Farm Kings: Reality TV comes to a Pennsylvania farm to see real drama

VALENCIA, Pa. — Lights. Camera. Action. That’s what happens when actors and actresses are trying to create a movie. But what happens when you turn the lights on and point a camera toward a farming family?

Life

That’s how they describe it and that’s how the King family wants it.

Logistics

Farm Kings is a reality television show about the King family and Freedom Farms in Valencia, Pa. It will air on GAC-TV Sept. 27.

The farm endured 24 days with no rain, the irrigation ponds were nearly dry and then a hail storm hit. Now include 10 brothers, a sister and a mother.

Let’s face it, there’s no need to create drama in this scenario.

The siblings are produce farmers with the goal of making their farm work. The children range in age from 13 to 29, and each have their own identity and involvement in the farm, Freedom Farms.

The Kings are honest about their farm and the life they lead, and that’s the one thing they hope comes across in the 10-part television show. Their desire is that it gets people excited about agriculture.

The family is known for their vegetables at farm markets around western Pennsylvania and it is clear they are a close-knit family, with their jokes and banter back and forth.

History

The three oldest brothers, Tim, Pete and Joe, went together as partners and built the current farm business.

They have only been in business for four years, but they have been busy. They operate a bakery, Boldy’s Homemade Goodies, two farm markets — The Market at New Kensington and the Freedom Farm Market. In addition, they raise free range chickens and eggs and offer flowers for sale.

One thing is for sure after hanging out with Tim, Pete, Joe and Dan for a day — nothing is fake on the show. These men aren’t afraid of hard work and they tell it like it is.

Tim is the farmer. He prides himself on the fields, and takes charge of tillage, growing, spraying, fertilizing, transplanting, baling hay and straw for the farms.

“Everything I grow, I pick,” said Tim.

The family is farming approximately 200 acres. Of those, 135 are for growing vegetables, everything from asparagus to zucchini. The rest is for hay and straw.

Related: Move over, Kardashians! Farm Kings are the new reality TV stars

Slowed down?

When asked if producing a reality show has impacted the farm, Tim said that it had slowed the farm down because there is only so much time in a day.

However, he feels it will be a good thing because it shows the American people, who are disconnected with agriculture, what really occurs on farms across the country.

“It’s going to be a good thing,” said Tim.

He said the slow-down has taught the brothers how to get caught up and change things a little in order to get everything done.

Farming is it

Tim said there is nothing else he would rather be doing than farming.

“I’ve done it my whole life. We always have. Ever since I could, I’ve been working on the farm,” said Tim.

He said he went to college for a couple of years and worked different jobs, but the farm still called him home. That’s when the brothers made the decision to go out on their own and build the business.

Experience

Dan King, the youngest of the oldest five children, said the show has been an experience he won’t soon forget.

He is responsible for filling in where needed and is trying to build onto the business by integrating intensive grazing with some livestock. He cautions they are starting slow.

Livestock

For now, the farm is raising 2,100 meat chickens and 1,000 egg layers. And the newest addition is three hogs, two of them will be used for breeding and the other will be processed.

Dan is also hoping to add cattle to the operation in the future. However, the brothers still need to build facilities and pastures for that to happen.

The public

Peter King, a partner in the business, stands out in the crowd. He runs one of the markets and interacts more with the public.

He said his goal is make sure people get the healthy food they need and realize farming is not pretty, but a lot of hard work.

“I just try to deliver a quality product with a smile,” said Peter.

Tim said it’s a struggle for every farm to survive and Freedom Farms is no different.

“We want people to see how hard it is to produce quality products and to realize how much labor there is involved and how little profit there is,” said Tim.

He said one thing the family is trying to emphasize in the TV segments, is that they are trying to improve the farm by blending the old ways of farming with the new ways of farming.

“We are trying to include what our grandfathers knew, with what we have learned,” said Tim.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

4 Comments

  1. James Coffman says:

    Talk about serendipity… just as we’re looking to expand our market gardening to the next level and beyond (to a large degree inspired by an old book and chance meeting with its author Booker T. Whatley),I flip on the idiot box the very night that we finally signed a contract on our new rural farmstead, and who should appear but the King Family. Better yet, just an episode or two in, they actually visit Polyface Farms (next road trip for me and da wife), another more recent source of inspiration to chuck the race and commit full time to what we love.

    The chicken slaughter was epic. I was gigglin’ my arse off the whole time thinkin’ about the shock of folks who really have no idea where the crap that they shove in their pie holes comes from. Mr. Salatin said it best (to paraphrase) “People spend more time and energy worrying about selecting a contractor or a mechanic than they do getting to know who is creating their food”. How pathetically true.

    We’re leavin’ a rural suburb where people still unflinchingly consume McSlime burgers and alien chicken, but question the health aspects of eating our free range chicken and eggs. If it doesn’t come wrapped in petroleum they just don’t seem capable of understanding the connection. Kind’a makes sense when ya look at a McNugget and then look at a chicken I suppose.

    This show is righteous on so many levels I can’t even describe, and the King family is by no means an exception, I know plenty of area farmers who reflect the same work ethic and values. Problem is, the whole work ethic thing has been lost. No joystick or monitor involvement has a lot to do with why the average age of an American farmer is what… nearly 60 now? The most positive thing about the Fed’s inflation,, and ridiculous gas prices is that maybe now folks will start to take notice of what’ right in their own back yard. What do we have to do to make sure that there’s a season two?

    Also, I absolutely love the fact that we’re not watching a show about welfare farmers – the guys with the 1,000 acre spreads that tithe to Monsanto and can’t stay afloat a week without some sort of gov’t hand out. Hopefully the subsidy scam will reveal itself as this show goes on, and folks will see the dangers of supporting insanity like the subsidized GMO soybean, corn, cotton, et al, rip offs, while learning to differentiate those bums from people like the KIngs.

    • docsock says:

      Did you grow up on a farm? Were your parents and grandparents involved in production AG over the last half century? You need to dial your tone back a little bit. I agree with your general theme, however i would be mindful of calling someone who has worked their entire life away trying to survive competing on the world-wide commodities market a “welfare” recipient.
      Remember how we got to where we are. The farmers were just being farmers – growing a product and hoping to sell it for a profit. After wwII farmers became production driven. Many fell for this ploy because lets face it, most farmers are hard workers but poor businessmen. When it came to raising corn, beans, wheat, etc, the methods used were taught in universities and encouraged by extension agents. Farmers were taught that the only way to make money was to use this hybrid, feed this supplement, use that chemical, use this fertilizer, etc, etc. All the while, big AG special interest groups were getting in bed with the FDA and USDA, not to mention the fed govt was trying desperately to keep food prices cheap for an increasing U.S. population. It was this perfect storm that led to the “subsidy scam” as you call it, not the farmer’s fault. I would love to see the ethanol scam go away, I would love to see subsidies to mega-farms dry up, and I would love to see a shift back toward a locally based, healthy food system in which farmers receive fair market prices and consumers receive a healthy product, however, I highly doubt the federal govt. will loosen its grip of control on on this country’s greatest resource any time soon.
      In closing, I want to reiterate that I agree with your assessment of this show and our food system in general, I would just caution you use some discretion before calling farmers “welfare recipients”. Most farmers are just hardworking people trying to make a living off the land, one way or another. I suggest directing your disgust directly at the culprits – big AG special interest, the ever- expanding federal government, and its agencies.
      C. Sockaci

      • JC says:

        Dad’s side has been farming since the 1700′s. Their poly-cultured farm and insistence on avoiding debt allowed them to survive the last Great Depression and thrive beyond that. Seperately I’ve been involved with organic vegetable production for over 35 years now, variously supporting ourselves with and without the help of “off farm” jobs throughout, to try an emulate that same model. Debt is the killer, and quite obviously there have been plenty of corptocratic interests along the way who were more than willing to dupe farmers into mortgaging their existence to “stay competitive”. Not everyone did, not everyone had to, it was simply the path of least resistance. Just remember… nobody put a gun to anybody’s head and said “you must take this money”. Acceptance is just an IV drip version of the crap that we doled out for the banksters and UAW recently.

        That said, I have worked and interacted with dozens of family farm operations, most in the 50-500 acre range, who do what they do simply because that’s what their Daddy did. Many refuse to even consider a more viable alternative if it precludes them from taking advantage of the numerous support and assistance programs that have been promulgated over the last 50+ years. I have seen these “hard working” folk look to the gov’t agent’s words regarding the new farm/food bill as calves at a teat, after having barely stayed awake through presentations on soil fertility and tilthe, that seemed to not matter to them one whit.

        I’m not trying to persuade, I’m just giving my impressions and perceptions based on what I have seen and experienced. I have shown various locals time and time again that they can be more productive and profitable using alternative models that DO scale, but they resist principally because they are too well invested in the mechanized chemical approach. I’ve nothing against tractors and mechanical advantage. I have serious issues with people borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to mortgage their future just to perpetuate a broken model. Take a look at the economics and ethics of running a “modern” broiler operation some time, and tell me what kind of brain fart must occur for that to make sense to you. People may work hard at doing the wrong things their entire life, but just ‘cuz they worked hard at it doesn’t make what they were doing any more noble. Fact is most are doing it with a gov’t handout as well, and it simply isn’t necessary.

        Then we get into the waste and abuses. Sometime back in the 70′s we passed the point where we had more gov’t employees in the various Ag depts. than there were farmers in the whole country. From that we get this idiocy of manure lagoons and concentrated massing of nutrients for leaching, evaporation, and run-off. This is what’s called the tragedy of the commons, and when you do it to make a buck – knowing that you’re doing it, and yet you persist ‘cuz you have a gov’t idiot to blame it on… well I really don’t care how hard you worked at it – you’re a bum.
        Try and blame anybody you want. The simple fact of the matter is that if nobody takes it, then it won’t persist. Just because they offer welfare doesn’t mean you have to sign up for it. It’s not like they just show up at the door with a check, you have to actively seek it out and agree to participate in their games. Doing that – a welfare bum does make. Keep shoving feed in front of an animal and they’ll never learn to forage. Same goes for farmers, just a different type of teat or trough. The gov’t didn’t take control by force, it was by the quiet acquiescence of their subjects, ‘cuz the alternative was just too hard or scary. Maybe some of those “hard working farmers” should have worked a little harder… AND smarter.

        Sorry you don’t care for the welfare and bum tags, but if it offends I would suggest not taking it. The how and why of the bamboozle is irrelevant if, after having been made aware of it you continue to participate.
        Case in point. A neighbor with an Ag degree and 500 acres applied for a greenhouse tomato growing “program” that he already knew was a loser. The type of house and energy logistics at this latitude simply made the intended winter production model impossible. With just some rudimentary math skills the heat loss, seeding and feeding costs, capital amortization, and energy costs could be seen to produce no joy on the profit side. There was no ground breaking study or idea involved, just proving what you could clearly see on paper… ‘cuz it was somebody elses money and nobody involved has to act responsibly for it – especially when the sacred farmers’ name is invoked. What crap!

        So we – the taxpayers – end up buying this guy with millions in real estate, equipment and improvements, a spanking new greenhouse. What’s better is, that we bought him another the following year for nearly the same pointless purpose. Okay… if not welfare bum what would you prefer… thief… fraud… con artist?

        Other than our tax dollars at risk, I would further suggest that your comment regarding farmers making a living off of the land is perhaps a bit more telling than you realize. I love the commercial for BASF where the farmer’s kneeling down in his field talking about land stewardship, with the barefoot little girl running and playing in the back ground. Yes they are making a living off of the land, and with every truck load of fertility that they haul away they leave it that much more impoverished then when they first got it.
        My point is, they aren’t stupid, they just choose to pretend to be when what they’ve done reveals itself to be so. They can blame anybody they want, but they did it willingly, and most of them, based on acreage, still do, hence the stereotyping and generalizations.

        Funny how simple minded you make these folks seem. My grandfather never finished high school, but even he understood that acidulous chemicals that killed all of his earth worms were no good. He also served in WWII, so he was pretty well acquainted with the reliable and altruistic nature of what comes out of the arses of gov’t employees – which is to say it ain’t that at all.

        This “world wide” market is a recent development, and one that I might add that the chem-farmers have actively supported. Now it’s poised to bight ‘em in the arse and it’s all somebody elses fault? I still see guys every year linin’ up to take a crack at a big contract where their fiscal success or failure is as much about the handout as it is the weather and their farming skills. They do what they are told, with what they are told, on land that presumably belongs to them. As long as they get their stipend it’s all good, and whatever damage is done between here and next year doesn’t matter. It looks suspiciously more and more like the indentured servitude and serfdom that our ancestors fled… and yet they walk into it eyes wide open, only to cry for more help after it turns on them. Sorry, no compassion on that count no matter how noble and hard working you try and paint it.

        One last bit of diatribe. I can’t think of anyone that works as hard as the Amish and Old Order Mennonites of Lancaster. Problem is that all of their hard work is geared toward making them money and taking care of their own, and the toll that this takes on everybody downstream is our problem. Take a look at the damage that they continue to cause, that we are forced to deal with. Now they are going to get bribes to stop polluting the Chesapeake. Generally I don’t think welfare bum when I think of the Amish, but then again – I also used to believe that a big fat guy left presents under a tree for me every year. Most farmers quit “just being farmers” decades ago, and most have been involved one way or another in a flawed system that has robbed from us all for their own benefit.

        Let me ask your noble sensibilities this… how many farmers do you know that supported Dr. Ron Paul. I know none. He was the only one who favored seriously reducing the size of government and making people responsible for themselves again. That would of course include dropping all of the subsidy programs and allowing the markets, not Feral price controls, to set commodity values. To hear most conventional farmers talk, you’d have thunk he was the anti-Christ. Nothin’ sucks ‘em in like offerin’ everybody “free” shit.

  2. RBO says:

    Maybe just once in your life you’ll need a doctor, a lawyer, or a preacher. But everyday, three times a day, you’ll need a farmer…

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