Filming of GAC's 'Farm Kings' doesn't alter Butler area's rural nature
By Bill Vidonic
Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Despite the growing popularity of the reality show “Farm Kings,” Butler County's King family hasn't turned Middlesex into “Jersey Shore” just yet.
Every once in a while, someone might show up on the winding rural road that leads to the Kings' Freedom Farms.
Dave King, whose Harvest Valley Farms lies at the bottom of a hill below his cousins' farm, said he's only occasionally pointed folks up the road to their place.
“People who watch the show see a rural area for the most part,” said Dave King, 29. “But we're almost in the suburbs here.”
The farms are just minutes from Route 8 and the Allegheny County line.
Joe King, the eldest of the nine brothers and one sister of the Freedom Farms' clan, along with their mother, Lisa, said you won't find anyone on the farm who thinks they're television stars.
Instead, he said, the family presents the message that hard work can lead to success and that community-supported agriculture is important in Western Pennsylvania.
“I think a lot of people who watch TV are not watching things to inspire them in their lives, and I think this show does that,” said Joe King, 29.
“Farm Kings” began its 13-episode second season on April 11.
The hour-long episodes can be seen at 9 p.m. Thursdays on the Great American Country television network.
The show features life for the Kings, who own 150 acres but also manage or farm more than 50 acres of adjoining property. They grow dozens of types of produce, and have branched out into raising cows and pigs.
The show depicts the struggles of making a living through farming and the family's daily trials. An online synopsis of an upcoming episode says that Joe King struggles with whether to leave one family member behind to tend the farm while the rest go on vacation.
Joe King said that the show's production company approached them after seeing stories about the family in local magazines and online media. The company shot a pilot in 2011 and pitched it to several networks. GAC picked up the show.
He would not say how much the family is paid for participating.
But it's not all glamour and glitz.
A film crew did several “spontaneous” takes of Pete King, 24, greeting his brother, Dan, who hopped out of his SUV as Pete worked on a fence. The process took several minutes for something that likely would air for just a few seconds, if it didn't end up being cut altogether.
“It's a huge investment of time,” Joe King said. “Sometimes, it's hard to get the daily chores done. Sometimes doing simple tasks takes forever.”
Aside from operating the Freedom Farms Market along Route 8 in Penn, the family also owns the nearby Boldy's Homemade Goodies, also in Penn, and a cafe in New Kensington.
Though the family hosts sales events at their stores, Joe King said it's not likely that the farm, which the family has worked for more than four years, will become a tourist trap, especially since the family lives there.
“You have to put your foot down somewhere,” Joe King said.
Local lore has it that some women have gone to the Penn market in hopes of seeing one or more of the King men shirtless. The older siblings have obliged.
“They've got good bloodlines, and it helps with the marketing and it helps with the show,” Joe King said.
Tim King, 27, shrugged off any suggestion of sex symbol status.
“We work so much, we have little spare time to ourselves,” he said. “What time we have, we spend it together. We haven't changed at all. We're true to who we are.”
Sam King, 18, a senior at Mars Area High School, said that since Armstrong Cable doesn't carry the Great American Country television network, the family may not be getting as much attention locally as they could.
“And I don't have the biggest role in the show,” Sam King said.
Dave King said that the King clans sell their products in different locations, so they're not directly competing against each other.
“There's plenty of market out there for all of us,” he said.
“These guys are businessmen,” said John Venner, director of Stage 3 Productions, which has been filming the family. “They're very well-educated, know exactly what they want and get it done. They work hard.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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