Niche dating sites crop up all the time. Now, one that launched to cater to the kind of people who grow crops—FarmersOnly.com—has reached a milestone.
Jerry Miller, a marketing executive who founded the site in 2005 after a divorced farm owner complained to him about a lack of like-minded people in her dating pool, says it has more than 200,000 subscribers.
"She said, 'I'm afraid I'm not going to meet anybody new—I know everybody in town,'" Miller recalled in a recent interview with Yahoo News.
He then spent six months researching singles in farming communities. "I kept hearing the same thing: 'I know everybody in my church, everybody at the store, but I go on these big dating sites, and they just don't understand the lifestyle.'"
Carrying the tagline "city folks just don't get it," FarmersOnly.com launched with about 2,000 members, but grew to more than 100,000 users by 2010 as nonfarmers embraced the sensibility.
"You don't have to be a farmer," Miller, who's based in Cleveland, said. "You could work at a restaurant, or the feed store, but are looking for someone who has those values."
Users pay $15.95 per month, or $49.95 for six months, to find a like-minded match on the service. (Online dating is a billion-dollar industry: More 40 million Americans used an online dating service in 2011.)
Miller's done some marketing at farm shows and local television ads (like the one with talking animals below), but said the steady rise has been mainly from word-of-mouth.
FarmersOnly, which boasts members from all 50 states, has pockets of urban users, too. "They grew up in the country and dream of moving back to country," he said. "Dreamers that want to get out."
From the site's own description:
Instead of asking what your astrological sign is, at FarmersOnly.com we ask if you raise or breed alpacas, horses, cattle, chickens, dogs, goats, rabbits, sheep, grow crops, or if you're an organic farmer, student farmer, cowboy, cowgirl, or just a farmer wanna be!
The most challenging part of growing its user base, Miller said, is showing people the ropes.
"The learning curve is a lot different for us," Miller said. "I spent thousands of hours coaching people on how to use the site, send messages—even just teaching them how to upload their photos." (One user, Lyle from Kansas, would call him often, saying, "Jerry, I'm looking at my photo, I just can't figure out how to get it on there.")
The site also had to wait for technology to catch up in rural towns, too. "When we launched, everybody had phone modems," Miller said. "Connections were slow, so we had to keep it simple."
There are plenty of success stories about married couples that met on FarmersOnly, something in which Miller—who got married long before the Internet came along—takes extra pride.
"Lots of these people are really, really lonely," Miller said. "When you walk outside in New York, there are 10,000 people within three blocks. In some of these rural towns, there are three people within 10 miles. It's a whole different ballgame."
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