Agriculture and Forest Products Industry Leaders Gather to Support LGBT Diversity

Portland, Oregon – The Cultivating Change Foundation hosted its third annual reception in Oregon to celebrate the love of agriculture and agriculturists on Friday, February 15.  The Foundation’s mission is one-of-a-kind: to value and elevate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the agricultural industry through advocacy, education, and community.  It’s a unique mission that has gathered tremendous support from across Oregon’s agriculture and forest products industries.

The reception’s organizers, Jeff Sherman and Kirk Maag, each have deep roots in agriculture.  Sherman hails from Baker City, Oregon, where he grew up working on his family’s farm and ranch.  Maag grew up working alongside his parents and grandparents on their farm and feedlot near Vale, Oregon.

Maag now works as a natural resources attorney and serves on the Cultivating Change Foundation’s Board of Directors.  When asked why he supports the Foundation’s work, he responded: “It’s simple. I believe that every young person who is passionate about the agriculture and forest products industries should feel welcome, regardless of that person’s sexual orientation.”  Maag feels strongly that we need to share the message that the ag and forest products industries are welcoming to all.

Alexis Taylor, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, served as one of the co-hosts for the reception.  She supports the Foundation’s mission because “[its] mission of valuing and elevating LGBT agriculturalists through advocacy, education, and community is vital to ensuring no young person feels they can’t farm, ranch or work in agriculture and be their true self.  It is crucial for the agriculture community to be aware of the value LGBT individuals bring to our industry.”

Peter Daugherty, Oregon’s State Forester, explained the importance of the Foundation’s work in remarks last year to the Board of Forestry:  “While as leaders we don’t always agree on policy, it is really inspiring to see that we can agree on creating positive change for LGBT individuals who are passionate about agriculture and forestry and that all individuals have a right to just and fair inclusion in a society in which all can prosper, participate, and reach their full potential.”

Many other leaders within Oregon’s agriculture and forest products industries served as co-hosts for the reception, including the deans of Oregon State University’s Colleges of Agriculture and Forestry, the CEO of the Oregon Food Bank, executives from some of the state’s most prominent agriculture and forest products trade associations, and many others.

The Foundation’s next big event is the Fifth Annual Cultivating Change Summit in Des Moines, Iowa.  The Summit is an annual agricultural industry conference that brings together LGBT individuals and allies from across the country.  More information available at https://www.cultivatingchangefoundation.org/.

BY MELANIE NATHAN

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