This is a tough time of year for a lot of people. Singles, especially.
While traditional media show images of families caroling next to lighted trees and making gingerbread houses in warm, friendly kitchens, there are many among us who can only quietly observe, having no one close with whom to celebrate. New Year's Eve is just six days away.
Not surprisingly, during the holiday season, online dating sites see a surge in interest and membership.
"This time of the year, and Valentines (Day), people start thinking about it, about finding their lifelong match," says Lynn Woolf, spokeswoman for FarmersOnly.com, a unique online dating site.
I discovered FarmersOnly.com when back in Wisconsin last week, back in farm country. A local tv station ran a FarmersOnly commercial. Being the inquisitive journalist - and single - I had to check it out.
FarmersOnly is based in Pepper Pike, Ohio. The site claims to have grown from 2,000 members five years ago to over 150,000 today. It's stated slogan: "Because city folks just don't get it".
The idea is simple. Farmers and ranchers, male and female, have the need to meet eligible singles just like their city counterparts. Yet out in the country, socializing is a little tougher, things spread out as they often are, farmers and ranchers working long hours as they often do, with little time for dating.
"Sometimes in small towns, you're not able to meet a lot of people," says Woolf. "Especially if you're farmers, you're not meeting people at work."
The traditional dating sites, the eHarmony and Match.com sites? Probably not a good match.
"I talked to farmers and ranchers all over the country and discovered they all had the same problems," says Jerry Miller, the man behind FarmersOnly. "They already knew everybody in their immediate areas. They didn't have enough time to socialize. When they did find time, they didn't want to hang out at a bar. They wanted to find someone who understood their lifestyle." he says. "The need for this new online dating service became very clear, (so) I launched FarmersOnly."
Testimonials highlighted on the site testify to the clientele.
"My name is Justin from central Kansas where farming is plentiful and my wonderful angel is Katie from the country east of San Francisco, California...I flew out to see her less then two months after we met on FarmersOnly.Com, August 16, 2006. We have plans of getting married and plan to spend the rest of our lives together in happiness." (Justin)
"We met on farmers only in January of 2009 and hit it off right away. We are both dairy farmers and are now going to milk jerseys together for the rest of our lives." (Emily)
"Frank is a crop farmer and I am from a farming family. Frank asked me to marry him a month ago while standing in the middle of a bean field on a beautiful August night. We are SO lucky to have found each other and cannot thank you enough!!" (Lisa)
Despite the name, the site is not limited to farmers and ranchers.
Spokeswoman Lynn Woolf notes the variance. "Our members might not live on a farm or in a rural area now," she says. "Sometimes, it's not about where you are now, but where you came from. FarmersOnly.com singles are looking for others who understand and cherish the values they learned from their connections with agriculture. They may not want to got back to a farm, but they want to go back to that good, authentic lifestyle."
According to Miller, growth of the site is coming from "just good old-fashioned, down-to-earth people who live in small towns and rural areas."
Those areas include the Peninsula. The eligible are young, and older. Their interests are varied, but come usually back to the same theme.
CowgirlDani is 28 and from Redwood City: "I love being on the farm (my best friend in college and my ex both had farms). I am a cowgirl at heart and I dress the part."
BeMyGirl45 is 48 and from San Mateo: "My philosophy is, a woman is like an artichoke, it takes time, patience and a little bit of work to get to the heart."
SpanishBarb is 56, from Burlingame: "Interested in meeting other folks that love outdoors, animals (dogs and horses) ranching, farming or ag, and life in the country."
IrishDancer is a 62-year-old male, from Mountain View: "In my ideal world, I'd have an orchard, firewood timber, and a nice little mostly self-sufficient farm--not too far from a coffee shop!"
StaceyCali is 31, from Pacifica: "I am a fun girl, who likes the outdoors and trying new things. I love the bay area and all it has to offer, but someday would like to settle down in the quiet of the countryside."
mxcountrymom is 39 and also from Redwood City: "I am a country girl at heart. I grew up being in 4-H raising livestock and going to rodeos. I still enjoy it, however I'm stuck in the city."
rodeofever21 is 19, from Half Moon Bay: "I want a cowboy that loves to rope, ride horses, bulls, hunt and be outdoors just as much as I do."
Miller says hundreds of couples have logged-on to FarmersOnly and found love. "There have been countless successful matches and friendships made on the site," he says. "I get thank you emails and phone calls almost daily. In fact, there have been hundreds of marriages since FarmersOnly.com began.”
And where does the slogan come from?
On his site, Miller relates the story of a recently-divorced farm woman he met several years ago.
"She expressed her frustration of how difficult it was to meet someone new," he recalled. "I'm ready to give up!" she said. "How am I going to meet someone working on a farm all day? I already know everybody who lives around here… which isn't many people! Maybe I'll try online dating."
Miller says she signed up on one of the big national dating sites.
A month later, he asked the woman about her luck.
"The men who have been contacting me don't understand the lifestyle of a farmer," she told Miller. "They don't have a clue!"
For Miller, the conversation was the genesis for his Web site catch-phrase: "City Folks Just Don't Get It!"
"We just always encourage people 'Just check it out'," says Woolf. "There's lots of good people on the site, so just go on and try it."