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The Tennessean

Fox's 'Farmer Wants A Wife' weds 'authentic' reality TV with country-western romance

By Marcus K. Dowling, Nashville Tennessean,


Fox's reboot of the 22-year-old, globally popular "Farmer Wants a Wife" franchise premiered March 8 and arrives as America's love of rural themes are increasingly popular across the cultural and media landscape.

Hosted by Sugarland vocalist and country music veteran Jennifer Nettles, the program features four farmers aged 31-35 — Gastonia, North Carolina's Ryan Black; Santa Fe, Tennessee's Allen Foster; Watkinsville, Georgia's Hunter Grayson; and Stillwater, Oklahoma's Landon Heaton — owning a total of 750 acres of land.

In addition, the cattle and horse ranchers hosted a group of eight single women each, aged 22-40 for six weeks of dating and potential romance. As a news release notes, the women "[left] behind the comfort and convenience of city life for the charms and challenges of country living."

Nettles said in a recent interview that the show is "double-vetted," meaning that both the men and women could select one another mutually before experiencing life on the farm.

Country music's growth alongside western lifestyle culture's multimedia surge has led to a deluge of content geared in both directions as America prepares for the most significant onset in a half-century of mainstream popular culture being defined via the country-western lens.

Grayson refers to the program as "genuine, heartfelt and wholesome reality television" when speaking with The Tennessean.

"This is scheduled, not scripted," adds the rancher who spends his free time as the lead singer of "70s and 80s era country music traditionalists" Hunter Grayson & The Hat Creek Band.

The Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association and Country Music Television feature their award programs and festival content on major broadcast networks. Streaming's Paramount Network program "Yellowstone" had a fifth-season premiere with 12.1 million live-plus-same-day viewers, growing 52% among adults 18-34. The program was the top scripted series premiere of 2022.

"We're not as cinematic as 'Yellowstone,' but ["Farmer Wants A Wife"] is lifestyle programming that blends country music and western culture," Heaton said. "Four guys who represent the purity at the core of both cultures are here to spotlight a [resurgence in interest]."

In short, it's here if you are looking for a program that continues to synergize America's most burgeoning cultural and social intersection points.

Intriguingly, rural farming-to-marriage programming's roots extend past "Farmer Wants A Wife" to Swiss television's 1983-debuted program "Bauer sucht Bäuerin," which translates as "male farmer is looking for a female farmer." The program's goal to help single farmers led to six marriages, of which four lasted.

Comparatively, the male farmer-to-female, non-farmer wife "fish out of water" concept highlighted in "Farmer Wants A Wife" has developed what many consider the world's most successful television dating franchise. Versions of the program have aired in 32 countries and resulted in 180 marriages and 410 children.

"This show isn't about pretty girls and pickup trucks. We're out there working," Grayson said. However, insofar as the physical challenges of lifting bales of hay and milking cows being a part of the selection process, he adds, "I'm looking for a business and life partner, not a ranch hand."

The cattle ranching industry is still worth $85 billion domestically, per February 2023 reports.

"More than anything, the life of a farmer and rancher is as busy as it is gritty," Black said.

Adding to Grayson's notes about the importance of the awareness of putting business first to the four bachelors, he said that being worried about the financial stability of the livestock marketplace places stress upon their work-life balance. Finding a partner willing to integrate themselves into a life where their interaction with their mate is brief -- and thus more critical -- is essential.

"The cattle don't care what you have going on elsewhere, they're always hungry," Foster jokes. "Instagram has made my life into a romanticized highlight reel. Once someone gets into a relationship with me, they realize how many hardships and pitfalls are a part of how I live my life. But, unfortunately, most can't adapt and overcome that."

"For me, a [potential partner] has to realize that for as much as I want someone to spend the rest of my life with, calving season or sick heifers [supersede] most nights out on the town and vacations. They say ranchers don't live comfortably until the day before they die. That's true," Heaton offers, frankly.

"There's a real momentum around young, gentlemanly cowboys, farmers and ranchers. Men who lead simple lives and are connected with nature have a greater authenticity about themselves, which is attractive to a new generation of women who — because of social media — may not be finding that elsewhere," Black said.

"If nothing else comes of this show, I've learned so much about the value of patience and accepting those with backgrounds different from mine," Grayson said. "Balancing my very stressful life with the ability to take things as they come has allowed me to greatly greatly appreciate life's many perspectives."

"Farmer Wants a Wife" premiered Wed. Mar. 8 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT) on FOX.

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