By Justin Walker
We often feel disconnected from agriculture. Turn on your television. What do you see?
Odds are, it’s not rural America.
Most of today’s shows take place in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Or maybe Los Angeles. Chicago, Seattle, Denver.
But our small towns, farms and ranches aren’t represented on the small screen. And when they are, it’s not particularly accurate.
This hasn’t always been the case.
Programs like The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres and Lassie broadcasted life in the American Heartland. The Beverly Hillbillies, which didn’t project the greatest of images on rural America, did showcase the warmth and likability of country life. Even I Love Lucy, which was mainly based in the city, managed to move out to the country in its final season, where the cast even became poultry farmers.
By the 1970s, however, rural-oriented programming was pushed away in favor of more “relatable” shows. Ever since, TV programs have opted for city settings. Very few network channels have aired shows set in small towns, and the ones that have show little about farming and ranching.
Agriculture has been a bit shunned. But RFD-TV and Successful Farming Television regularly broadcast important information targeted to farmers and ranchers. Dirty Jobs, which ran for eight seasons on the Discovery Channel, highlighted many agricultural careers for their level of dirtiness and difficulty, yet necessity.
Programs like these, though, are few and far between, especially on major networks.
It’s important for rural life to be on network television. Resourceful. Strong. Hardworking. These are qualities displayed by farmers and ranchers each day. Those are the types of characters we need as role models.
Displaying this lifestyle on television can also introduce people to job opportunities and a way of life they hadn’t previously acknowledged. The average age of U.S. farmers has continued to increase. Agriculture needs youth. And we need an awareness of agriculture—our food, the families and the land. This could help.
So, what’s your favorite show featuring rural life or agriculture? Mine is The Andy Griffith Show. Share yours in comments below!