Romantic farmers seduce Sweden

The last month has seen Sweden gripped by farmer fever. TV4's Bonde söker fru (The Farmer Wants a Wife) has proved a barnstorming success and has already overtaken Idol 2006 as TV4's most popular programme.

Over 1.5 million Swedes plonk themselves in front of the telly twice a week to watch four lucky farmers interact with a bevy of potential wives.

It all began in May when viewers were presented with eight farmers and asked to write to the one they most admired. The four farmers who got the most replies are the ones who will continue to grace our screens until late November.

Once Andreas, Marcus, Mikael and Per Martin had cast a critical eye over their fan mail they in turn selected a group of favourites. These female admirers then came to the farm to try to win the heart of their farmer of choice.

But were these single women ready for life on a farm? Would hearts melt when they encountered their favourite farmer in the flesh? Would the farmers regret the whole thing and wish they were back with their pigs and potatoes? Or would love blossom and wedding bells ring?

Enough people were interested in finding out to make the whole endeavour more than worthwhile for TV4. Nor did the channel walk blindly into the project. The Farmer Wants a Wife has already achieved a top rating for channels in Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The series has now passed the half-way mark and the farmers have managed to separate the wheat from the chaff. They are each left with four potential wives.

Lars Höök from the Federation of Swedish Farmers has long understood the lure of the farmer. In 2001 his organisation launched a farmers’ calendar, which went down so well with punters that it needed to be reprinted three times in its first year.

He is planning to watch The Farmer Wants a Wife for the first time today.

“I have heard it is quite good. It is not like your average reality show. It is more serious and the intention seems to be to make a good quality programme,” Höök told the Local.

“The impression I’ve got is that they portray farming as it really is. They do not try to make a fool of the farmers, who are just ordinary guys who would like to find a wife”

Höök has some theories regarding the concept’s popularity.

“The farmer has a cult status in society. In a globalised world, where everything is moving so fast, people look for things that are stable and mature. And it doesn’t get much more stable and mature than a farmer.”

The growth in farmers’ popularity is not all that new, according to Höök. He points to the success of the Swedish film The Guy in the Grave Next Door, a sort of farmer-meets-librarian romantic comedy, which is still doing well on the rental charts four years after its release.

“Then I think that after 9/11, when there was so much focus on terrorism and fear, a lot of people went back to basics. In a complex world farming is understandable to people.”

Finally, Höök reminds us that Swedish urban development came quite late.

“There is a little farmer in all of us,” he said.

“Sometimes that farmer gets bigger in our hearts. It comforts us.”