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Bryan Horwath, Published February 17 2014

Farmer-based dating site plants seeds of love

DICKINSON, N.D. – Megan McAndrew of Bismarck wasn’t having much luck in the dating scene online or in person.

Though McAndrew, 64, was ready for a relationship after being a widow for more than a decade, the North Dakota transplant from the Northeast wasn’t bumping into Mr. Right on a street corner or via a handful of Internet dating services.

Enter FarmersOnly.com, a dating website geared mostly toward middle Americans who share the same basic values and life philosophies.

After dabbling on matchmaking sites like eHarmony with little or no success, McAndrew remembered a piece that former USA Today columnist Craig Wilson wrote about Farmers Only several years ago.

Flash forward to last November when Megan, after signing up for the Farmers Only service, happened to bump into Lyle, a Devils Lake man who works in the agriculture business and owns a farm. Megan said, as of Valentine’s Day, the couple seems to have hit it off very well over the past few months.

“Even though the site is called Farmers Only, it has really grown to be people not only in agriculture but also just people who live in rural areas and enjoy the outdoors and animals,” said Jerry Miller, founder of Farmers Only, who is based in Ohio.

The way Farmers Only works, people can look around for free but need to pay a monthly fee for the ability to communicate with other members. In the past year alone, the site’s membership has doubled to “well over 1 million,” according to Miller.

“In my wildest dreams, I never thought it would go this far, but I knew there was a need for a service like this,” Miller said.

“I was doing agricultural marketing back in 2005, and I was talking to this farm girl who had just gotten a divorce. I was doing business with her, and she confided in me that she felt she would never meet anyone new. She said she already knew everybody in her small community and that she didn’t have time to socialize while working on the farm all day.”

The next time he saw his business acquaintance, Miller said, she reported that she had little success with online dating.

“She tried one of the big dating sites,” Miller said. “About a month later, I was talking to her and she said, ‘The guys that contacted me just couldn’t relate to the lifestyle of a farmer.’ She said they just didn’t have a clue. I told her I’d find a site geared toward farmers, but there was nothing out there. I talked to other people and I was hearing the same story over and over again.”

With a little entrepreneurial ingenuity and some networking, Miller created Farmers Only and, like Megan and Lyle’s story, the rest is history.

“We’re growing at such a rapid pace now, it’s amazing,” Miller said.

Whether a farmer, rancher, rural resident or simply someone new to North Dakota working in the booming Bakken, Miller said Farmers Only is a great way to get the conversation going.

“Our slogan is, ‘City folks just don’t get it,’ ” Miller said. “I was on the ‘Today’ show a few months back, and they must have asked me about 20 times, ‘What do you mean city folks just don’t get it?’ Living in the country is a lot different than living in New York City.”