Chris Soules is using his celebrity to speak out for the agricultural community. A small-town Iowa farm boy who just happens to be the darling of millions of people because of his runs, first on the “The Bachelorette” and then on “The Bachelor,” Soules is in prime position to help people understand the world of today’s farmer.
Having a catchy moniker like Prince of Farming helps, too!
AGDAILY: The theme of this year’s FFA convention is “Transform.” As both a celebrity and a farmer, how do you want to transform agriculture?
SOULES: First of all, I’m excited to be here at the National FFA Convention. It’s exciting to see all these young kids who are the future of agriculture. When we talk about transforming agriculture, since I’ve started farming, I’ve seen a huge transformation — in technology, in business management, with yield expectations. What we had when I was a kid compared with what we have today are 10 fold. Transforming agriculture to bring more youth into our industry is really important. And to make it exciting and to inform people about agriculture and the opportunity of being involved in farming in the United States, it’s important that we have the best and brightest getting into our industry. The transformation is about educating kids why it’s cool to be a farmer.
AGDAILY: What’s your favorite childhood memory from growing up on a farm?
SOULES: Being able to walk outside and having my dog with me, playing outside not having to worry about anything. You could do anything you wanted, and you had to be creative with your time. Some of the things I did with my free time: I didn’t play video games, I went out and built my own campground or built a golf course in our yard, made my own football field. You didn’t have cars or houses or neighbors all around you. Some of my fondest memories are growing up on a farm, and being able to learn that work ethic at a young age. My dad taught me how to work and how to be responsible. Having my first pigs and having those experiences taught me a lot and how to be the man I am today. I’m thankful for that.
AGDAILY: You mentioned in your episode of “American Elements” on CarbonTV, you said you had to find ways to make your own fun growing up in Arlington. You mentioned some of them. Can you talk about what more of those things were?
SOULES: It varied depending on my age. As a very young guy, my dog was my best friend. We’d wander around and do random things, like I said, building a campground. We named it Chris and Dutch’s Campground, and it was a half-mile away from our house. … Then you get a little older, and you find cornfields to have parties in. You just had freedom to do what you wanted, but you did have to be creative. … You didn’t have the conveniences of being in a city, so you made stuff up. I played football by myself half the time, and I learned how to get really good at throwing the ball to myself.
AGDAILY: Let’s talk a little about your time on “The Bachelor.” There’s a joke, of course, that in a small town, everyone knows your business. Did coming from a small town change how you dealt with being in the spotlight, where literally millions of people now knew your business?
SOULES: It probably made it easier. I’m used to having everyone talk about me … My dad goes for coffee every morning, and he always comes back telling me what he heard about me. I learned at a very young age that if you’re not doing anything, nobody’s going to be talking about you. As long as you’re working hard and doing the right things in life, it really doesn’t matter (if people talk). So I carried that over to being The Bachelor. You hear everything. People talking about me went off the charts, especially with social media and having a relationship on a national TV show, being engaged, not engaged, all those things. People say a lot of mean things. You just let it roll off your back and keep your blinders on.
AGDAILY: Next month, AGDAILY has a new columnist debuting, and in his first article, he’s going to write about what it’s like to introduce an outsider into country living. On “The Bachelor,” you did that very thing a couple of times. What did you learn from that experience when it comes to introducing someone to the rural lifestyle?
SOULES: I’ve dealt with that most of my life. I’ve got three older sisters, and they all brought back city boys and introduced them to the farm. Of course, I was the brother who got to show them around the farm and teach them about what we were actually doing. In a way bigger fashion on “The Bachelor,” I was bringing city girls back to the farm, showing them what it’s like. In all those cases, people were amazed at what rural life is like and what we’re doing in agriculture. First, the reaction is that this is really in the middle of nowhere. ‘There’s no Starbucks, what?’ Then the next reaction is that they see the level of technology that we’re using and the equipment and the sophistication of what farming is today. It’s always exciting to be able to show people from all walks of life what we’re doing, I’m proud of the advances we’ve made. We’re not hillbillies; we’re educated, hard-working. Some of the best managers I’ve ever met in business are in the agriculture industry.
AGDAILY: I don’t know if you still follow “The Bachelor” anymore, but do you think the producers passed over Luke as the next Bachelor because they felt they’ve hit their country-boy quota?
SOULES: (Laughing) To a certain extent, I think there’s some truth to that. They had me, the farmer, and that was a great selling point. Then they had Ben, who was the Indiana boy. Two really nice guys in a row. You gotta change it up a bit. Nick V. is the guy they’ve thrown in there now, who is sort of the serial reality television dating guy. He’s a good friend of mine, and I’m happy for him and excited for him.
AGDAILY: Was there ever any question about whether you were going to come back to the family farm?
SOULES: One thing I knew at an early age, when I was old enough to know anything, there was never really any question. My mom kind of jokes that when I came out of the womb, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I’ve been fortunate to have found a passion early on in life and have been working hard to reach that goal. And I’m there. It’s got to be in your blood to be a farmer.
AGDAILY: You’re big on social media and have nearly 250,000 followers on Twitter. How do you want to use that platform to help inform people about modern agriculture?
SOULES: I just try to do the best job I can of educating people about modern agriculture. Something I appreciate most about where I live is how beautiful it is: the sunsets, the equipment running at night. It’s about being able to share that with people who live in a city and don’t get to see that and who don’t understand those things. And trying to educate about the simple things. People are extremely disconnected (from farming) and don’t have a lot of knowledge about what we do. So it’s starting at square one, like telling them that the corn I grow isn’t what humans eat, it’s what animals eat. It’s not sweet corn, it’s feed corn. Just those little things, and slowly building into that … it’s important.
AGDAILY: Let’s do a little bit of a lightning round. After a hard day’s work in the field, what’s your favorite meal to come home to?
SOULES: My mom makes great chili.
AGDAILY: What’s your favorite song?
SOULES: Eric Church, “Hometown.”
AGDAILY: Favorite movie?
SOULES: “Shawshank Redeption.”
AGDAILY: Favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
SOULES: Cayman Islands.
AGDAILY: Where haven’t you been that you really want to go to?
AGDAILY: Favorite pro football team?
SOULES: The Bears.
AGDAILY: You go out on a date in Arlington. Where do you go and what do you do?
SOULES: Going out for taco pizza, and then we’re coming home and watching a movie and drinking a bottle of wine — or whiskey and wine.
AGDAILY: I’ll close by asking you, to this day, you’re still searching for your special someone?
SOULES: Yeah, I am. It’s been crazy, going through dating 30 women on national television, going through an engagement, and having that not work out. It was eight months in my life that was pretty crazy. After that, it was like let’s focus on just working and being an agvocate. … I’m at a point now where I actually feel like dating; there was a point where dating wasn’t all that exciting for me. The end goal hasn’t changed. My life has changed, though. I don’t know if it’s made it easier to date, but it’s been a good experience, and it’s opened up a lot of doors.
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