Bo Dennis, 33, owner of Dandy Ram farm, jokes around with co-worker Catalina Rodriguez while harvesting flowers in September. Dennis opened his farm to LGBTQ+ people who want to learn to farm in a safe haven. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Sweet smells, giggling and joy always float through the air at Dandy Ram, a small flower farm in Monroe.

G Cherichello, 34, deeply breathes in that air on a rainy Monday morning in mid-September. Cherichello, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, is bent over in the dirt, harvesting vegetables on their leased plot of land at Dandy Ram.

It’s Cherichello’s first proper go at farming on this large a scale.

And this go has been bountiful. Cabbages, tomatoes, brassicas, radicchios, fennel, onions, peppers, cauliflower, lettuce, corn and squash line Cherichello’s parcel. 

Cherichello’s farm plot has its imperfections, though. Hornworms – pesty moth caterpillars – eat away at the tomatoes. Some sections of the plot are packed to the brim with vegetables. A brassica plant is bolting and inedible because it stayed in the ground too long.

But that doesn’t matter at Dandy Ram farm, an LGBTQ+ operated and owned farm offering Cherichello and two others space to grow crops for just $1 a year.


Cherichello doesn’t have to mold themselves into something they are not. There isn’t any criteria that a grant might require. There are no assignments, assessments, instructional goals or progress objectives. There are no social, financial or antiquated expectations around success – which can have an acute impact on marginalized people in agriculture.

“The beds are planted like chaos,” Cherichello said. “Which I really like, actually.”

What is there, then? An affordable and accessible opportunity for queer people to find kinship, learn to farm, discover their passion and, perhaps most important, feel safe and at ease while doing so.

Farm owner Bo Dennis, 33, and the other folks sharing space at Dandy Ram view this dynamic as uniquely queer  a word that embraces people within the LGBTQ+ community and others who reject conventional gender norms and the societal expectations that go along with them. People in the LGBTQ+ community are using the term “queer” (both as a noun and verb) and reframing its long-standing association as a homophobic slur.

“Queer is an identity, but it’s also a value system. Yes, we are a business but the focus isn’t only on the business itself, (it’s) about like how do we build community, how do we bring joy?” Dennis said. “And that is a queering of business ownership in a way because it challenges this dominant, very capitalistic-rooted thought process about running a business.”

G Cherichello, 34, shows their fennel tattoo at Dandy Ram. Cherichello is learning to grow vegetables and says they have found a new source of self-confidence in the process. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Ten feet across from Cherichello’s plot, Dennis is harvesting amaranth and ruby moon hyacinth. He’s also watching his vision come to life in front of him: Cherichello’s hands in the dirt, planning out their future.



Dennis, who is queer and trans, started Dandy Ram Farm in 2019, first on leased land and then on his own land purchased in 2021.

Dennis knew early on that he wanted Dandy Ram to be a haven for others like him. He already engages with this work as the Beginning Farmer Programs specialist for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

In that, he’s seen firsthand how queer and transgender people deal with a complicated set of challenges when they enter the agricultural industry.

Around 3% to 5% of the 62 million people who live in rural areas identify as LGBTQ+, according to a study from the Movement Advancement Project. (The United States Department of Agriculture does not keep track of queer people working in agriculture.)

The study finds that social and political landscapes make LGBTQ+ people more vulnerable to discrimination with limited alternative options for gender-affirming health care, employment or housing opportunities. Other studies by MAP find that LGBTQ+ people, especially queer people of color, have lower annual incomes, credit scores, homeowner rates, and business ownership rates.


“There’s a lot of different elements to start a farm. You need access to education, access to land and access to capital resources,” Dennis said. “Each one of those buckets is oftentimes more difficult for someone whose identity has been marginalized.”

Toward his start in agriculture, Dennis also had to hide his queer identity, act more “masculine or butch” to pass as cisgender (a person who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth), endure misgendering (when someone doesn’t use a person’s accurate pronouns) and struggle to find nearby gender-affirming health care.

Dennis dreamt up Dandy Ram as a uniquely queer space for his own well-being and for the LGBTQ+ community to envision what can be possible.


Dennis is living that dream by leasing out plots of land on his farm to queer and trans people for a whopping $1. For the first time this past spring, he offered around 1 acre of land for three farmers to launch their own operations though at it’s start this year, the farmers are sharing a quarter-acre together.

Cherichello grows vegetables for their Italian food pop-up events, La Fattoria di Finocchi. Emory Harger grows perennial medicinal herbs. Maddy Miller grows herbs, too.


Bo Dennis, left, and Catalina Rodriguez, right, harvest flowers at Dandy Ram, a flower farm in Monroe, while talking with G Cherichello. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

There are few lease requirements. The farmers agreed to get their own farming materials, tools and irrigation system; they are allowed to use Dennis’ caterpillar tunnel. In practice, though, the lease is enforced with leniency. The farmers have free rein to use Dennis’ access to water, compost pile, farming tools, and orange ATV – named Orangina, “Gina” for short.

Dennis has also lent the farmers a priceless resource: his institutional knowledge.

He shares his knowledge about best practices, like which plants are weeds, how to farm in Maine’s climate and navigating events like a hurricane (which had hit just three days before).

“I’m learning every day. Getting to learn from Bo is a way to undo all of the wrongs that have been created through our food system,” Harger said. “When you rent a house or land, you get a lease, you put it all in writing, maybe you talk to your landlord every once in a while, but for the most part, you’re not in relationship with each other. This feels a lot more like we’re in a relationship with each other.”

There are no strings attached. Take Dennis’ advice, or don’t. Though Cherichello admitted, with a chuckle, that when they go against the grain, they inevitably discover Dennis is right.

Dennis is also a guide on self care and boundaries. If it’s wicked hot, take a break, sit under the shade and drink some water. Ask for help when you need it. That was an important lesson for Cherichello and Miller, who both have physical disabilities. Cherichello tended to push themselves too hard as a farming “rite of passage.”


“There’s this mentality on farms that you’re going to work really hard, push through and be gritty,” Dennis said. “I had that mentality for a while. Now, I’m like, ‘wait, how can we actually make things easier for us? And make it so it supports our bodies?’ ”


This dynamic and slate of lessons reflects shared values in the LGBTQ+ community. Dennis describes it as “queering the farm industry.”

“To queer something is to challenge a dominant, often oppressive system and radicalize it,” he said.

Dennis does that by spreading the wealth; by rewriting the power dynamics of being a business owner, boss, landowner and landlord.

Farmhand Catalina Rodriguez queers farming with Dandy Ram’s crop of choice: flowers that are meant for celebration, joy and beauty.


Cherichello takes risks, embraces failure and accepts imperfections. Harger queers farming by using their plot as a business and community incubator. And Miller likes to look at it from a literal perspective: Dandy Ram is a space for LGBTQ+ people to feel understood and represented in the agricultural industry.

Catalina Rodriguez, 35, of Liberty, sorts harvested flowers at Dandy Ram. Rodriguez has worked at the farm for about a year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In the process, Dennis was surprised by how creating a safe haven can positively affect people.

There’s rarely homophobia, othering, misgendering or microaggressive behavior (when people are indirectly, subtly, or subconsciously discriminating against someone). The Dandy Ram crew doesn’t have to give informal TED Talks that teach straight and cisgender people about what life as an LGBTQ+ person is like. There aren’t any comments about how “brave” or “hard it is” to be a queer person.

“I think that there is something to be said of people being able to farm and exist within communities that just get it,” Dennis said. “We don’t have to explain it to each other. We just get to exist as bodies and use our bodies to grow beautiful things.”

The land at Dandy Ram has been the charming backdrop to first dates, Cherichello admitted. It’s also been a place to process breakups – much to Cherichello’s chagrin. Juicy gossip is spilled on this land (though unfortunately, neither Dennis, Rodriguez nor Cherichello would spill the latest tea that’s been brewing). New episodes of reality TV shows are debriefed here. Funny drag king and queen names are brainstormed. The crew keeps tabs on the teenage adventures of Dandy Ram’s queer 17-year-old farmhand.



Cherichello is reserved when you first meet them. But Cherichello glows when they talk about what Dandy Ram has done for them.

Cherichello frequently moved around before settling in Northport. They’ve struggled to feel connected to a community and find a sense of stability that motivates them to think about what they want in the future. They couldn’t envision sticking around somewhere long enough to grow roots. Cherichello also lacked the financial privilege to even consider owning their own business or home that would guarantee them access to farmland.

“My queerness and how I exist in the world is a big reason why I have moved a lot – in pursuit of home, in pursuit of partnership, in pursuit of things that are harder for queer people to access because we have to carve our own path to those things,” Cherichello said.

Now, Cherichello feels confident. For the first time, they’ve charted their own plan. Cherichello knows they want to be their own boss someday. They have dreams to own their own small farm and build a business off feeding people. Miller envisions a way to self sustain themselves off the land in a way that honors the limitations of their body. Harger imagines creating a business that uses medicinal herbs to serve the community.

“Bo is in it because he loves it and he wants people to have access to queer community in agriculture,” Harger said. “Doing this alone would have been a very different experience.”

It’s hard to leave Dandy Ram after three hours of wandering flower fields, chit-chatting while sitting in the grass, brainstorming good drag queen names, listening to hopes and dreams and telling jokes.


Cherichello and Harger have both signed leases to stick around next season. It’s not exactly a challenging decision to make.

On a chilly day, Dandy Ram still feels warm. Under gray skies, Dandy Ram is bright. Two days after a hurricane, Dandy Ram is grounding.

Maybe that’s because it’s nice to be surrounded by a bounty of colorful, fragrant flowers; because all of the people here are friendly and fun to be around; because there are silly names for the orange ATV and the heron that flies by every day.

It’s not, though. Dandy Ram is warm, vibrant and grounding because it’s bursting with joy.

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