Q&A with the founder and curator of Pride in Ag
Julia Romagnoli, a 2016 graduate from the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Animal Science program. She is the founder and curator of Pride in Ag and now works as a Production System Specialist for John Deere based in Guelph, ON. We recently chatted with Julia to learn more about her University of Guelph experience.
What did you study at U of G?
I studied BSc. in Agr. (Animal Science). I had a very specific goal in mind when I went to Guelph, like many, thinking I would attend veterinarian school. I branched out and did quite a few extracurricular activities like College Royal and Student Federation of the OAC. I found my love for marketing through science.
Could you tell us about your current role?
After graduating from the University of Guelph with a degree in Agricultural Science, I started with John Deere Canada ULC which has provided many travel opportunities to explore agricultural practices across the U.S. and Canada. For the last 2.5 years, I have been based in Guelph and responsible for the Eastern Canada hay and forage production system, working with dealers and customers to relate technology, agronomy, and equipment solutions to the dairy and livestock segment.
What are one of your favourite memories of being the OAC?
In my last year of university, I had the chance to be president of College Royal. To me, getting to lead that team from first year was a huge highlight being in the OAC. Seeing everything come together on that open house weekend and connecting with everyone throughout the year.
Do you have any general advice for any new OAC grads or recent grads?
It’s important as a grad to identify what’s really important to you. Whether it be your core values or core strengths or specific things outside of school. For me that has been a slow journey of rebuilding those pieces and picking up some of those passions. For example, I am a 4-H leader and just getting back into that. As you are transitioning into the workforce, don’t lose sight of those key areas and what’s important to you.
What does agriculture mean to you?
Transformation. Agriculture to me is taking a simple element, like a seed and transforming it into something greater. I’m a livestock gal, specifically a dairy gal. If I think about taking that feed, from field to a bunk for fermentation, to feedout and the way the rumen works to breakdown the elements in feed eventually leading to milk production, there are many ways that energy transforms along this process. Agriculture is always transforming us as well as the stewards of the processes. We are learning every season and with each opportunity, bringing that experience with us as we move forward.
What inspired you to create the Pride in Ag Instagram account?
Over the years, I would have conversation with my peers who were in agriculture and the LGBTQIA+ community. Always trying to ask, what is going to make this experience better? What will make our industry more accepting and a more inclusive space? That got me thinking, how do we start to connect these dots, and really showcase each other and connect with each other.
The other thing I realized is I could spend a lot of time planning this out. Instead, I just got the account started in the late summer of 2020. It happened pretty quickly, and I have continued to push myself and keep it growing. There is no better time than the present with diversity, equity and inclusion.
What does Pride in Ag mean to you and why is it important?
To me it is about three things: connecting, sharing and celebrating. It was inspired by asking the question of who is here? Who is in the LGBTQIA+ community that is in agriculture? It was getting feelers out there and getting in touch. Let’s message each other, get connected, and know that you are not alone.
The second piece is sharing. I realized not everyone is able to share. When you do so, you are being vulnerable and putting a lot out there. When you are and willing to, it is great to have this platform to share voices to further connect.
The last piece is a celebration piece. This question is what I often ask others. What does Pride in Ag mean to you? Are you celebrating pride? It is all about celebrating the people that are in the community.
My goal is to have more diverse individuals who are on this account, across agriculture and across the LGBTQIA+.
What do you think are some ways that agriculture could be more inclusive?
If I put myself in the shoes of an OAC student, whether you are in first year or just starting out, you often get asked if you grew up in agriculture or on the farm. If you did not, you may find ways and experiences to build your credibility. I think the agriculture community is starting to do a better job recognizing there are some big challenges to face in agriculture and it is going to take a whole community to tackle them. There are many individuals from differing backgrounds that contribute great things to the agricultural community.
In the industry, I have struggled with bringing my authentic self forward every day. As soon as I stopped suppressing these pieces of myself that are typically marginalized, my engagement, ability to focus, ability to find joy has increased. This has created more positive experiences.
Do you have any advice or words of encouragement in the LGBTQIA+ community and agriculture community but don’t feel like they belong?
It comes down to taking risks. Do not hesitate. It seems really scary to be you and put yourself out there. As soon as you do that, that is when you find your community and you’re belonging. That is when you are going to that event and find the person you can lean on. I know those barriers are there because I too felt them as well. I was a bit later in my university degree when I was coming to terms with being a part of the LQBTQ+ community.
Taking that risk and putting myself out there, it has been amazing to see what it leads to. I started to be more open in life and at work and I found this whole community of people supporting me. Remember that risk always comes with big rewards.
What does being an ally mean to you? How can folks in ag be better allies to LGBTQIA+ community?
I always think about it on a personal level, so for me, how can I be a better ally? I do not represent everyone nor have all the experiences of that community. For example, at work, we just announced that we can put pronouns in our signature. This was a great realization for me that in doing so, I can be an ally to others.
I am often reflecting on the privilege that I have to speak up and to use my voice as a platform. We all have an individual duty to educate ourselves on issues and stand up for others. This is an important part of being an active ally.
For folks in Ag looking to be better allies, know that one action can go far. In your workplace, consider putting a small pride flag in your office or at the farm, consider putting a pride flag at the road beside the OFA sign. Visible allyship plays a huge role and indicates safe spaces for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.