“I knew I wanted to work with animals and then my parents said, why not start a farm, and I said you know what? I will do that. And then I just did,” 27 year-old sheep farmer, Richard Berry has told Agriland.
What started with 20 animals about six years ago, has developed into a flock of about 100 sheep on a farm outside Lisburn, Co. Antrim, where Richard lives with his parents.
Talking about his experience as a gay farmer, Richard said the hardest part was coming into the industry without any farming experience.
Speaking to Agriland, the full-time sheep farmer recalled how he felt entering the agricultural community:
“[Not having any farming experience] made it really hard to get along with other farmers because I had nothing to talk to them about. In terms of LGBTQ+ stuff, I was nervous about it but there was nothing, nobody cares. I don’t even think about it.”
Richard initially wanted to become a vet, however, he then decided to study agricultural technology at Queen’s University Belfast, due to the lack of veterinary courses in Northern Ireland.
“What happened was, I think it was my great-great uncle, before he died, he lived on a farm so where we are now is his farm. The land went to my uncle and we started renting it off him. We still rent the land and the house.
“I haven’t looked back since. It’s been great,” the young sheep farmer said.
Richard explained that his parents’ business, a pet crematory, helped him make a start in farming as they knew some vets and farmers already. “One of the vets then sold us sheep, which was super handy,” he added.
Talking about his daily life on the sheep farm, Richard said he likes caring for the animals the most. This includes checking the sheep on the field and looking after the orphan animals.
“I hate machinery work, I can’t stand it,” he said laughing, adding that his parents help out on the farm.
‘I would always be out’
“I feel like there are not many gay farmers to be honest, in Antrim or Northern Ireland.
“I probably would have said that people were hiding it, but considering how I experienced it, I have had no problems at all, maybe they are not hiding it, maybe there just aren’t any.
“I feel like I have been pretty lucky to be honest. I don’t think I have ever experienced any homophobia at all. I am not sure that is just me being lucky or because of the times we are in.
“I can’t even remember when I came out. I only came out to my family but that is it. I never really came out to the community. I wouldn’t say it dramatically, I would just always be out.
“It’s been a very long time since I thought about these things,” Richard added laughing.
Richard remembered when some LGBTQ+ farmers had a float at the pride parade in Newry a couple of years ago for the gay farmers' helpline, which offers support to individuals in the countryside.
He added: “Being able to find LGBTQ+ farmers would be really helpful.
“A pride-parade event for farmers would be great just so people know that LGBTQ+ farmers do exist. Even myself, I feel like there aren’t any, but I don’t know."
For pride this year, Richard said himself and a group of LGBTQ+ members from across Europe, which he met through a video game, organised a trip to pride in Belfast on Saturday, July 30.