A FARMER has spoken of growing up gay in Herefordshire and how he used social media to become comfortable with his sexuality.

Ben Andrews, who farms near Leominster, has been named a top rural influencers by Norwegian influencer marketing platform inzpire.me for amassing 45,000 Instagram followers.

Mr Andrews gives updates from the farm, as well as about his experience of being gay in a rural community, and is involved in Agrespect, an lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) farmers network that encourages inclusivity and diversity.

Growing up in Herefordshire, Mr Andrews, 39, said he had to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as they and them, to talk about his boyfriend, worried about how people could react.

Social media, for Mr Andrews, has been “self-therapy” as he found the more he talked about his sexuality, the more he felt comfortable with it.

His involvement with Agrespect started when he and a farming friend from Lincolnshire were talking about press coverage of issues facing the industry, with mental health and suicide talked about most.

They agreed that while they were serious issues, there were others – such as challenges facing people in the LGBTQ+ community working in agriculture.

He didn’t want young, gay farmers in Herefordshire feeling like they had to “run away to the city”, because it was possible to “live your best life” in farming.

He said people in Herefordshire might have formed opinions based on what their peers say, without actually ever meeting anyone in the community. He said this was a reason why Herefordshire was arguably less accepting of LGBTQ+ people, and his “coming out” left some people shocked as they’d never met anyone from the community before.

In Hay-on-Wye, the town will host its first ever Pride event next year.

With June being Pride month, founded to to recognise the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history, friends Graham Nolan and Helen Jane Campbell revealed their plans for 2022.

Hay Castle has agreed in principle to host the event, and businesses are pledging support.

Mr Nolan said Hay-on-Wye had been accepting since he moved to the world-famous book town with his partner, but said there was still a “huge amount of shame” associated with sexuality.

He wants Hay Pride to create conversation, show off the town as being something special, and “make sure locals who don’t themselves identify as LGBTQ+ know their power and value as allies in an inclusive community”.