The television dating show that has spawned the (pro)creation of 27 farm kids in French Canada since its inception over a decade ago – and a staggering 197 weddings and more than 450 children worldwide – is coming to Ontario.
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Season 1 of Farming For Love, is an English Canadian take on a United Kingdom-originated concept that has since found its greatest profile and success under the Australian banner of “The Farmer Wants a Wife.” It is set to air on CTV sometime this year. The network and its Lark Productions partners won’t disclose the broadcast schedule and haven’t yet committed to a series renewal.
But in anticipation of warm viewer response, they’re seeking prospective partner-seeking farmers for Season 2, this time in B.C. and Ontario.
Why it matters: If you’ve attended larger farm-sector events since the new year in Ontario and have the air of an eligible single, there’s a good chance you were approached by a Farming For Love staffer seeking cast members.
Reached at her Vancouver office, Lark Productions development manager Karen Bracken told Farmtario that her upbringing in Ireland (another nation where a version of “The Farmer Wants a Wife” is launching this year) gives her an understanding of what it might be like for singles in rural Canada who are looking for a mate.
When you’ve known everyone in your community all your life and you’re not hitched to one of them by the time many of your friends are married and having families, she surmised, “you start feeling like maybe you never will.”
When it airs, Season 1 will consist of 10 one-hour episodes filmed last fall in B.C. It features five diverse farmers: a 34-year-old third-generation Canadian of South Asian descent operating an agritourism business with her parents and brothers; a 33-year-old female horse trainer who’s a big fan of the rural Ontario-themed TV show Letterkenny; a 25-year-old former professional volleyball player who took over the family dairy farm; a 32-year-old livestock and grain farmer who came with his family to Canada from South Africa; and a 25-year-old winery operator who, according to an article on CTV’s website, “is currently building himself a home on eight acres, and is looking to fill it with love, kids, and family.”
Potential love interests for Season 1 were welcomed from across Canada, with applicants describing why they would make a perfect match for one of the farmers based on a pre-recorded video – “a dating profile,” according to Bracken – from the farm.
Bracken wouldn’t disclose how many applicants there were but did say they came from every Canadian province.
“Post-pandemic, I think a lot of people were re-evaluating their lives and wanting to have something more meaningful,” she said. “And a lot of people were also thinking about getting out of the city and maybe looking for that idyllic life on the land.”
The farmers had a hand in choosing which applicants who expressed interest in their dating profiles would be invited to their farms. It’s a model that mirrors the successful The Farmer Wants a Wife spinoffs that have aired in 32 television markets globally, ranging from Austria and Latvia to Croatia and Denmark.
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Several years ago, a U.S. network tried launching what its producers perhaps thought would be a more pop culture-friendly approach to farmers seeking love. That show featured one Hollywood-style attractive male “farmer” pursued in a style similar to what happens on “The Bachelor” by several Hollywood-style attractive female suitors. That show didn’t last through the end of its first season.
A second attempt in the U.S. launches this year in the conventional multi-farmer mode.
To prepare for launching the English Canadian version of the franchise, Bracken explained, the Farming For Love team “spent a lot of time learning about what makes the show successful in other countries.” The key, she said, is that “the show is rooted in authenticity in that it’s actually helping farmers find love.”
But not being from farms themselves, the team also wanted to explore “who is a farmer and what is a farm,” so they spent a lot more time visiting farmers in B.C. to find out what it’s like.
“They’re proud of what they do and they work very hard,” she said. “And particularly for dairy farmers, they have a lot of early mornings so it’s difficult sometimes for them to fit into the regular late-night dating scene.”
The beauty of the show’s approach is that it allows farmers to meet people they might never cross paths with otherwise.
She adds the show’s team members didn’t initially think of themselves as matchmakers. But through the process of getting to know the farmers who agreed to participate and subsequently working with them to create a shortlist of applicants, they came to realize that making good TV is all about understanding character.
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to asking the right questions to get to know a person better.”
Bracken couldn’t confirm exactly how many farmers the show is targeting for Season 2 but said it will probably be five or six. The plan is for a combination of farmers from Ontario and B.C. and they’re now crisscrossing Ontario looking for prospective “cast members.”
Derek Van De Walle was approached after attending the Guelph Organic Conference in late January. There’s “a bit of a story behind how they tracked me down” at a restaurant later in the day, the St. Marys-area dairy farmer and practicing veterinarian told Farmtario.
“I just took in all the info they gave me, basically with my dad and brother egging (the Farming For Love representative) on,” he laughed.
Van De Walle confirmed he’s a single farmer. And he confirmed he’s not taking up Farming For Love’s offer to become a Season 2 cast member.
While rumours about the show’s search for single farmers might inspire some joking and teasing around rural Ontario’s kitchen tables and coffeeshops, Bracken insists the CTV/Lark Productions version will be must-see viewing for rural Ontarians and should-see viewing for all Canadians.
One goal is to showcase the varied landscapes, working environments and lifestyles of Canadian farms.
“And we really want to celebrate the work of farmers – the idea of ‘no farms, no food’ is definitely at the forefront.”