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Quail Hill Farm | Meet The Farmer | Layton Guenther

March 29, 2017

By Layton Guenther

Quail Hill Farm Manager

I came into the world on March 19, 1987 in White Plains, NY. Born on the last day of winter, I joined two older siblings in a pack that would soon swell to four. As a young kid, I was always very active: I’d play street hockey any chance I could; skateboard with my younger brother down the one steep street of our little suburban town; organize neighborhood-wide hide-and-seek matches. For the most part, I fashioned myself an older brother to our youngest sibling, but alas, being the third child with two older sisters meant that we often were dressed alike for family functions and holidays (think floral-patterned Russian nesting dolls of rosy-cheeked brunettes).

 At some age or another, being dressed up in overly effeminate clothes with my two older sisters became humiliating. I can remember one holiday, crying so hard in the church parking lot that my mom put me in the car, buckled me up, and drove me straight to the boys section of Gap Kids in another town nearby. What a wild thing: the fathomless empathy of a parent who saw their child suffering and sought to soften it.

About ten years ago, I went to a women’s college in a small town in Western Massachusetts where I began going by my middle name, Layton, which is how you all now know me. After finding the name “Layton” weird and embarrassing for much of my childhood (it’s a surname on my mother’s side), I found a fresh kinship in this moniker that helped to convey my identity as a young transgender (or trans) person. While I hadn’t yet found words for how I identified, embracing a gender-neutral name was some small kernel of certainty amidst an otherwise fuzzy, rudderless path.

 It was also in college that I discovered farming. As a spritely, athletic twenty year-old, I was totally enraptured with a form of labor that allowed me to exercise my intellect, body, and appetite all at once. It glistened. I was hooked. I worked and learned in the company of many other young people and, being a part of a young, rapidly expanding farm business, eventually took on more of a leadership role. I found that I could use my body and mind towards the service and sustenance of others, which continues to be a central motivating force for me. I consider myself extremely lucky in this regard: Many young trans people don’t or can’t find access to work where they feel safe, let alone satisfied.

 Since I began working here at Quail Hill four years ago, I’ve grown so much: yes, literal vegetables, but also as a mentor, teacher, friend, partner, and as “Scott’s understudy.” I’ve found gender pronouns that work for me (I use they/them/theirs, instead of he/him or she/her), learned a great deal about my role in dismantling racism in the food system, and how this work can radically transform how one relates to their body. It’s been one of my greatest joys to steward this land alongside Scott, countless apprentices, farm members, pollinators, farm pups, you name it. So thank you, dear reader, for the ways you support this work. This farm shimmers with what is possible when humans are given a space to show up as their whole selves, to be seen, and to know that their work goes towards the betterment of land and community.