Farming Stereotypes – How Do They Reflect Our Farmers?

We’re all familiar with stereotypes but I thought it might a bit of fun to explore the various stereotypes in farming from country to country and to see how you all respond – do you feel you fit into the stereotype or is it a million miles away from how you would like to be respresented?

Australian Farmers

What do you think of when you consider Australian farmers? What might they be like? What comes to my mind are sheep farmers (some cattle but mostly sheep), huge acreage, using horses, quads and small planes to round them up as needed. The farmer himself is lean and muscular, a talented horseman and while the hat with the bobbing corks to keep flies away is an exaggeration, I do see him wearing a hat. Much of my visualisation probably has much to do with Crocodile Dundee and Australian soaps which suggests how pervasive film and TV representations can be.

Australian-sheep-farmer-001Source: The Guardian

Has anyone seen the Australian farmer as female by the way?

This blog post by Fiona Lake tackles the ad agencies that portray Australian farmers as straw-chewing hicksvilleans.

American Farmers

When I picture an American farmer, I imagine a Texan rancher and yes, this is probably influenced from programmes like Dallas or westerns that I watched many years ago. Colossal expanses of land, travelled by horse carrying a rider wearing a stetson wide-brimmed hat, checked shirt, leather chaps over denim jeans, big belt buckle, cowboy boots and maybe a handkerchief scarf around his neck.


And of course, another portrayal is that of the pioneer stern farmer in the famous ‘American Gothic’ painting by Grant Wood from the 1930s

American Gothic

How accurate are these? I looked at some of the interview posts on Farmnwife to see that this stereotype actually fits very few American farmers!

British Farmers

British farmers tend to be typecast as the stiff upper lip, gentrified, tweed wearing, estate owning English country gent and I’m sure even those estate owning, previously wealthy, farmers are finding it hard to keep going at the moment. A rustic squire who spends most of his time shooting with his guests rather than milking his cows.

downton abbeyDownton Abbey

Another stereotype (and again from television) is that of the simple impoverished farmer, quite similar to Irish ones, with his old clothes and peaked cap, who speaks in deference to the previously mentioned estate owner. All of my memories from television are from what I watched many years ago – in this case ‘All Creatures Great And Small’.

Irish Farmers

The most famous farming Irish film has to be The Field – a strong opinionated and determined farmer who would let nothing stand in his way, a son who was dominated and had few social skills and a wife who despised them both. Yet, the Irish attachment to land could be described as being this strong – I’m sure murder and mayhem has been caused because of it.

Richard Harris - The FieldRichard Harris in The Field

There are two Irish stereotypes that come to mind, one is of the older farmer who wears a sports coat and a peaked cap. He may have a knitted pullover under the sportcoat and braces will be supporting his trousers. The trousers will be a little baggy and will puff out above his wellies. He doesn’t do that much hard work but will lean on his shepherd’s crook or walking stick and give orders to his sons. Anyone remembering Miley and Dinny from Glenroe?


The younger farmer wears jeans with a belt and tends to be a bit scruffy with an elongated walk – just like Miley but yet I do know some farmers like this!

And what about Biddy – do female farmers look and act like Biddy?

How accurate or inaccurate are the film and TV representations of farmers? ?This is the image that farmers internationally may have of farmers in other countries and are certainly what city dwellers may believe.

If you are a farmer, do you think you fit into the stereotype or is it a million miles away from how you look and act?

21 thoughts on “Farming Stereotypes – How Do They Reflect Our Farmers?

  • Pingback: Perceptions of Farmers | J O N A T H A N B A R K P H O T O G R A P H Y

    • Lorna

      I think so too although because of the bigger population, the gentry type farmer tends to be more visible. Having said that, I met an Irish gentry farmer at a discussion group last year who fit the English stereotype perfectly

  • hrygth

    I’ll just approach my personal farmer stereotypes here, ignoring everything I’ve learned since arriving in Ireland. As far as the American stereotype- all the farmer’s I knew were really farmer’s sons. They were generally tan, toned, and gorgeous. Hence my general hang up on farmers. 🙂 Anyway. They tended to be men of leisure- traveling, surfing, etc. All well educated, literate, all that. Only later in life did I realize they could be men of leisure because their fathers were not. Not quite as flattering an image of the young ‘farmer’ as I originally thought.
    Nonetheless I was determined the only man I could marry would be a hard working salt of the earth farmer. Luckily along came Simon. 🙂
    Irish stereotype- Simon fits the description perfectly. Long and lanky in his belted jeans. A bit scruffy, but he cleans up well.

    • Lorna

      There is a saying Ruth, that the first generation farmer buys the farm, the second makes it is a success and the third lays it to waste (ie is spoilt and doesn’t work hard). I can’t abide lazy people but lazy farmers are the worst :0) In a funny way though, I think hard working farmers tend to be a bit ‘snobbish’ about their hard work – treating those who don’t work as hard with disdain and as for farmers sons who don’t farm, well, there must be something wrong with them to want a ‘soft’ job in an office! Do you think???

      Just in from a walk (Brian was putting up temporary fencing so I went along with him) – always have to multi-task on a farm 🙂

      • Fiona Lake

        What a great discussion Lorna, thanks for starting it & everyone who is commenting. Common saying here in Aus, probably originally from Scotland or England – “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations”. Doesn’t just apply to farming businesses, of course; often seen in all kinds. Hrygth your summary is sad but brilliantly put, and so true! “Only later in life did I realize they could be men of leisure because their fathers were not.” Tough making a crust out of farming in Australia, as it is elsewhere I imagine, so the goats are drafted out of the sheep by simple business principles fairly efficiently. The older I get the more philosophical I become about people just being the custodians of land anyway – it all passes on to someone else, in the end.

        • Lorna

          I agree Fiona, it all passes to someone else in the end. Attachment to the land is ferocious in Ireland though and apparently on average, land only changes hands every 400 years too which just demonstrates that farmers aren’t just looking for a bigger or better farm but for bigger farms around where they already are. Perhaps it also explains the shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves as if someone feels compelled to farm but their heart isn’t in it, they just aren’t going to make a success of it.

  • writerlyderv

    I actually met farmers that were like Crocodile Dundee when I was in Oz. Thought nothing of travelling 100 miles on a horse, coming face to face with a snake or breaking ice to get water for their animals – though Irish farmers do the latter too!

    • Fiona Lake

      In 50 years I’ve never met an Australian that thought nothing of traveling 100 miles on a horse…unless of course they were competing in an endurance race, such as the Tom Quilty. Snakes are old hat, many people don’t take a lot of notice of them (there’s only one species I know of that won’t necessarily run away when approached by a human). As for breaking ice on a water trough; surely standard farmer behaviour anywhere?

      • Lorna

        I’m looking forward to receiving your book Fiona and seeing all the photos of Australian farmers.

        I was just thinking that my farmer husband would baulk at driving 100 miles (he tends to fall asleep after ten) so riding a horse for 100 seems extreme. I guess he wouldn’t fall asleep though!
        I guess it is what people are used to though – Canadians seems to think nothing of driving for 5 hours to visit friends ( but is that a stereotype too?) whereas for us, 5 hours is a long way to go for a holiday!

    • Lorna

      I’m feeling sorry for the horse Derbhile 😉
      I guess any stereotype has to be grounded in some truth, ie some individuals like that. Many see Irish farmers as wearing overalls, doing very little work and naming all their animals, I probably know two who do that.
      Did they wear those hats with the bobbing things to keep off the flies?

  • iambeautifulandconfident

    Haha, I could spend a while stereotyping the different kinds of farmers – dairy, sheep & crop, sheep & beef, high country, etc. Dairy farmers are the easiest – overalls and gumboots even in midsummer,with a woolly hat for colder days.

    • Lorna

      oooh, high country sounds interesting – what does that mean? I know, I feel I have only scraped the surface here.

      It’s funny – the dairy farmers here that wear overalls when not milking are probably the ones that do least work. But yes, wellies are worn all day every day except on the hottest of days (which are pretty rare)

  • Fiona Lake

    Excellent topic for discussion Lorna. I think the general public are getting a bit more savvy about treating the stereotypes they see on television with healthy scepticism; but stereotypes still have an unconscious influence on people’s beliefs when they’ve not many anyone in person in that particular field. As is increasingly the case in Australia & no doubt elsewhere. In Australia the average farmer is a middle-aged family farmer in southern Australia, using motorbikes and dogs with livestock and mostly large machinery for cropping. In northern Australia acreages are bigger (because they have to be, to earn a living) and horses are mostly only used in rugged country and on large cattle stations (much bigger than in Texas, too!). Most people working with livestock wear felt hats but most in cropping wear caps. Australians tend to believe that all farmers in Ireland and the UK have names for all their animals. We’re puzzled how people can make a living with much fewer livestock – wish we could! Many people criticise the TV show McLeods Daughters but in fact a lot of it is fairly accurate, apart from the obvious over dramatization. It’s more accurate and representative of the average farm, in some ways, than the ‘reality’ TV show “Keeping up with the Joneses”.

    • Lorna

      I don’t want much television at all now hence I’m referring to programmes I watched years ago. Am conscious I’ve only tipped the surface in this blog post. Your southern farming sounds v similar to here – some farmers will use quad bikes as well as dogs. We believe in exercise and don’t have the patience to be getting up and down to open gates 😉
      What has become apparent here is that bigger scale doesn’t necessarily mean bigger profits particularly if farmers are borrowing heavily to expand. Some farmers are in serious bother now after over extending themselves and having to sell land now that is worth a fraction what they paid for it 10 years ago. Sad to see.

  • Donna OShaughnessy

    Ah yes the stereotype farmer. Here in the US non farmers think we famers live a “laid back” lifestyle. They don’t understand that yes we are home in the middle of the day and yes we can take time to chat and have coffee but then our chores are out back two hours and we to bed later than ever. Our “Ranch” as in South Pork Ranch is only 10 acres owned and 40 acres rented which is why we named it “ranch” since in Illinois they are all farms really. And my hubby is the slender well built Aussie looking guy.! Me? Round and fluffy.

    • Lorna

      I’m getting rounder by the day but not sure about the fluffy 😉

      I’d imagine there is a difference between the stereotypes of the large cattle ranchers (ie the Stetson) and the smaller farms (baseball caps???)

      50 acres is seen as small here now too – esp by the farming organisations I think – in terms of viability. Most would either have an off farm job or would specialise in some additional area such as equine, dog kennels, B & B, making a value added product e.g. cheese from their milk. It would be hard to live on what you’d make from selling animals or milk to the middle man.
      Congrats on what you have achieved with the raw milk crusade by the way – you’re not fluffy at all, there’s iron cladding visible there 😉



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