Northeast Iowa farmer Chris Soules has been in the national spotlight for weeks on a TV reality show in search of a bride. At the same time, a group who promotes relationships in a more traditional way is preparing to celebrate a milestone.
On a recent Saturday morning about 50 members of the Iowa-Wisconsin chapter of Singles in Agriculture toured the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veteran Museum in Waterloo.
The museum visit was part of a weekend of activities that included dinner, dancing and socializing. Marcella Holtcamp is here from West Pont in Southeast Iowa. She says she's been part of the group since it was established, "1990 I’ve met so many wonderful people, I’ve enjoyed going, I’m getting older but I recommend it to anybody."
New members join all the time but it’s usually because they’ve gotten divorced or because their spouse has died. National Board of Directors member Josetta McNutt explains, the challenge now is to draw younger people. McNutt says “when they first started in the group, they were in their 40's and 50's and now they’re in their 60's, 70's and 80's, but as a national group, we’re trying to revitalize that.”
McNutt says she thinks one of the ways to revitalize is to help people understand that SIA is not necessarily a dating service like a more familiar one on the internet, Farmers Only dot com. She says knowing about farm life is important because before anyone even introduces themselves, there’s a bond .
The group’s motto is "you’re only a stranger once, then you’re a friend forever." But dating does sometimes happen and once in a while it results in marriage. Just ask Maria Mess . Maria and her husband Elmer live near Davenport and have been married 14 years. The Messes and another couple, Rubert and Charlotte Kerl of Mazomanie, Wisconsin have now become members of another group Singles No More. Rubert says unlike some of the other fellows he really was looking for a companion. Rubert jokes, “I had a about three good ones, but I lost them because I was too slow on the draw, so they got away from me, then when I met her I hopped to it in a hurry.” Charlotte who’s been married to Rubert for 15 years says she believes the group has been able to be around so long because it has evolved to include those who are not farmers but who grew up on a farm or work for agriculture related industries.
Kenny Schoborg from New Providence proudly wears his long sleeved Singles In Agriculture t-shirt. He admits though, it didn’t start out that way. Kenny says “ the first time, I didn’t wanna tell anybody where I was going so I told my mother I was going out for pizza with friends, and the next day in church she asked me how was that pizza? Well I didn’t exactly go out for pizza.” Kenny instead went to a bonfire and dance sponsored by the group back in 1999 and is now a board member. Singles in Agriculture has 12 chapters in 16 states. This summer, the Iowa-Wisconsin group will celebrate its 25th anniversary.