Take a Cross-Country Tour of America's LGBTQ+ Ranches, Farms, and Co-ops

America’s ranches and farms showcase diverse natural settings, but these countryside sites also provide unique insight into queer life outside of major cities. According to the 2016 Census, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural environments. To perceive the full range of LGBTQ+ history, consider what queer life was like on the range itself. Thousands of small-town Americans met and bonded at retreats and farms, but these locations have drawn little attention from LGBTQ+ historians. Get a sense of the breadth of America’s queer, agrarian history at these ranches and co-ops across the country.

  1. A present-day cowboy riding a horse with a sun setting in the background.

    Photo By: Polina Portnaya/Unsplash

    Washoe County Fairgrounds

    In 1976, Phil Ragsdale organized the nation's very first gay rodeo at the Washoe County Fairgrounds. Despite facing opposition from locals, who refused to rent animals or supplies to support the LGBT event, 150 attendees participated. Since rodeos are icons of Western masculinity, the idea of a "gay rodeo" broke ground in humanizing the LGBT community throughout the South. The rodeo became a regular event that raised money for various charities.

  2. Several buildings on the ranch host artists. A ranch-style, red-painted and white-trimmed building faces a lawn. In the lawn, there's a statue and a white picnic table with matching white chairs.

    Photo By: Ammodramus/Wikimedia

    Rancho Linda Vista

    Andy Warhol is known for his paintings, but he also made a Western called "Lonesome Cowboys" in 1968. The film staged gay cowboys in a remake of Romeo and Juliet, shocking locals and law enforcement. During the filming, Warhol and his team stayed at Rancho Linda Vista and filmed some scenes there.

  3. A woman rides a horse, facing away from the camera.

    Photo By: Verónica Bautista/Flickr/(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Nourishing Space for Women

    Nourishing Space for Women was a ranch on 100 acres. The all-women's, lesbian-operated location was founded in 1975 and hosted over 1,000 women before it closed in 1978. The founder, Dr. Katherine "Kittu" Riddle, was a nutritionist who wanted to provide a natural oasis where lesbians could come and nourish themselves and their communities through farming and clean air. She was also a member of the organization Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.

  4. A natural landscape of Ghost Ranch with a shed in the right foreground and steep, flat, cliff-like mountains stretching across the background.

    Photo By: Svobodat/Wikimedia/(CC BY-SA 4.0)

    Ghost Ranch

    Ghost Ranch has a long history stretching back to the 1766 land grant from the Spaniard Pedro Martin Serrano. In 1976, the ranch was named a National Natural Landmark; however, many visitors do not know about the LGBT significance of this location. This ranch was the meeting place for a group of affirming Quakers, The Friends Committee for Concern group, which was later re-named Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns. Since its 2003 meeting at Ghost Ranch, the committee grew to have national impact.

  5. Patsy Lynch climbs into the back of a van, organizing donations for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005.

    Photo By: Patsy Lynch/Wikimedia

    Camp Sister Spirit

    A refuge for lesbians from 1993 to 2010, Camp Sister Spirit attracted national attention from journalists like Oprah Winfrey because it sparked conflict from the largely conservative, evangelical locals. Some have called the camp the Stonewall of the South.

  6. A box labeled "seedlings" is on the grass-covered ground. In the box, there's a gardening tool, two clay pots with seedlings, and a smaller wooden box with seedlings. In the background, a woman crouches. She wears yellow gardening gloves and digs in the dirt with a gardening tool.

    Photo By: Chiot's Run/Flickr/(CC BY-NC 2.0)

    Wisconsin Womyn's Co-op

    This co-op was opened and operated by two lesbians in 1974. The safe space invited women, queer or not, to care for the earth and find community. The co-op received regional and national attention for its loyal following of women and for its longevity.

  7. A view of a farmhouse kitchen table beside a brightly lit window. On the table, there's a blue checked tablecloth, a notepad and pencil, a phone, a couple of cups, a vase of yellow flowers, and other assorted items.

    Photo By: Janice Waltzer/Flickr/(CC BY 2.0)

    Warren Hereford Ranch

    Patricia Nell Warren is a lesbian author who is best known for her book "The Front Runner," published in 1974. She recalls typing her first short stories on a black Underwood, 1930s model, at the Warren Hereford Ranch.

We believe all Americans deserve to see their history in the places that surround us. As a nation, we have work to do to fill in the gaps of our cultural heritage.

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