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Chris Soules from "The Bachelor" abc.go.com/shows/the-bachelor

Bikini tractor races, agriculture and “The Bachelor”

The ladies at the office are abuzz about the new bachelor. And, by bachelor, I mean “The Bachelor” on a television show where ladies vie for the affection of (and a marriage proposal from) a desirable guy. While apparently the announcement of the new Bachelor is always significant for fans of the show, the big agricultural news this time around is that the man in question is Iowa farmer Chris Soules. His family farms several thousand acres with a fleet of red equipment, from what I’m told. He works in real estate along with his duties on the farm. I have also been informed that he is quite handsome.

The online description for the show is: “man chooses from a group of women.” That pretty well sums it up, but here is more from the show’s website:

“Millions of single women had mixed emotions when Chris Soules, the stylish farmer from Iowa, was sent home by Andi Dorfman on The Bachelorette. One of the final three men, Chris was dismissed after he had emotionally confessed his love to Andi, but that meant the handsome bachelor was back on the market. Now, he is ready to put his heartache behind him to search for the one missing piece in his life — true love — when he stars in the 19th edition of ABC’s hit romance reality series, The Bachelor.

“The 33-year-old Midwestern bachelor and self-proclaimed romantic has been engaged once before. Heartbroken, Chris ended that seven-year relationship just months before he expected to walk down the aisle. Although his relationship with his fiancée was good, he didn’t want to settle for ‘good.’ He wanted ‘great.’ While the humble but enormously successful farmer from tiny Arlington, Iowa (pop. 427) has found it difficult to date, that hasn’t stopped him from having faith that one day he will find the perfect woman for him. His experience on The Bachelorette made him realize that love really is out there, and he is confident that he will find it this time on The Bachelor.”

Based on the titles of clips from the show including “The bikini tractor race,” “Jordan likes to party” and “Jillian’s embarrassing slip-up,” one could assume that this is far from high brow entertainment. In the end, this show seems to be about dramatic catfights, broken hearts and the hope for true love on TV. So, with this in mind, I have a few questions for people involved in agriculture with regard to “The Bachelor.”

Is this a positive for agriculture?

On one hand, a glimpse into life on a real, working farm (assuming this guy is really part of a working farm) for millions of viewers is certainly a potential positive. I also assume that most of the viewers of this show are women, who are obviously a key demographic when considering some of the important issues facing our modern food supply. Even though this reality show has nothing to do with the realities of agriculture, The Bachelor’s profession will undoubtedly re-introduce agriculture as part of the dialogue for millions of viewers around the country. In addition, those in the know regularly talk about the importance of putting a face with farming as a way to address consumer misconceptions about agriculture. It probably doesn’t hurt if that face happens to be a very handsome one.

Is this a negative for agriculture?

While there probably is potential for this to be positive in some ways, there is also some potential concern with a multiple-lady-smooching guy on a morally questionable reality show representing food production in our country. Is a playboy courting numerous ladies simultaneously the ideal image for agriculture? I’m not sure, but for many viewers of this show, The Bachelor on their television screen may be as close as they ever get to a real farmer.

Are there even any opportunities on the show for the promotion of agricultural awareness?

I believe that some of the girls on the show get to meet the family of The Bachelor, which would likely mean a visit to the farm. While there will certainly be some flexed Bachelor muscles in a combine or tossing a hay bale while shirtless for a bit of old fashioned down-on-the-farm sex appeal for the ladies, but it is possible that some relevant farm topics do come up on the show. I doubt there will be much in-depth discussion about the vital role of genetically modified crops or the advances of precision agriculture, though a visit to a working farm is sure to generate some agricultural conversation. Hopefully, The Bachelor is up for the task of being a successful spokesman for his industry.

Of course, no matter what Soules says, the show’s producers could spin life on the farm in any way they choose, but since they want to promote the main man, they will likely want to promote his way of life in a positive light. If the show does highlight agriculture, there is of course the potential for it to be inaccurate, over simplified and misleading. But, if it is positive, does that matter?

Assuming the show does reach its intended conclusion and he proposes to one of these girls, how on earth could she be prepared for life as a farm wife?

I am not familiar with the backgrounds of the ladies on these shows, but the reality show participating, city-slicker-looking ladies on the commercials do not immediately suggest ideal farm wife material. It could be that, with a farmer bachelor, the show selected ladies with specific interest in a farmer. I don’t know how that works. At any rate, for ladies not accustomed to the rigors and schedule of life on a farm, the honeymoon on this relationship could end with “I do.”

Are you going to watch?

As a person interested or involved in agriculture, will you be watching “The Bachelor” because the star of the show is a farmer? Will the non-farm public want to watch because he is a farmer?

In the end, I suppose only time will tell if the overall response from the show is beneficial to agriculture or not. With consumer concerns among the most significant challenges facing the future of agriculture, though, we need all the help we can get. Maybe The Bachelor will provide some. After all, how could a show featuring a bikini tractor race be anything but positive for agriculture?

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