Cultivating Change: New club creates a place for LGBTQ people in agriculture

New Agriculture Club Meeting
Kicking off the meeting, sophomore Jenna Wallace announces introductions. “The Cultivating Change chapter at K-State will serve as a common space for LGBTQ+ agriculturalists and allies to come together,” Wallace said. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Sebesta)

Editor’s note: Added caption and credits to the courtesy photo.

The idea behind Kansas State’s newest club for students in agriculture, Cultivating Change, was simple, said Jenna Wallace and Isabel Haake.

“We’re not going to be able to change how other people think, but we are able to create a positive environment for people who are having a hard time with their identity, or a hard time in the College of Ag and being queer,” Haake said.

Through Cultivating Change, Wallace said she and Haake aim to create a space for LGBTQ people in agriculture to be promoted and prioritized.

“K-State has such a dynamic population of students and it’s very rooted in agriculture, but we are also one of the top 12 LGBTQ+ friendly campuses in the nation,” Wallace said.

According to its website, the national chapter of the Cultivating Change Foundation uplifts LGBTQ agriculturalists and allies through “advocacy, education, and community.”

“There’s been a total of five collegiate chapters in the U.S., but we’ll be the first chapter in the Midwest,” Wallace said.

Wallace, an agricultural economics and global food systems leadership major, said she was inspired to start the club when she sat next to a man from the Iowa Soybean Council at a conference this past November.

“We ended up having a great conversation where he ended up coming out to us and telling us his story and that he was involved with Cultivating Change on a national level,” Wallace said. “I was like, you know what, that’s my sign.”

Haake, a park management and conservation major, said she was inspired by meetings she’s attended as a College of Agriculture ambassador. 

“The College of Ag ambassadors have been trying to promote inclusivity more in recent years,” Haake said. “After I noticed some conversations that were not inclusive, I wanted to make sure this was brought to light and change was beginning.”

From there, Haake connected with Wallace and Jacqueline Aenlle, assistant professor of agricultural communications and journalism.

“Right after break is when Dr. J and Jenna were introduced to me,” Haake said. “After that, we had a few different meetings, and then we had our March meeting.”

The first meeting was March 6, and it sought to gauge interest in the club, Wallace said.

“I was stressed out because I had this question in my head of, ‘Is this really a necessity?’ and, ‘Are there even that many of us that it needs to be an established organization?’” Haake said.

Turnout for the first meeting was high, Haake said, with 12 people in attendance.

“A lot of people had incredible opinions on things they wanted to see,” Haake said. “That opened my eyes to this being a necessity.”

Aenlle, one of the three faculty advisors for the club, said she is excited that students have shown interest, and she looks forward to the future of Cultivating Change. 

“So far there’s been really positive feedback,” Aenlle said. “Both from the students who showed up and showed their appreciation for this club being formed, and from the higher up people in academic programs creating the space for us and verbally committing.” 

Wallace said the other two advisors, Mikey Hughes, coordinator of recruitment, and Mary Kay Siefers, global food systems leadership program director, have worked hard alongside Aenlle to set the club’s foundation.

“Mikey talked directly to Dr. Moser, one of the deans, about if it was okay to be housed directly under the College of Ag,” Haake said. “He was all for it, and he was wanting to give us whatever we needed.”

Wallace said she believes this shows that there is a space for LGBTQ people in the College of Agriculture.

“That commitment is there,” Wallace said. “That’s showing us they are prioritizing us.”

Cultivating Change will be an official club under the Diversity Programs Office in the College of Agriculture next semester, Haake said.

“I’m interested to see how this progresses as more people in the College of Ag and more people in the community learn about why we are here,” Aenlle said.

Haake and Wallace said they look forward to providing a safe space for LGBTQ people in agriculture.

“We’re working on making a positive change and showing people in the College of Ag that we are here and we aren’t going anywhere,” Haake said.