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Farmers fret about reality TV portrayal

Nebraska group concerned about dating show with rural focus
/ Source: The Associated Press

We’re not hayseeds, says a Nebraska farm leader, worried about how accurately a new TV reality show will portray farmers and their problems.

John Hansen, the president of the Nebraska Farmers Union fears that “The Farmer Wants a Wife” intends to turn its rural reality cast into media fodder as naive bumpkins.

And he has no plans to be of any assistance.

“I’m not inclined to be helpful to any of those efforts that would trivialize the enormous problems that farm and ranch families face,” he said.

The premise of the show is to make a match between lonely young farmers with no time to date and women who dream of living a traditional, small-town lifestyle.

The show is from FremantleMedia, which also produces “American Idol,” the upcoming “American Inventor,” “The Price is Right” and “Love on the Rocks.”

Producer Julie Uribe, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, said she’s determined to search her home state for farmers who will star in the show.

“I wanted to help somebody from my home state get the opportunity of a lifetime,” Uribe said. “I made sure we sent our casting team to Nebraska.”

The casting team has also tapped California, Ohio and Texas.

“We’re looking for all types of farmers, not just the country bumpkin,” said casting director Deborah Tarica.

Hansen said producers called him for a list of potential candidates, but he declined the request because of prior commitments.

Several years ago, Hansen said, he worked to keep a reality show that would send an Appalachian family to Beverly Hills off the air. He felt it would negatively portray rural residents.

He said he likes the romance angle of the “Farmer Wants a Wife” show, but wonders how agriculture would be represented on the show. And he’s also worried about how Americans perceive family farmers and ranchers because of how they are portrayed in the popular media.

“It’s somewhere between rednecks and ’Hee Haw’: culturally backward and unwashed,” he said. “It’s kind of the new and more modern version of the hayseed. It’s such a shallow, inaccurate and stereotypical view of rural families.”

FremantleMedia has launched “The Farmer Wants a Wife” in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, France and Norway. In the Netherlands, the program is the highest rated show of 2005, according to FremantleMedia.