Memory Lane: ‘Modern Farmer’

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You’re going to have to reach deep into your memory banks to find this–Modern Farmer, an early 1950s TV show that aired at 5 a.m. or 5:30 on Saturday mornings. It ran from 1950-1958, then went into syndication for many more years. My old friend George, finding nothing else to do, watched it the morning he had to report to the Army, having been drafted.

This show is so old, so obscure, that I couldn’t find any clips of it on youtube. It was, of course, about farmers and farming, and I have no idea why, when I was eight years old or so, I would get up to watch it. Maybe because Andy’s Gang came on next and I didn’t want to miss Froggy the Gremlin.

It wasn’t an irrelevant show. In those days there were still farms in our neighborhood, before Democrats paved them all over. There were farms nearby that went back all the way to the Revolutionary War and earlier, owned by farmers who fought for America’s independence from Britain. Fresh corn on the cob for supper? All I had to do was get on my bike and pedal for ten minutes, and bring home the corn in my basket.


We can’t get those farms back. The farmers rest in our town’s most ancient cemetery, along with others who put their lives on the line to birth the United States of America. Across the parking lot from our apartment stands a house that was a tavern in the 18th century. A small battle was fought here; the wounded, patriots and redcoats alike, were brought there to be tended to. It was said the ghost of a wounded British officer used to walk up the stairs inside that house until sometime in the 1960s, when the famous psychic investigator Hans Holzer supposedly put to rest that troubled spirit. But the lady who lived there in the 1970s said the ghost still appeared occasionally. He did no harm, she said.

I like to think that Christ’s kingdom will have more farms than nail salons.


25 comments on “Memory Lane: ‘Modern Farmer’

  1. Boy, I sure hear you on this one, Lee. Nail salons- phooey. FARMS! Love them. Most of my relatives were once farmers, and very successful, at that. The green fields, large gardens, lush green meadows- now that is living.

  2. We spent every summer of our lives in Pennsylvania on my uncle’s farm where we grew our food and had all sorts of animals – including a burro! Down the road (unpaved, of course) was the dairy farm where we were allowed to help milk cows. My favorite part was skimming the cream from the top 🙂

    My cousin decided to make his entrance into the world a bit early and we were too far from a hospital, so the dairy farmer and his wife (who had much experience birthing calves) rode their tractor to our house to help deliver him. I loved that life and would give much to return there – not only for the farm life, but life in general back then.

    Here’s a video of the very first program I saw on television (not necessarily this episode but the series) 🙂

    1. Wow! Innocence, whoiesomeness, family–everything that’s hated and despised by The Smartest People in the World. I wonder if a feminist Ginder Studies prefesser would levitate and break out in a rash if she saw this.

  3. I grew up in Orange County, California when it was mostly orange groves, and there was no smog. Today it is hard to find even an orange tree. It inspired Joni Mitshell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi” with its lyric “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” I haven’t lived there since 1976.

  4. Lee, I don’t remember you, but I lived in Metuchen from 1952 to 1977. If I recall correctly Modern Farmer was produced at the Rutgers Ag College (and I guess referring to the school by that name shows you how long ago I moved). And yep, you had to watch it in order to get to Andy’s Gang, etc.

    1. I was MHS ’70. My brother was ’74 and my sister ’78. We lived on Beacon Hill Drive.

  5. I lived on my grandfathers dairy farm in Monroe CT. I was born in 1947 and watched Modern Farmer every Saturday and Andys Gang eating frosted flake or Cherrios. It was before suburbs and I miss those times. It was a great way to grow up. Cows grazed 10 feet from my bedroom window and you knew it was Spring because the air smelled of the manure that was spread on the corn and alfalfa fields. Gone forever. Thats life.

    1. When I was a boy there were farms within walking distance of our suburban neighborhood. All gone now. Along with our woods and our spring. In New Jersey they have a mania for paving everything.

      Delicious memories, though.

  6. I grew up on a farm in central pennsylvania in the early 60’s. My dad was up every day before dawn and worked until after the sun went down. We never had enough time or money to go on a vacation.
    Quite often our mom would take odd jobs in town to help make ends meet especially if the weather was poor and the harvest didnt meet expectations.
    Summers involved a lot of hard work for my brothers and sisters since dad needed help keeping the farm running.
    I read the comments from others and wonder if they ever lived farm life for more than a visit. It was hard and dirty. It was honest work but it wasnt romantic and idyllic. It was our way of life and all i knew.
    I dont have and regrets how i was raised. It was a good life and our family was happy. But i was glad when i had a chance to go to college. I like driving on a paved road, having water that comes right into my apartment, and not hoping the canned food lasts the winter.
    Of course, anyone yearning for the wholesome innocence of those days, and prepare for God’s kingdom, by joining the Amish or similar community. Mathew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

  7. I, too, remember those days of Modern Farmer. I grew up in Spotswood, NJ during the 50’s, graduated South River High School in ’68 then off to the Navy. I loved watching Modern Farmer and Andy Devine and Froggy. I was in search of what I think was on Modern Farmer. I believe it was a spoof on folks that were not so educated in farming ways. It showed people picking spaghetti from trees. I remember the show vividly because I just couldn’t believe that someone would air such a show. I guess I was about 7 or 8 and knew better than to believe such a story. Just wondering if anyone out there saw that show. Or perhaps it was on “Library Lions” on WOR-TV out of NYC. I’ve tried YouTube but no luck,

  8. Lee, Thanks for your post. I stumbled across it after hearing what Michael Bloomberg recently had to say about farming being so easy anybody can do it. “You dig a hole, drop a seed in it, cover it up, add some water and the crops grow.” Whereas the modern digital economy requires “much more brain power.” I immediately thought, “Wait a minute! When I was growing up in Fair Lawn, NJ, I watched a TV show every Saturday morning called Modern Farmer and I learned a lot about the science of farming that still impresses me today. I learned more about soy beans and nitrogen depletion before I was ten than you can imagine, Mike.” I believe the series showed films from the USDA Extension Service – cheap public domain programming. I also seem to remember it was followed by a public service announcement calling on all aliens living in the country to register with the government!
    Anyway, thanks again. And here’s to Andy Devine and Froggy!!
    “Hiya, kids. Hiya hiya.”

  9. I am trying to track down the name of the cheery musical theme associated with “Modern Farmer,” which theme had a very typical, string dominant 50’s light orchestral sound; does anyone here know what it was.

  10. Dear Lee (?): I watched this as a child of perhaps four, before I started kindergarten in 1955. I found it quite interesting, or perhaps it was the novelty of television itself. I remember I watching without adult supervision, as noone else was either up at that hour or was preoccupied. I suppose the notion of operating the television on my own was a rewarding experience. Little did I realize that I was watching documentary footage of what we now refer to as ‘agribusiness,’ the vast nexus we so take for granted now which provides product but also supply chain and mass consumer behaviors, Thank you for this post. It is a nice feeling to reconnect with others who share these memories. Would you happen to remember another earlier television show in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CN), undoubtedly broadcast live, called ‘Cooking with Josie McCarthy?’ Something else I was permitted to watch under my own recognizance, a rare occasion. Best wishes.

    1. I think I have a wispy little ghost of a memory of that! It rang a bell when I read it: somewhere in my distant past is something about “Cooking with Josie.” I think I must have liked her name.

  11. I loved the time laps photography and watching plants starting in grow Petri dishes and flowers blooming

    1. I remember watching Modern Farmer early Saturday mornings. It came on before Farmer Gray cartoons. My family tree goes back 8 generations and 5 of those generations were farmers in New Jersey. They were not modern farmers. They got the job done with their own hands and horse power.

  12. I’d get up super early Saturday mornings. I’d get some cereal and turn on the TV. I’d watch the test pattern first, then Modern Farmer. I especially remember an episode where they we’re burying diseased livestock in a pit. Hoof and mouth or something, and they used a tractor to scoop up the carcasses and dump them in a pit. Spooky! I also remember one about fertilizer formulas; “5-10-5!” And what that would do for you. After MF came “Colonel Bleep” and then all the rest, until “Highway Patrol” with Broadrick Crawford. I was watching in Edison, NJ. I still watch too much &$@!! TV.

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