FINDING love is never an easy task, and finding love as a farmer can sometimes be a challenge - the long hours you have to work, and the isolation that sometimes comes with the job makes meeting someone nigh on impossible.

But what about finding love if you are a gay farmer?

That is the case for Richard Oxley, of Barholm Mains, Creetown, and his journey has recently been documented on the popular BBC Two series, Love in the Countryside.

Richard came out eight years ago, and has since been an advocate for LGBT, particularly in the farming community, and has shared his experience with many people. He also wants to create a support system for gay farmers, and help those suffering in silence as much as possible.

But how did he get here? And what made him finally decide to tell the world the truth about who he really was?

Richard met with The Scottish Farmer, and shared his story, from the beginning.

“In my mind, you always know that you are gay, but the biggest worry is that you don’t know how people will take it, and if you will even be accepted.

“A big concern of mine was that people’s attitude towards me spending time with their children would change – that worried me because I love my friends’ kids, and I love looking after them.

“It’s hard, as well, because you spend a lot of time in your life coming to terms with it yourself, and then you have to see if other people will be able to come to terms with it.

“It won’t be the same for everyone, but when I came out, the time was right, and everything just fell into place after that,” he explained.

He was always aware of his sexuality, but kept it to himself until the age of 32, and that was due to his fears of how people would react, however, he has been very lucky, and the farming community has broadly accepted him, although, he believes things may have been different, if he had come out earlier.

He said: “I’m not sure how things would have been if I had come out years ago, before people really got to know me as a person and as a friend.

“I think people would have been less willing to accept who I am, if they didn’t already know me so well, and I understand that, because it’s easier to brush someone aside if you don’t really know them.”

So how did people react – was there any bad press?

“I have been so lucky, and I’ve had very few bad comments, and it was the people I least expected it from who were the most supportive.

“I am one of the lucky ones - I haven’t had to suffer the way that some people have,” he commented.

For many of us, it is hard to understand why it would be so hard to tell people about our true feelings, but Richard was keen to emphasise that it is, at times, impossible, for people to come out as gay, particularly if you are a farmer.

He explained: “Some people who are gay are married, with children, and if they were to come out, they would literally lose everything, because their families will not accept them – and I know people who are in that exact situation.

“It’s very sad – they are spending their entire life, keeping this massive secret, and that is such a hard thing to do. But you can’t force them to come out, it has to be their decision, and all you can do is offer them an ear, and any advice that you can give to them.”

In the UK, one in four gay people die of suicide, and the farming community has the country’s highest rate of suicide, and Richard said there could be a link.

“I am not saying they are directly connected, but I do think that we farmers are guilty of living in our wee bubble, and burying our heads in the sand, and I think it must be a very hard thing for gay farmers to deal with, especially if they cannot tell anyone,” he added.

Some years ago, a shepherd, who Richard knew, died of suicide, and, at that time, nobody really knew why he took his own life, but it has since come to light that it is possible he was gay, and could no longer live with his secret.

At present, there are no Scottish charities specifically for gay people, but there is one in England, called Landline, and it receives, on average, one new phone call from a farmer every week.

It was set up by Keith Ineson, a chaplain who is also gay, and it provides a phone number for gay farmers to call if they ever want to talk – something Richard hopes to replicate in Scotland.

“I think something like Landline would be great, because it gives people a point of contact, and I truly believe it’s sometimes the only thing that keeps some people going – being able to talk.

“I would love Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs, RSABI and NFU Scotland to get involved.

“I am not discrediting any of them as charities or helplines, but I would never have, for example, contacted RSABI, as I didn’t feel it would suit someone like me, but if I could have contacted someone like Keith, I definitely would have,” Richard said.

Richard’s main reason for coming out was due to the fact he was in a relationship, and he didn’t want to hide it any longer. That relationship ended, and after a few brief romances, he was ready to meet someone else, and that’s when the opportunity came up for him to feature on Love in the Countryside.

Filming started the day before Highland Show in 2017, and finished up that November, and Richard ended up with a new relationship, which lasted for four months.

He commented: “The whole experience was great, and again I was worried that people would make a lot of bad comments about me, but I ended up getting more comments about my cattle than anything else, and I got no negative comments at all, and that was a great feeling.

“I have had a lot of support, and a local farmer actually told me that I have opened up people’s minds in the local community, and it has made people suddenly realise that gay people are not a stereotype, and I have really changed that for them, and I am proud of that.”

The main message to take away, however, is that although Richard is gay, and coming out was a great relief for him, it does not define him as a person, something which he believes made his coming out story such a success.

“At the end of the day, I am a farmer, and I am very involved in a lot of other things, such as showing cattle; running bars for my company, Select Bars; training speechmaking teams for Young Farmers; and sitting on the Children’s Panel – it’s a very small part of who I am, but being able to be honest about who I am makes life and all it offers even better.”

Considering those in the farming community who are gay, but are unable to come out, now or ever, and who may be thinking about suicide, Richard said: “Don’t bottle everything up, and don’t feel that you are on your own.

“A lot of us have been in the same situation, and I urge you to pick up the phone and confide in someone, like Landline.

“There is nothing in life bad enough to make you take your own life.”

And what of the future, for Richard, would he get married?

“I would get married – I’m against nothing in life, and you never know what’s in front of you.”

If you, or somebody you know, would like some guidance, or just somebody to chat to, contact Landline on 07837 931894, or visit