LASALLE, Colo. (CBS4) – As Coloradans celebrate the LGBTQ community during Pride month, some local farmers in Weld County are using their stories to try and promote inclusion within a historically straight-male dominated profession. Mathew Winterholler and Ryan Throckmorton, an engaged couple from LaSalle, said the farming and agriculture industries can thrive even more if inclusion of people from different backgrounds is further embraced.
Both men identify as queer farmers, helping operate a goat farm in northern Colorado. The duo both studied agriculture and decided to stay within the profession even after coming out as gay.
“For the longest time I wasn’t true to myself, I didn’t show who I was out of a fear of acceptance,” Throckmorton said.
Both men said they had a period of time where they worked through discovering their identity before they opened up to their families and the industry about who they are. After doing so, the duo started dating and have since moved in together on Throckmorton’s family farm. Each day they spend time tending to goats, chickens, ducks and other animals on their family farm.
“Being a goat farmer can be a lot,” Winterholler said. “Milking the goats, feeding the bottle babies, hay feeding and making sure water is full,” Winterholler said. “It is rewarding at the end of the day.”
Winterholler recalled seeing a survey that suggested around 20% of Gen Z will one day identify as a member of the LGBTQ community. He said the industry, which averages an age of 59 years old, needs to start recruiting and accepting people of all diverse backgrounds in order to stay relevant and afloat.
“Agriculture can be a fairly conservative industry. So, it is about opening up people’s minds and showing them no matter who you are or how you live your life, there is plenty of room for different people and all kinds of kinds within the agriculture industry,” Winterholler said.
The duo, who plan to marry in July, said those who are ready to live their true lives should feel welcomed in the agriculture industry. Both said they have largely been accepted by their peers within the agriculture world.
“The biggest thing for me is to be myself. Now that I have overcome that it has been a really great part of my life,” Throckmorton said.
“As an LGBTQ person we aren’t different than anybody else,” Winterholler said.
“We are regular people who work hard every day,” Throckmorton said.
Both said they couldn’t imagine themselves working in any other industry, adding they plan to farm through their retirement.
No matter age, gender, sexual orientation or race, Throckmorton and Winterholler said people of all lifestyles should feel they are welcomed to work in the agriculture industry.
“If we want to be an industry that survives, we have to be an industry of acceptance and diversity,” Winterholler said.