While we all love to see agriculture showcased on the big screen and in cutting-edge documentaries, the role of today’s farmer and rancher also plays out in a more consistent medium: TV series. There are dozens of series that have been broadcast, shown on cable or satellite, or streamed online that give us a glimpse of what farming can be like. Some are tragic, some are comedic — but for these farming TV shows to make this list, they all had to have a bit of honesty and authenticity.
Here are my picks for the best farming TV shows we can find (and we can expect more good ones in the future!):
Keeping up with the latest trends in farming equipment and technology can be a challenge, especially for those who spend their days in the field. “American Farmer” on RFD-TV works to educate and enlighten people on the latest advancements to hit the agriculture industry. The show attracts a large farm and ranch audience along with a loyal following of city viewers who want to remain connected with country living and the business of agriculture.
A deeply sincere and science-based look at how food and biotechnology function in today’s society, viewed through the lens of Nick Saik and his father, Rob. Things such as public perceptions and how resources and chemicals are used are explored in these videos. The younger Saik spun off this effort into a popular YouTube channel called Know Ideas Media, where you can get your science fix of everything ag, usually in about 10 minutes or less per video.
The women of RFD-TV’s “FarmHer” are passionate and determined to make a difference in the lives of their families, communities, and around the world. These episodes capture the experience of women in agriculture and celebrate their contributions to the industry. It’s a fitting series for such a rapidly growing segment of our ag community. (Read more about this series here.)
Brought to you exclusively by CarbonTV, “American Harvest” is a serial documentary about the oldest industry known to mankind … farming. The series is pegged to Chad Olsen, whose business is based in Hendricks, Minnesota but spends much of the time on the road between Texas and Canada harvesting wheat, milo, canola, corn, and soybeans — and hauling the grain as needed. All in all, they run more than 80 combines. You can follow along as they take you on a journey to see how farming is now becoming the most advanced industry the world has ever seen. (Read an exclusive interview with Chad Olsen.)
A funny series capturing small-town ranching and farm life with quirky family banter (Sam Elliott turns in some epically snarky performances as the patriarch). It isn’t always completely accurate to the industry, but especially in the early seasons, it does show the real struggles of ranching, the high cost of farming, dealing with growing season and crop failures, etc. The show stars Ashton Kutcher on Netflix.
An excellent show based in Michigan farm country that follows Dr. Jan Pol and his life as a veterinarian. He’s been a vet for 47 years and has built quite the practice with 23,000 clients — patients ranging from white mice and snakes to cows and 2,600 pound horses (and just about everything in between.) Certain to inspire others to be involved in livestock medicine! (Read an interview with Dr. Pol here.)
Mike Rowe (on Discovery Channel) travels the country and attempts to perform some of the world’s dirtiest, awkward, and challenging jobs that we sometimes take for granted. The agricultural aspect includes tasks such as pig farming, chick sexing, castrating lambs, and artificially inseminating turkeys. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it!
Shot on location across the country, this eight part series is an authentic portrait of the fight to go from seed to stalk, and from farm to fork. The HISTORY series presents an up-close look at one full year of family farming, told through an unprecedented year on the ground, capturing breathtaking visuals, private moments, and personal interviews. (Read an exclusive interview with the showrunners here.)
Kevin Costner stars as the patriarch of a Montana ranch family, facing off against others encroaching their land. The series explores the conflicts along the shared borders of a large cattle ranch, an Indian reservation, land developers, and Yellowstone National Park. It airs on the Paramount Network.
This Canadian sitcom takes place in a fictional town of Ontario and, now in its sixth season, has earned a cult following for its sharp dialogue, profane humor, and homages to Canadian culture of rural folk getting by in a small town. It can be found on Hulu.
Driven by faith, family and American tradition, three young cowboys (Bubba Thompson, Cody Harris, and Chris Booger Brown) work hard to build their cattle business in Alabama and live according to an old-fashioned cowboy code.
Starring Dax Shepard, “Bless this Mess” tells the story of a newlywed couple from New York who decide to change the course of their life together and move to a farm in rural Nebraska. After dropping everything — including their jobs and an overbearing mother-in-law — to make the move from skyscrapers to farmhouses, they soon realize that the simpler life isn’t as easy as they had planned. The couple must now learn how to weather the storm as they are faced with unexpected challenges in their new lives as farmers.
Spunky teenager Amy is reeling from the sudden death of her mother when she and her grandfather are threatened with the loss of their horse ranch. The show has some real tenderness to it. It originally aired on Canadian CBC and is now available on Netflix.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.