LGBTQ PEOPLE LIVING in rural areas sometimes dream of escaping their small, often conservative communities for the thriving liberalism of big cities. The diversity of metropolitan areas means anyone can find people they relate to and feel at home. For many LGBTQ people, the idea that such a sense of inclusion and warmth can be found in more isolated places, far from the lights and noise of the city, seems like a fantasy.
But such is the case of the communities featured in Jonah Mossberg’s Out Here, a documentary about queer farmers. From the film’s outset, Mossberg admits the relative futility of making such a film: There’s no way to exhaustively chronicle the lives and work of these farmers or to focus all that he saw into a fine point. The queer farming community is just as diverse as any other collection of people, with the film’s subjects coming from different ethnic backgrounds, community types and family situations. They represent the rare minorities – sexual and often racial – that work in an industry dominated by straight white men.
Even labeling the collection of farmers shown in the film – seven farms are shown of the dozens that Mossberg visited while filming over the course of four years – as “queer farmers” proves problematic, and thus emblematic of how vivid and exciting their community is. An opening montage tasks the farmers with defining queer, eliciting a range of answers involving sexual identity, political status and relation to the larger community. Similarly, the film later asks for them to define farming, which again brings out a variety of perspectives and ideas.
Thus, while Out Here’s subjects share little in common with each other, that lack of commonality speaks to the one broad observation Mossberg can garner from his trek across the country: that there is no easy way to survey queer farming. None of the farmers get a ton of time on screen (the film flies by at barely more than an hour long), so viewers get small tastes of life on a goat farm in Kansas or a children’s garden in Philadelphia. Mossberg cracks open the door to a world that many (myself included) may have never even thought of, so urban-minded are many in the LGBTQ community.
The film has a charming, appropriately homegrown feel to it; Mossberg allows the farmers to riff on the farming process, the allure of farming and matters of identity. Much of the most interesting discourse is on which communities the farmers feel most closely connected to. Far from the dense pockets of sexual minorities in big cities, most of the farmers feel most connected to their farming friends and the people in their communities that they provide food. A lesbian couple in Kansas talks about how they feel close to other families they connected with after having their son. There’s a thrilling sense of identity that is more than sexually based; these people are gay, lesbian and transgender, yes, but they are so much more than their sexuality. They are mothers, sons, friends, workers, church-goers and contributors to communities in big cities and far smaller rural areas.
Out Here reminds us that there are many stories to tell in the LGBTQ community and as many perspectives, goals and lifestyles as there are people. The diversity is beautiful. It doesn’t create division, but rather gives more reason to celebrate what an interesting, eclectic community we are, finding meaning and happiness in many ways, in endless places.