the farmer's wife

letters to the buschkoetters
Dear Frontline and the Buschkoetters,

Thank you for your documentary - it has touched me to say the least. I grew up the son of a dairy farmer and, as a child, always dreamed of some day taking over an established operation. As I got older, it suddenly dawned on me how much hard labor was involved to make ends meet in the agriculture world....that was 20 years ago. Today it is worse.

My parents still have the operation, and they are still not out of the woods financially. The reason for this is because of their dedication to the education of their six children. They paid for each of us to attend private education and obtain a four year college degree. Granted, we were also cheap labor, but we were also a part of a family work force that not many people understand.

Today, while they are not exactly living hand to mouth, they do have six professional children who have successful carreers. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for reminding me of the sacrifices that my parents made to provide for their children beyond their formative years. And thank you for trying to explain the love of the land and dedication to a job that only a farmer can is almost impossible to explain that passion to someone who has not grown up with it. God bless you in your future endeavors.

Dear Harmensue,

Thank you for letting us know what you thought about our film. Your comments were so kind. I agreed to have our lives filmed mainly to show others who were struggling that they weren't alone, and also to make others aware of what is to be lost if the American family farm dies out. I'm so happy that you appreciate our lifestyle. We've had people tell us to chuck our dreams and get jobs, but I am proud that we are still here fighting to keep our dreams alive. Farming is a way of life, not just a business. I am doing what I feel is right in raising our daughters on the farm where they are learning the meaning of work and the values of life. They work by our side, sweating in the sun as we rogue can out of our milo fields, and cry with us when we lose a baby calf, and laugh with us as take a dunk in the cattle tank to cool off on a hot summer day. They will grow up to be confident, caring, honest, hard-working young women who will be assets to this nation because of the values learned on our farm. I am grateful for people like you who value the family farmer as much as we value all others in different walks of life.

Thank you,
Darrel and Juanita Buschkoetter and family
the Farmer and the Farmer's Wife

Dear Buschoetters,

Hi, I'm only 16 for starters. Okay I was in my room running from channel to channel and I stopped on this show on accident;I started watching and crying because my family went threw the same thing. See my mom didn't work and my dad did work, two jobs, and we too were on food stamps. Seeing as how I'm a teenager our situation was especially hard on me, but going threw this situation and coming out it made me stonger at my young age and also made me see that family love is so much greater than money. I used to cry and hate God, I'd ask why did you do this to me. Now I thank him, it was a painful and unpleasa nt experience but has made me a better and growing young lady.

Now, I was wondering since at the end it sounds like such a movie-this is totally real right? I'd hate it if this was a movie; it makes it so much more moving knowing that my family isn't alone there is another family out there. I haven't seen part 2 yet, I'll see it tommorow night though. Oh, and also my family is doing much better now. We have a family business and wemake good money to get things I always wanted like a homecoming dress. Westarted going threw our family problems when I was like 13 and now that I'm 16 I have a great family and no more problems!

Thank ya'll so much,

Dear Liz,

You are such a remarkably sensitive person for being only 16! But as you said, your hard times have made you into the beautiful person you are. When we were in the midst of our troubles, a farm crisis worker guessed me to be 39. I was only 28! But she went on to say that it was all that we had endured that made me seem mature beyond my years. And I relate to your feelings of hating God at times. How could He let us go through this? And people who haven't experienced it don't know how low you can feel. But it was also in those time, that I began to appreciate the simple things and could begin to understand what God had in store for my family. I feared our daughters might resent us for putting them through the struggles. But just as you did, they have learned how much more important a loving family is than having money. What you saw was fully real. It is the real story of three of the toughest years in our lives. The reason I wanted to do the film was exactly this--to let others know they are not alone in their struggles. I am happy to hear your family is doing better also. Darrel farms full time now and I work in town, and help on the farm at night and whenever I can. We can take the kids to the doctor now if needed, and I can buy groceries every 2 weeks. We can buy little things that are not totally necessary once in a while and not feel guilty.I hope our daughters, now 7, 11, and 12, can grow up to be as wise as you and appreciate what God has let them become. We will put you in our prayers. You are an incredible young woman.

Juanita Buschkoetter, the Farmer's Wife

Dear Juanita and Darrel,

I was just wondering how you and your children managed to look so natural in front of a rolling camera. Didn't it bother you at all, especially during your pretty intimate moments talking in bed? However you did it, yours is a gripping story. Thanks for sharing it.

Linda Durtschi
New York, NY,

Dear Linda,

Thank you for the nice email. I had no idea how people would react, so I was so relieved after receiving so much positive response. I don't think we ever realized how "close" the cameras actually were because we had so much to deal with, so much staring us in the face that the camera wasn't such a conscience thought to us. Things are improving every day. We are finally headed in the right direction, if crop prices come back to a level where we don't lose money farming. We should be ok, but farming is so questionable right now. But we will come out of whatever together. We finally have time to at least sit back and breathe. If they were to start filming us now, we would be much more aware of the cameras than we were then.Thank you for your interest.

Juanita Buschkoetter


I look forward to having time to rewatch Frontline's The Farmer's Wife. Thanks to the crew for producing such a wonderful story. And thank you to the Buschkoetters, for letting us see the very intimate side of their trials and tribulations. I have family members in the midst of a farm credit crisis right now and watching your story unfold allows me to be that much more empathetic. It is too unfortunate that they cannot earn a decent living for doing what they love. I pray that they may be able to find a way out of their financial and emotional crises. Is there anything you would give as advice to someone who wants to be supportive of their needs?

Thanks again for your incredible gift to share your story.

Susan Engel,
Minnetonka, Minnesota

Dear Susan,

Thank you so much for the wonderful comments. And it makes me feel good to hear of your concern for your family. We've had a few people tell us to give up and just to get jobs in town.We feel we have too much to fight for to give up, as all family farmers do. You have to think not only of the products we produce on the farm but also the people that are produced as well. I wish I knew of some magic advice to give you regarding your helping your family. First off, encourage them to reach to every farm organization available; they are already to help in the good fight. Also, tell them to keep faith. That is what pulled us through it all. Be there for them; financially if possible, but mainly just to be an ear for them to vent. So many times, I would call my mom or sisters just to release so many frustrations, and many times I would receive a check in the mail the next day. It was so caring of them, but sometimes, it only made Darrel feel worse. And I really had only wanted to let off steam, not ask for money. Most importantly, remind them to keep their priorities straight. The bank can only take away what you let them. You may lose your land and machinery, but you can retain your family unit and self-esteem. Encourage them to contact their lawmakers and tell them what they need to do that will help the family farm, not only the corporate farms. Thank you again, and let your family know that if things do get too dire,we would do whatever we could to help.

Juanita Buschkoetter, the Farmer's Wife

Dear PBS, Frontline, David, Darryl, Juanita and children,,

What a wonderful experience it was to share in the struggles of your families, and to become enlightened in the situations facing our farmers in rural America today.I admire you all for the courage it took to create and air this program. We need more of the same on television today. Now that we are aware of the problems that our farmers face, what can we do to help their situation ? May God bless you always.

Trink Hill,
Avon, CT

Unfortunately, I don't know of many ways that consumers can help to promote the family farm. But I do know that we need to inform our lawmakers of what would actually help the family farms; stop gearing all programs to the bigger, not-so-caring corporate farms that ready to take over. Contact farm organizations that will advise in this area. Also let our lawmakers know that you really do care who is raising our nation's food. Contribute or volunteer to local farm hotlines--they are what saved us in the beginning. Contribute to Farm Aid, which I personally know passes on such donations to needy farm families. Contact your state farm crisis hotines or mediation centers and ask for more ways to help. Thank you so much for appreciating the family farmers of America.

Juanita Buschkoetter, the Farmer's Wife

Dear Juanita and Darrel,

I am one of those city folks who drives through the countryside, marveling at the open space and wondering "how do thesepeople live? What are their lives like?" Last night, because of your courage and honesty, I got a chance to see and feel some of the daily struggles, hard work, and hopes that make up the answer. I also found my own determination to be strong and true to myself renewed.

Did you have any idea your own struggles could touch others in this way? Thanks, and best of luck. Oh yeah, and if you make out here to Boston, please be sure and look us up so we can show you some city hospitality. I'm sure my girls would love playing with yours.

Thank you so much for your wonderful compliments. And no, we had NO idea how much we could touch people. I myself was simply doing what I felt was right, and Darrel was, and is, striving to fulfill his dream of farming. I do find it disheatening to think that do many people have to give up their dreams, many times simply due to the economy. We are not asking to get rich farming. We simply want to be able to make a living for our family and raise our daoughters in what I feel is the best environment possible.But as much as we love our rural Nebraska home, our travels that have resulted from the film have been very rewarding.

And we would love to make it to Boston someday soon. My fortune cookie the other day told me that now is the time to make new friends.

Thank you,
Juanita Buschkoetter the Farmers Wife

Dear Juanita,

My husband is a third generation farmer. I can't tell you how comforting and strange it was to watch the first part of "The Farmer's Wife" because it was like watching a mirror of our own lives. Three children, 1200 Acres of wheat and in the last seven years I have seen my husband go from half a million net worth and no debt to very little net worth and seemingly insurmountable debt.

I didn't think I was going to get my husband to watch the show. Just two days before I had sat out with him in the pasture (where the kids wouldn't see him) and weep over his losses and feeling like a failure. Once he started watching he became mesmerized. Everything was there- the long hours at the ASCS office, the humiliation of small town talk, the anger and frustration, the heartbreak.

I too always thought that I would stay at home with my children and now I work out of my home doing medical transcription. I also have started taking on the family finances and I think that Ag. economics is one of the hardest and most confusing subjects I have ever had to learn. It seems like the long hours never end.

Thank you for your show. It gave me courage to continue. Saving our farmand saving our marriage is one of the hardest things I have ever done.There is a comfort in knowing that we are not alone. I think that only a farmer's wife can understand the strange mixture of heartache, anger, anguish and fear that accompanies being married to a farmer. It is heartbreaking to see your husband work longer and longer hours thinking that is all that he needs to do to make it work. It hurts to see a way of life dying. I think that a lot of people don't understand how a farmer's very soul and identity seems to be tied up in their land. It was not just a piece of land to them, it is their life.

My husband left during part of it because it was too painful for him to watch. My girls and I watched it together (they are 16 and 13) and we were tearful because it was like watching our lives. There was some laughterbetween my husband and I because we heard almost word for word the same arguments we had had. My husband said he needed to know if it turned out okay before he could watch the other two parts. When I told him it looked like it did, I saw hope in his eyes that I haven't seen for a long time.

Thank you,


Thank you. This is why I agreed to do the film--I wanted others to know they weren't alone. We have had a few negative comments but I know they are coming from people who have never walked in our shoes. No one is perfect, and we made our share of mistakes. But a lot of what happened to us was beyond our control; 4 years of drought, losing rented ground. But none of that is reason to be treated like less of a person. We are thankfulfor the bumper crop in 96 that enabled us to become current on our operating bills. Creditors can make you feel like the lowest creatures on earth. But we also saw a lot of goodness; people who believed in us and agreed to work with us. I like my job, but it hurts a little knowing that I have had to give up a piece of MY dream of farming at Darrel's side with our 3 daughters But I am compensated by knowing that Darrel is able to live his dream of being a GOOD full time farmer. That is one thing that I think isn't very evident in the film-- what a good farmer he is, and I am sure your husband is. I think that's why it's so painful for them; to feel like failures at something they're so good at. I've discovered there is a sisterhood of us farmwives who have similar scars. We need to keep each other in our prayers. We never asked to be filmed; they came to us. But now I am grateful for David and Nancy Sutherland, the producers of the film. Because of them, we have this opportunity to have contact with so many wonderful people with whom we have so much in common. We will put you in our prayers and know that you have friends who feel what you feel.

Take care,
Juanita Buschkoetter the Farmers Wife

Dear Buschkoetters,

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I did not intend to stay up and watch the whole episode tonight, however I did.(I am from Nebraska.)You reminded me of a lot of things from my childhood and family life. I think this documentary of farm life shows a great deal about the values of midwestern life that is often taken for granted...Thank you again. Your experiences that have been documented will help a lot of people...

See you in Nebraska,

Thank you for your appreciation of the family farm. Midwestern values may seem old-fashioned, but they are what make this country so great. People living their dreams and enjoying the simple things in life. We were a little nervous about what kind of reaction we would get, but thanks to people like you, we know all 3 years of filming were worth the while. Things continue to improve for us. I have a great job, and Darrel is able to be the good full time farmer that he was meant to be.

Thank you,
Juanita Buschkoetter, the Farmer's Wife


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