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:

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail