Content ID

48078

The Successful Interview: TV's Bachelor Farmer

At the encouragement of his sisters, Chris Soules put his name in the hat for the national television dating show, The Bachelor, which had 8 million weekly viewers. He was picked by ABC TV network to be this year’s most eligible heartthrob looking for love. Soules’ season just finished this month. Aside from the bright lights and big city, this small-town-boy-makes-big story lifts up an even bigger issue in agriculture: the growing number of bachelor farmers.

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SF: The last five years attracted a lot of sons and daughters back to the farm. As the economy changes, will young farmers stay attracted to agriculture?

CS: Agriculture is a cyclical business, and we’ve all come to recognize that. The exciting thing about agriculture is the technology – all the different things happening with drones, for example. There are different ways of being more profitable that I think are more adapted to the younger generation, whether it’s using iPads or other mobile devices. They get it. That’s why we need younger people to get involved. The last thing my dad wants to do is run a drone or get an iPad. He can hardly check his email.

SF: In your community, are you seeing young men and women stay on the farm?

CS: I’ve seen more young people than ever come back because of the new optimism created in agriculture and because of profitability and technology. There are a lot of younger folks coming back. I’m one of two in my entire graduating class who stayed back to farm. Right now, I can think of a handful of guys in the area who are coming back. I think the trend is to have more young sons and daughters come back because of the exciting things happening in agriculture.

SF: What keeps you on the farm?

CS: That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. If I had played in the NFL, I still would’ve come back to the family farm when I retired. I enjoy both the business and the hands-on aspects. I go from sitting in an office to being in the tractor planting corn or working on something in the shop. I like the diversity of the business.

SF: How did you get your start in farming?

CS: My first farming enterprise, when I was 7 years old, was a sow named Sandy. She raised twins. I pulled the rest of her stillborn baby pigs. That was my first experience raising hogs. After that, I realized I wasn’t very good at farrowing pigs, so we just went to the feeder pig business. I had, at most, 18 pigs during that time frame. Dad and I got out of the pig business just before hogs took a dive in the 1990s. We raised them outdoors and in a barn. Dad had 250 pigs, and I helped with that, too.

SF: Did you tell any of The Bachelor women you raised hogs?

CS: Yes, I did, but it went right over their heads.

SF: How does the outside world see the U.S. agriculture industry?

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CS: One of the things I always get when I go to L.A. is, “You don’t look like a farmer.” There’s a huge disconnect in what people think of the American farmer. I do my best to help them understand. Given this opportunity and the audience who has watched the show and gotten to know me as a farmer, I can work to correct that message and help people understand what it really is like in Iowa and the rest of the country. I can talk about the special industry we have here.

SF: There’s data showing that a growing number of U.S. farmers are single. What can that group do to become more sociable?

CS: I think farmers and Midwesterners as a whole are humble, conservative people. I was given an incredible opportunity, due to my sisters’ encouragement. Aside from going on The Bachelor, I think farmers should be proud of who they are, the heritage they have, be confident, get out there, and be excited to call themselves farmers. We need to come together with businesspeople and be more outspoken. We work really hard and go home to our families. We don’t spend time talking about how great we are as people and how great our industry is. We shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.

SF: Are you optimistic about the farming industry?

CS: I’m extremely optimistic about farming. I think about the people I do business with every day. There are so many smart, entrepreneurial people every day working hard. They’re looking at new technologies, new tools to take advantage of weaker markets and new opportunities.

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