Rice farming reality show: Yea or nay?

By Carroll Smith

I always look forward to attending the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, which is held on the first weekend of March in Memphis. It’s a time to get a look at “all things ag,” visit with our readers and old friends who drop by the booth and meet new people who also share a passion for agriculture.

One person I never dreamed I would be introduced to but also get an autograph from was Jase Robertson, part of the mostly family group known as the Duckmen of Louisiana. To increase traffic at its booth, Valent U.S.A. Corporation commissioned Jase to sit there all day Friday to meet and greet and sign posters of the Duckmen decked out in full hunting gear and sporting their signature long, flowing beards. They hail from Vivian, La., a small town near Shreveport, and, according to Jase, have filmed “in your face” duck hunting DVDs and appeared in some TV shows.

However, Jase says, now they are involved in what he calls “a reality show with our wives and everything.” It seems that Duck Dynasty will debut on A&E on March 21. Out of curiosity, I did a little research and learned that Duck Dynasty will feature behind-the-scenes episodes of the Robertsons hard at work in the family business, which primarily is the manufacture and marketing of internationally acclaimed duck calls. According to the Web site, one of the spotlights of the show is a discussion of the pros and cons of working with – and for – your family.

If done well with little to no scripting, reality shows can open your eyes to the challenges that family businesses face and how they deal with them to keep their livelihood viable. For example, how much do you really know about a family owned tow truck, pawnshop or logger operation, which faces intense challenges to deliver their contracted wood? These types of reality shows are a large draw for audiences who may have had misconceptions about or no knowledge at all of what it takes to provide a service or a product for the general public. Yes, reality shows can be a powerful medium.

Which brings me back to agriculture and rice farming in particular. We are always looking for ways to educate people who think their food comes from the grocery store or lawmakers who believe farmers are living high on the hog from farm subsidies. As crazy as it may sound, I can envision a reality show, featuring a family owned rice farming operation where family members go to work from dawn to dark (and sometimes later) to put in a crop, battle threatening pests, balance finances and deal with weather over which they have no control. In other words, show the world what rice farmers actually go through “all the doo-dah day,” to steal a phrase from ag columnist and Arkansas farmer Mack Ray.

No fake scripts, just hardcore “reality.” Whether you think I sound committed or commitable, it may be worth a shot. Just an idea…

Send your comments to: Editor, Rice Farming Magazine, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. Call (901) 767-4020 or e-mail csmith@onegrower.com.

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