When people think "reality TV star," they typically think of vapid, self-interested people who got briefly famous but contribute nothing lasting to America. Which is to say, when people think "reality TV star," they're probably not thinking of reality TV star Chris Soules.
The 33-year-old farmer, born and raised in small-town Arlington, Iowa, is anything but. Soules jumped into the spotlight after his stint on The Bachelorette in 2014 snagged him a starring role on The Bachelor's 19th season the following year. The nation watched him weigh his romantic options for nine weeks, ultimately choosing Whitney Bischoff in the series finale.
But the couple ended up calling off their engagement only months later. So for the time being, Soules remains the nation's most eligible farmer.
AskMen caught up with him recently to pick his brain on what the farm life is all about, and what it's like for guys whose backgrounds have more to do with the fertile soil of the fields than the cracked concrete of the big city to date and fall in love in a modern dating culture that seems increasingly out of touch with small-town, down-home American tradition.
What do you do, for instance, when your Tinder bio reads "farmer" rather than "lawyer" or "businessman"? And what can the average American male learn from his farming counterparts?
Well, for one, consider diversifying your skill sets. According to Soules, one of the defining characteristics of the farming lifestyle is having to master many different fields in order to thrive.
"We're accountants, we're economists, we're all different halves — we manage employees, and also we grow things and care for the land. You don't just have one single label. Farmers are unique in the fact that they have to have lots of different skill sets. Most farmers that you meet, you would never know and they would never even talk about the challenges and the different talents that they have."
That feeds into his second note about farmers: Their integrity, something that can be easy to lose sight of for those stuck in the rat race.
"I know multi-millionaires that you would think would be middle-income wage-earners, that you wouldn't have any idea about the amount of success they've had in their lives — just because of the amount of humility that they have," says Soules. "They do what they do for the love of what they do, not because they want to buy a Maserati or a new Lamborghini to keep up with the Joneses."
The integrity and humility that Soules loves about farmers have also made it trickier for him to date people from other backgrounds, he explains. Viewers who saw The Bachelorette, where Andi Dorfman opted for another contestant over Soules because she couldn't see herself adapting to his small-town Iowan roots, will know that, but it's evident from his passion that Soules is true-blue when it comes to the farming lifestyle.
"Finding somebody who has that certain perspective on life about the simple things and what really matters and family — and not being devastated because there's not a Starbucks within an hour of where I live," was tricky, he says.
"People sort of look at farming and have an unrealistic view of what it really does look like I think. They think we're having picnics and sitting on the porch and drinking tea every day. We get up and work really hard like any other people who want to get ahead in life."
That being said, even Soules will admit that the rural background he cherishes has been tough for his dating life.
"On the show they made a really big deal about me not being able to meet people in rural areas, and even though they highlighted that, I don't think people can even put it into perspective how challenging it is," Soules admits. "If you live 2 miles from a town of 450 people [where the majority of people are] 55 and over, the demographics are very steered toward having a bad dating experience."
That scarcity of rural singles in his age range also led to Soules trying to make things work out in one long-term relationship that ultimately didn't pan out.
"I spent seven years dating one person who I met in college and intended to marry, and I thought it would happen, but it didn't work out. After that I had to go back to square one, and that was pretty scary," says Soules. "I kind of had this feeling in my gut that this was the only chance I would have to meet somebody, so it may have led to me rushing into things a little bit."
When it comes to the future of dating, Soules doesn't think small-town Americans necessarily need to compromise and get with the times. For instance, an online dating site like Farmers Only is a great option for those with a farming background to find other, similar-minded singles who might feel out of place exclusively trying to date city slickers on Tinder.
"I've never gone on Farmers Only but I've had friends that were, and I've gone on Match or eHarmony [in the past]. In order to find the right person you really do need to be willing to put yourself out there, no matter if you live in a rural area or a city," he says, adding that, "Dating sites are helpful and give you the opportunity to meet people without having to bars. It's great for finding other people who are serious about finding somebody."
And for any guys getting down about dates that aren't going well, Soules has an optimistic take.
"With every conversation or with every first awkward date that I had that resulted from an online dating app, I learned a little bit more about what I was looking for."