In France, one of the biggest challenges facing farmers is not bad weather or agricultural policy but loneliness. According to an August 2011 article in The New York Times, “The lack of love in the countryside is a serious topic for a country that sees its bedrock in small farmers and their produce, which is supposed to be uniquely of the place where it is grown. According to the Agriculture Ministry, about 30 percent of male French farmers did not have a partner in 2009. Loneliness is particularly acute among male farmers between 18 and 35, especially cattle farmers, who generally spend more time working than other farmers. About 36 percent of cattle farmers were single in 2009, according to the ministry.” *
One of these French farmers, Patrick Maignan, was divorced in 1996 and had given up all hope of finding another mate. He worked seven days a week, after all, milking his 40 cows twice a day, and he lived far from tourist routes and mobile phone coverage. But he met a 49-year-old divorced Parisian mother of two, Claire Chollet, through an online dating site reserved for farmers, called atraverschamps.com, or “acrossthefields.com,” and they bought a house together in a nearby village.
According to Luc Gagnon, founder of the Web site, it is one of a handful of such sites devoted to rural people. Founded in 2001, it doubled its subscriber base in 2011 to reach over 17,000. Bertrand Blond, the founder of a competing Web site, told The New York Times that there is now an entire economy based on the farmer’s single status.**
Here the marketplace is using the Web to attack the challenge of density: connecting people regardless of their current location to see if the sparks of romance can be generated across the ether. The result in this case is a happier farmer more likely to stick with his chosen profession and a net gain of three new rural residents.
* “With Help Online, French Farmers Now Playing the Field" by Maia de la Baume, The New York Times, August 30, 2011.
** “With Help Online, French Farmers Now Playing the Field.”
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