Scouting the field: Single farmers hard pressed to find companionship

LONELY COUNTRY SINGLE…

Seeks country companionship. I love the outdoors and have lots of life and energy. I enjoy riding in your pickup, helping round up cattle, hunting, fishing, cozy winter nights cuddling by the fire and long summer days riding on your tractor. Lazy afternoon picnics by the lake will have me eating out of your hand. No need for an alarm, I’ll wake you with kisses every morning.

First of a two-part series

Before you start frantically searching for a phone number, realize this ad is too good to be true.

That is unless you are looking for a black and white stray puppy.

Lonely farmer. Unlike this puppy, many single farmers are having trouble when it comes to finding a mate.

Who wants a significant other who works from before sunrise to after sunset, or maybe all night during planting season?

Not many people are too interested in someone who rarely is able to take a vacation and never gets a holiday off. On top of it all, who wants a mate who doesn’t make much money to show for all the work?

And, if a person does exist who meets the above qualifications, the biggest question is how to find him or her. After a long, busy day out in the field, farmers surely don’t feel like chasing down a date.

As if farming isn’t exhausting enough, finding a date proves to be even harder.

“You probably hear all the talk about saving the family farm and farmland preservation,” said Jon Krabill, a single farmer in Louisville, Ohio. “Well, I’ve got news for you, you can’t save the family farm without a family!”

Overtime. The long, demanding hours are one of the biggest problems facing single farmers.

Laura Brown of Columbiana, Ohio, went into farming after retiring from the military. She’s up at 5 a.m. cleaning the house; then it’s time to wake her three children and get them ready.

After that, it’s out to the barn where Brown, 41, spends her day doing farm work, training her four dogs and taking care of the children.

These long days keep her occupied from morning until night, and like most farmers, there isn’t much time for her to be looking for a date.

“Times have changed,” said Michael Kellogg, 22, a single dairy farmer in Ashtabula County, Ohio. “It seems like everything is busier and at a faster pace. Farmers are doing more with less and working harder to make ends meet, and this means there’s a lot less free time.”

Where ‘o’ where? Even if there was time to look, many farmers say they don’t know where to begin.

Despite the long hours, Krabill, 25, said it is also difficult to meet people is because there isn’t much socialization working on a farm. Besides other farm employees, there is not interaction with the outside world, he said.

Brown agreed. “I don’t drink or go out to bars. Where’s there to look? The farmers are all working all day. What do I do, hang out at a feed store all day?”

In addition, the rural location of many farms is a problem because there aren’t as many people to meet. Brown said the isolation on a farm is one of the biggest factors contributing to not being able to find a mate.

Farmer wanted. And if farmers do find the time and the place to go look for someone, the biggest challenge is still ahead. Finding someone interested in farming is even harder.

“Who really wants to marry a farmer and work their whole life?” Krabill asked.

It’s hard finding someone who wants a quiet, relaxed life and isn’t accustomed to the fast-paced grind of the city, said Brian Boyce, 43, a beef farmer in Carroll County, Ohio. He left a successful career in Wyoming to come to Ohio and live the life of a farmer because he wanted to survive off the land and be self-sufficient.

Someone has to want this type of lifestyle to be able to adapt. You can’t take someone from the city and expect them to enjoy country life, he said.

“It’s quiet out here and you find out about yourself,” Boyce said. “These days, people don’t like quiet.”

Feigning interest? Renee of Jefferson County, Ohio, said the biggest reason her six-year marriage ended in divorce was because her husband wanted her to give up her horses and the farming lifestyle.

“My horses are a big part of who I am and how I define myself,” Renee said. “To be fair, he knew it would not be fair to ask me to give up that part of myself – I would have ended up resenting him.”

Looking back on this experience, Renee, 35, said she realizes it is important to find someone who knows exactly what they’re getting into when dating someone involved with agriculture.

“With the right person, he or she will show an interest regardless of whether they’re a [farmer],” she said.

Another single farmer, Marlin Burkhardt, 48, has a dairy farm in western Pennsylvania. He also said it’s hard to find someone willing to adapt to the lifestyle.

Women don’t want to put up with Burkhardt’s 18- to 20-hour days in the summer and don’t understand his dedication. The lack of money in farming doesn’t help either, he said.

Top priority. Many people outside farming don’t realize that a farmer’s life revolves around the weather, said single beef farmer Nathan Myers, 24.

“When the sun shines, you make hay,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”

It’s important for someone to realize that when there’s farm work to do, it has to be done, he said. The animals have to be fed, the chores have to be done and the fields have to be planted, regardless of whether it is a holiday or a weekend.

It’s hard for someone who is not familiar with farming to understand this, he said.

Fate? Soul mate? Most of these farmers aren’t looking for a romantic love story or a long-lost soul mate. They are looking for a companion – someone to share their interests, who can be their best friend and partner for life.

According to Krabill, “What is the point of life if you don’t have anyone to share it with? What is the point of getting married if you can’t share your life with that person? I’m looking for someone to be my friend, someone I can talk to about anything and just share my life with.”

Most of these farmers say they don’t believe in fate – that there is no way the perfect person is out there and it is only a matter of time before they meet, fall in love and live happily ever after.

Like Myers says, a girl hasn’t had a flat tire outside his house yet and come to the door asking for help. And he isn’t holding his breath.

In spite of it all. Although the lifestyle associated with farming is often grueling and is sometimes lonely without a mate, farmers find plenty of reasons to love their careers despite it contributing to them being single.

“Farming teaches you to be patient, like being patient with the weather, and this carries over into your life,” Krabill said.

Farming instills many common values among farmers, including a love of the outdoors, nature and animals. It also brings farmers closer to God, Krabill said.

Burkhardt said it’s rewarding to work with the soil, watch crops grow, use renewable resources and watch the wildlife in conservation areas. These rewards can only truly be found in farming, he said.

In addition to the values and rewards of farming, Boyce said there are other bonuses to being a farmer. He enjoys having his own land, owning his own beef, being his own boss, having the freedom to do what he wants with his time and being out of the “rat-race” associated with other jobs.

Taking charge. Ray Kugler of Carrollton, Ohio, offers a ray of hope to farmers looking for love: “We’re not all stuck on the farm. There’s a little bit of life beyond your farm gate.”

Kugler, 55, assures divorced or widowed farmers that a second chance at love will happen.

Kugler said all his neighbors are amazed at how he has time to get off the farm and meet people, despite also having another job in construction.

“I make the time,” he said. He does extra work the day before or just works harder so he has time to do other things he enjoys, like participating in singles’ groups.

Kugler is a member of Singles in Agriculture. The group’s national headquarters are in Stockton, Ill., however, there are chapters in individual states, including Ohio.

Kugler said although he has dated women from the group and continues to keep his eye open, that isn’t the only reason he is a member. He said it’s a good way to meet people and make friends with those who have similar interests.

“Meeting someone is icing on the cake,” Kugler said. He estimates there is one marriage announcement in each monthly newsletter.

Each state chapter meets once a month and plans an entire day of activities, but members don’t have to come for the whole day.

There are also three national events each year, planned during the least busy times of the farming year.

Singles’ events are not high on many priority lists, but Kugler asks, “How are you supposed to meet anyone if you won’t put the effort into looking?”

For more information visit www.singlesinag.org.

Hide and seek. Most of these single farmers say they aren’t into the bar scene or looking online for love.

Although there are many personals online – just type “single farmer” into a search engine – most of these farmers say this isn’t for them. Neither are singles’ networks through country radio stations.

Many of them also say they aren’t interested in going out to dinner or to the movies. They would rather just sit and talk and get to know someone first – maybe go for a ride in the country or go on a picnic.

So if they don’t like going to bars or looking online, where can these farmers look for a mate?

Well, most of these farmers have similar interests – auctions, tractor pulls, fairs. It’s surprising they don’t meet each other there.

(You can contact Kristy Alger at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at kalger@farmanddairy.com.)


What’s in store at singles’ events

The following are the Singles in Agriculture’s activities for the Ohio chapter:

* July 19-21 – a camp out at Indian Lake State Park near Bellefontaine, Ohio. Activities include a pontoon ride, cookout, round barn dance and campfire. For more information call 937-964-8986 or 419-675-1647.

* Aug. 3 – a dinner and dance in the Bellville/Mansfield, Ohio area. For more information call 937-358-2723 or 614-486-5434.

* Sept. 7-8 – a trip to Bedford, Pa., for a tour of a sheep farm, dinner and dance. A visit to the Shanksville, Pennsylvania Flight 93 Memorial site, the location of one of the Sept. 11 plane crashes, is also planned.

For more information call 215-723-7569 or 614-486-5434.

* Oct. 5 – a hayride and campfire in the Sidney, Ohio area. For more information call 937-492-1736 or 614-486-5434.

* Dec. 14 – annual Christmas activity in Johnstown, Ohio. For more information call 740-967-5201 or 614-486-5434.

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