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The reality of life as a gay farmer

Ben Andrews, 36, grew up far away from the big city - but that didn't let him stop finding love and happiness.

By Will Stroude

My favourite film is God’s Own Country. I’ve watched it three times, and every time, it gets me a little bit emotional because it’s so real. It’s the most accurate depiction of being gay, being a farmer and being a gay farmer.

I grew up on my family’s farm in Herefordshire, on the Welsh border just north of Gloucestershire. Apart from going to university in Edinburgh and having a year off to work in London for a bit, I’ve lived here all my life.

In hindsight, I guess I kind of always knew that I was gay but you don’t really have a name to call it when you’re younger. You hear people talking about it but it probably wasn’t until I was 15 or 16 that I started to think, “Yeah, that’s me.”

”When I was about 15 or 16, my parents actually found a copy of Attitude under my mattress. I can remember almost exactly what was in it. We sat down and had a chat, and my dad said: “You’ll never be happy, it’s not a good life, you’ll always be alone.”

I don’t think he was saying it from a particularly spiteful point of view, they just didn’t have the knowledge or frame of reference they have now. The farming community in Herefordshire is very closed off; not many people move here from outside the county, and not many people go away and do great things.

Photography: Markus Bideax

I always wanted to be back at home farming, but I knew from years of growing up that trying to find your life partner in Herefordshire was like finding a needle in a haystack. Back then, there was only Gaydar, and the chance of finding someone on there was almost non-existent.

Although it’s a rural county, there was nobody else working in agriculture, and lots of guys just fetishised the idea of a gay farmer. But it’s not all dungarees and rolling in the hay like some sort of Czech porn movie; sometimes it’s bloody hard work and pretty miserable. I realised I needed to get out to find the man of my dreams, then drag him home!

A friend of my dad had started a company making crisps out of his potatoes, and had employed a PR agency in London to launch them. I met John, who’s now my husband, when I was in London. We were both rowing at the same club in Hammersmith and got chatting.

He’d been in London for 10 years but is from Yorkshire, so he’s a country boy as well. He was ready to get out of the city and just wanted a big garden and outside space and green fields and dogs, and we’ve got that together in Herefordshire.

I moved back to the farm in 2007, and he followed a year or two later to work as a GP in Hereford, the nearest city. I know that my mum and dad probably had the idea of me marrying a farmer’s daughter and having loads of kids, but John and I got married two years ago in my parents’ garden, and they were great. Mum did the flowers and dad gave a speech and cried.

Since I’ve been using Instagram, all sorts of people have messaged me from the farming community, from young gay guys who are struggling to tell their parents up to married guys who are in their fifties, saying, “I’m married, I’ve got kids, I don’t know what to do.” I really feel for guys like that. My generation had it easy compared with guys back then.

I’d like to think that me coming out in our county has helped someone else come to terms with it and do the same. I’m not doing anything particularly proactive, I’m just going about my life and not giving a shit about what people think. Hopefully people can take something from that.

Follow Ben on Instagram @bentheoandrews