who are working to improve our food system and creating welcoming, affirming food spaces within their communities. 

Autumn produce from Vine Road Community Growing Project. Credit: Vine Road Community Growing Project

Autumn produce from Vine Road Community Growing Project. Credit: Vine Road Community Growing Project

When we began discussing a joint research piece on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the world of food and farming in early 2023 (which later resulted in a blog for Pride Month last year), we noted a lack of visibility in our movement. While there are many among food campaigners, chefs and producers, landworkers, network and grassroots leaders who identify as LGBTQ+, there is rarely a platform or opportunity to weave our personal identities into our work.

Other organisations, companies and institutions have featured LGBTQ+ people and stories in their networks, such as the Transport for London’s community stories poster campaign last year, so it’s not without precedent to consider platforming identity and orientation in a sector that’s not directly focused on it.  

Why is visibility important?

For one, food spaces – be they places where we grow and share food, or where we come together to work on improving food systems – are about more than the work itself. These are spaces where we find belonging, build friendships, connect to nature, and offer our time to better our communities and society at large. While not everyone will want to bring their whole selves into a community or work space, for some the effort to hide their identity can be isolating and take an emotional toll.

But food spaces are also opportunities for our movement to model the kind of inclusion, compassion and mutual respect we’d like to see in society at large, and utilise the power of food as a connector to undo the damage of division and exclusion some communities experience. That’s why we want to celebrate the people who are making food spaces, and the food system, more inclusive and welcoming to all. 

Why during Pride month?

Pride month began as an annual day commemorating the Stonewall uprising that took place on 28 June 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. The action took place following a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, when LGBTQ+ patrons came together to fight back against police brutality and bigotry, and marks a key moment in LGBTQ+ history. Charity Stonewall describes this anniversary as "a reminder of the power of standing together in defiance of those who seek to divide us". Today, Pride is a time to reflect on history, call out the ongoing prejudice so often faced by the community around the world, and importantly to celebrate LGBTQ+ identities and queer joy.

This blog is just the start of platforming the people and projects working toward LGBTQ+ inclusion in food and farming. We thank those who got in touch with us offering to share a bit more about their work and experiences as LGBTQ+ food system actors. If you’d like your work included and featured, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!

Ella Brolly

Ella Brolly. Credit: Wolves Lane
Ella Brolly. Credit: Wolves Lane

Ella (she/her) is a queer Landworker, currently growing at  Wolves Lane in London, a food-growing space centred on food sovereignty, ecological resilience, and community healing. Ella is also a prolific seed saver and a founding member of the collective Seed Protectors of Wolves Lane, guarding seed systems of north London. Alongside food growing, she explores ethnobotanical and agroecological themes through photography and writing, covering topics from spice agroforestry in Sri Lanka to Jamaican seed savers in Tottenham. 

Through growing food, Ella was connected with the queer community of growers in London and says she has never felt more at ease or at home than amongst these people. Plants constantly remind her that being queer is the most natural thing there is. You can check out her writing on the laurel forests of Madeira in Resurgence & Ecologist and on Kandyan Spice Agroforestry in Where the Leaves Fall magazine.

Carlos Yescas

Carlos Yescas . Credit: Finbar O'Rourke
Carlos Yescas. Credit: Finbar O'Rourke

Carlos (he/him) is the recently appointed coordinator of Food Newcastle (the city’s Sustainable Food Places food partnership). He is currently spearheading efforts to reinvigorate the partnership by fostering collaboration among diverse groups both locally and nationally.

Recognising the existing barriers hindering progress, his focus lies in bridging disparate sectors and industries, emphasising the importance of communication. Central to his agenda for 2024 is the development and implementation of a comprehensive Good Food Plan, building upon the groundwork laid by numerous local organisations to enhance the city's food landscape. 

Originally hailing from Mexico, Carlos has resided in England's North East for three years, preceded by a stint in the United States where he cultivated his expertise in the food industry and diplomacy. His unique blend of identities as a gay immigrant fuels his advocacy for increased representation within the food sector.

With over 15 years of experience in the cheese industry, he has championed diversity initiatives, conducting research on non-Eurocentric cheese cultures, mentoring individuals from minoritised backgrounds, and advocating for multilingual communication. For Carlos, he says intersectionality serves as a cornerstone in advancing LGBTQ+ rights and fostering inclusivity within the culinary realm. 

Nicky Buley

Nicky (she/her) is the Vine Road Community Growing Project Coordinator, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is passionate about creating spaces that actively welcome LGBTQ+ individuals. Nicky began her career in social care before re-training in horticulture and permaculture, and spent some time working in mental health care providing support to those who identify as LGBTQ+.

A common theme that emerged was that in addition to the need to make mainstream services open and welcoming, there was a real need for spaces specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals, where they felt able to express and share their identities. This is very much the ethos behind the growing group. Participants have also commented on the importance of having an LGBTQ+ space that is different from the pubs and clubs often associated with the ‘gay scene’. The growing group always welcomes new members, and more information can be found at the links included. 

The Vine Road Community Growing Project (in Richmond upon Thames, West London) is a place where people of all ages and abilities come together to grow food. The project aims to reduce social isolation, strengthen community cohesion and build wellbeing, whilst producing delicious organic produce. In spring 2024, they established a monthly LGBTQ+ growing group: a safe, welcoming and inclusive space for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Simon Rai

Simon Rai with Be Enriched's Milk Float. Credit: Be Enriched
Simon Rai with Be Enriched's Milk Float. Credit: Be Enriched

Simon (he/him) is the Retail Manager for the food charity Be Enriched. Their mission is to combat food insecurity issues within South London. He and his team oversee the Food Bus project, running a converted double-decker bus and milk float (pictured) that visit communities experiencing high levels of food insecurity and lack of access to affordable, healthy food in the boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth. They provide low-cost fruit, vegetables, store cupboard items and more to local communities and anyone in need during this cost-of-living crisis. The double-decker bus also hosts a mobile café, offering residents a place to have a cuppa and catch up with friends.

Special sourdough mention...

Also for Pride Month, check out the excellent Real Bread Campaign guest blog My Pride as a baker by Real Bread Campaign Ambassador Connor Rose, who reflects on the importance of raising diverse voices in the world of bread - where multiplicitous sourdough ecosystems reign supreme.

Would you like to have your story and/or project included? Please get in touch with Vera and Isabel and let us know!

Published Monday 3 June 2024

Roots to Work: Roots to Work is a platform for people to advertise and find jobs in the field of good food. We noticed there wasn’t a unique gathering place for good food opportunities to all sit together and felt it was time to make it happen in the UK.

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Vera is the Sustainable Food Places Local Action Coordinator, linking up local activity across the network to help drive national-level policy change. She oversees the programme’s Good Food Movement work, helping food partnerships connect with grassroots communities and support resident-led action. She also leads on the Veg Cities campaign and the annual Sustainable Food Places Day of Celebration and Action.

Vera Zakharov
Campaign Coordinator
Sustainable Food Places

Isabel joined Sustain in September 2022 to coordinate the London Food Poverty Campaign which highlights and encourages sustainable responses to food insecurity. Isabel works closely with local authorities and food partnerships on policy and practice to tackle the root causes of food poverty, as well as conducting lived experience work to inform recommendations. She leads on Good Food Local: the London report, which benchmarks council action on food and inspires leadership on food policy and practice in the capital.

Isabel Rice
Campaign Coordinator Food Poverty

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