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
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador   Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail