The Queer Menagerie: A Glimpse into the Livestock Internship

keganmarling_160430_6721

photo credit: Kegan Marling

As I reflect on my five months here at Groundswell, it is clear to me that this was a place that I had been calling for both consciously and unconsciously for most of my life. After working on and off in the South Bay since 2009 on a 1600-acre farm and wilderness preserve called Hidden Villa, I found myself craving queer spaces that integrated farming, community, and social activism. Groundswell seemed to be that place, a perfect fusion of both farming and intentional queer space.

 

Since arriving here, my role at Groundswell has been as the livestock apprentice under the mentorship of DoubleSnake. Daily chores include milking the five dairy goats and feeding the menagerie of animals: pigs, chickens, alpacas, rabbits, and sheep. Larger tasks range from building new structures for the livestock and animal maintenance to cheese-making and other fermented food projects. The internship has increased my awareness of farming issues such as the rising costs of feed, water access, and preventive veterinary care, as well as a more intuitive understanding of animals and their needs here at Groundswell.

 

gretaandspring

The livestock internship for me has been a two-fold experience, with animals being one key aspect, and community involvement being the other. Living here at Groundswell has created a unique environment for me to explore different modes of intimacy and connectedness, and has provided a catalyst for deeper knowledge of self. The synthesis of the two is really why I was first drawn to Groundswell. It continues to challenge my ability to navigate communal spaces while creating the space to have difficult conversations across differences.

 

The apprenticeship has provided me the opportunity to deepen my connection with queer people, find confidence in myself, and learn more tools to be impactful in the community at large. It has fostered a greater understanding of what it means to be both queer and a farmer. In particular, it has given me the opportunity to find abilities I didn’t believe I had and to discover things that were once outside my skill set. Even in five months, these experiences have radically shifted how I feel in my body. It is the loving comradery I have found here that enables me to feel supported, seen, and valued.

 

This is especially true in a world that seeks to police our bodies, tear us down, and define what constitutes humanness. For me, the greatest gift of Groundswell has been the opportunity to see queers thrive, stand in their power, and revel in their queerness. This holds the key to dismantling the oppressive threads that hold us as queer and trans people in bondage and keep us all from full liberation. Groundswell provides a place to feel safe, to deepen our connections to queer community, to foster solidarity, and to find resources so that we can engage with the larger world with an increased sense of confidence and the ability to be better change-makers.

running