When Hollywood came knocking at the barn door of Bohanan Farm in New Hampshire, the Robertson family thought hard before they took the leap into the world of reality TV. It might sound glamorous, but daily life with a film crew following you around for eight months is not for everyone. And it’s probably obvious by now that not every reality series star comes up smelling like roses.
The Robertson brothers of Bohanan Farm are among the farmers starring in the @History Channel’s new series, “The American Farm.” Tune in to follow their challenges, triumphs and fun antics Thursday nights! Click To Tweet
But of course, when you milk 200 cows every day of the year, you don’t expect to smell like roses. As Si, the oldest of the three Robertson boys now back on the farm, demonstrates in the first episode of The History Channel’s new docuseries, “The American Farm,” you are more likely to smell of something a little more…shall we say, earthy?
After the New Hampshire Farm Bureau reached out to the Robertson family to see if they might be interested in applying to become one of five diverse American farms in the inaugural season, Jamie Robertson sent out texts to everyone in the family. He did it that way, Jamie recalled with a chuckle, “so I’d have everyone’s response in writing.”
Everyone was game, but also definitely a little nervous, Jamie recounted. “We kept coming back to the fact that dairy should be represented,” he said, “and as scary as it might be, as imperfect as our farm might be, we believed the way we care about our animals and the environment would come through to the public.”
Jamie’s wife, Heather, grew up on the farm where their sons are the fifth generation since the Bohanans settled there well over a century ago. Ranging in age now from 21 to 26, Bram, Nate and Si all decided to return after college to work with their parents and cousin, Meagan Wilson.
Jamie practically grew up on the farm, too. “My dad worked for Heather’s grandfather and I started working here after high school,” Jamie explained. “I’ve known her my whole life.” The Robertsons are deeply devoted to farming and family – but as they’ve already proven to their growing number of TV fans, they also believe in having fun while working hard.
“The American Farm” follows five very different family farms around the country – from Alaska to Virginia. It pulls viewers in with the inherent drama of multi-generation dynamics; the stresses of dealing with weather, animals and unpredictable markets; and the sheer beauty of those fabled waves of amber grain.
It will also make you smile with touching moments and silly antics, especially from the Robertson brothers, who wrestle like puppies and sport matching shaggy auburn beards (think Duck Dynasty meets ZZ Top).
All joking aside, the Robertsons have a couple goals that are pretty serious. Jamie and Heather consider themselves lucky to have all three boys back on the farm, but it’s not easy in today’s milk economy to support four families on the income from a 200-cow dairy. Rather than grow their herd, they launched their farm-based Contoocook Creamery several years ago to market some of their milk direct in glass bottles and as cheese. During filming of the series, they invested in an expansion of their onsite processing plant and are burning the candle at both ends to make it all work. Anything that can help spread the word is worth a try.
Their second aim goes far beyond their own farm and family. The Robertsons hope that they and their fellow farmer co-stars can help remind Americans what it takes to get fresh, wholesome food on the table. “We kind of want to be your country cousin that’s still home farming . That connection has been lost, that trust,” lamented Jamie. “We take what we do very seriously. It’s a huge weight on our shoulders to represent dairy farmers well and make the co-op proud.”
The Robertsons can’t share a lot about what goes on behind-the-scenes, but Jamie will say that the whole experience was a good one filled with mutual respect — and some killer Taco Tuesdays thanks to a senior cameraman who was an awesome Mexican food cook. “We put a lot of trust in them and they put a lot of trust in us,” he said.
It’s fair to say each side of the production partnership has learned things through the process. The Robertsons were surprised to learn how similar farming is to TV docuseries production. In both, Jamie explained, “budgets are tight, equipment breaks, and you’re always at the mercy of Mother Nature.” For their part, the TV production team had hoped to get all the farm families together to meet, until they realized how difficult it is for farmers to leave their animals and crops.
About halfway into the inaugural eight episodes, the response has been very positive so far and the crew will return soon to Bohanan Farm to start filming for a second set of shows. The History Channel committed to the first season and everyone is hoping that viewership will warrant a second. “Just like farming you produce the product and hope you have a future market,” Jamie said.
Even though they don’t get to see the final shows until they air, the Robertsons feel good about what they’ve done so far and are looking forward to what’s next. As Jamie said in the first episode, “All farmers thrive on challenges. We like living on that edge.”