FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Farmer Wants a Wife

Love is in the air in Rural America. Farmers seeking mates can visit Farmersonly.com, an online dating service designed especially for rural people or those seeking the country lifestyle. And if one can’t find a mate for the “simple life “in cyberspace, there’s always Reality Television.

FreemantleMedia, the production company that brought us “The Price is Right” and “American Idol,” recently held auditions for its proposed show “The Farmer Wants a Wife.” The show has already debuted to strong reviews in European markets. The idea behind the show is to match up busy young farmers with city women who want to live the “traditional” lifestyle of a small farm (whatever that means in our highly technologized age). The casting team recently held well-attended auditions in Nebraska, producer Julie Uribe’s home state, as well as in California, Ohio, and Texas.

Farmers are a practical and innovative lot, and when they see a potential solution to a problem, they try it out. . So I don’t blame the male farmers lining up to audition for the show. It is hard to meet women when you’re farming twelve hours a day and when the nearest night club is the Grange Hall.

However, John Hansen, President of the Nebraska Farmers’ Union, is concerned that “The Farmer Wants a Wife” will portray farmers as a bunch of “hayseeds.” Even some of the farmers who recently auditioned for the show worry that they might be portrayed as rednecks or simpletons. Concerns over the show’s potential portrayal of farmers are well-founded as rural people often end up as fodder for hicksxplotiation films and television shows. On one end of the extreme, farmers are often revered as noble yeomen, what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “the chosen people of God.” On the other end of the extreme, they are the overall wearing, “golly gee hayseeds” of children’s books and television shows or the “tebaccy” chewing rednecks of B-list films.

Farming as an occupation also gains mixed press. Often, farmers are depicted as fat cats drawing on farm subsidies (living off so-called “agriwelfare”) or they are portrayed as an endangered species, as those who are obsolete, losing their farms and way of life because they are not sufficiently modernized or efficient. Never mind who really profits from farm subsidies (often large, corporate farms), and never mind the farm policies that have driven medium and small producers into the ground and off their land. That’s a story that won’t make it on reality TV or if it does, it will be a 20 second scene accompanied by sad fiddle music.

Could it be that the “simple” in the “Simple Life” (another “reality TV” farce set in rural America) refers to the naive view that many hold of rural life in general, and farm life in particular? Although we eat every day, how many consumers of food living in urban and suburban areas really understand what it means to be a farmer, let alone a farmer’s wife? And by the way, let’s not forget that women are farmers, too. If the producers of the show are going to really take up the challenge that farmers face finding a suitable mate, they should consider matching a woman farmer with a male city slicker looking for his heartland honey. And what about Brokeback Mountain cowboys and cowgirls-those who seek love with the same sex? What kind of billing will they get?

For the “Sex in the City” women earnestly seeking those heartland hunks, I’d suggest, before you sign the contract, checking out a true “reality show”: The Farmer’s’ Wife, the much-watched 1998 PBS documentary series featuring Nebraska farmers Juanita and Darrel Buschkoetter (see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/farmerswife/). David Sutherland’s documentary provides insights about what it means to be in a marriage where farming is at the center: dealing with stress, in-laws, loan officers, large farm debt, low prices, crop failures, and second jobs. While I agree with critics like A.V. Krebs that the PBS documentary is not as instructive as it could be about the current state of the family farm and farm policy, there are insights here about what it means to be married to a farm as well as to a farmer.

I would like to challenge the producers of The Farmer Wants a Wife to do more than strike the twangy-chords of Reality-TV induced rural romance. Try to tell more than a one-dimensional story about American agricultural life and the relationships of those engaged in it– for that is a story the American public needs just as much as those farmers need their wives.

Eileen Schell grew up on a third-generation family farm in eastern Washington state. She is Associate Professor of Writing at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. She can be reached at: eeschell@syr.edu

 

More articles by:
April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail