'Farm Kings' features local family

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It's clear from the opening moments of "Farm Kings," a docuseries featuring the large industrious King family of Butler County, that farming is backbreaking work.

Compare this to E!'s "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and the contrast is downright biblical.

From the New Testament: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: [Yet] they neither toil nor spin." If Kim K and all her sisters are lilies, then the multitude of King brothers is the salt of the earth.

The 200-acre Freedom Farms is well known in regions north of Pittsburgh, and it's the setting for a reality show debuting Thursday at 9 p.m. (a sneak preview aired in June).

Run by the eldest of Joseph and Lisa King's 10 children, the complex in Middlesex also includes a store and bakery. The Kings are divorced, and Lisa, her nine sons and one daughter are trying to make a go with a farm operation in competition with Joe's.

Because this program, produced by Stage3 Productions, is on the Great American Country (GAC) network and not E! or MTV, Thursday's pilot shows the family doing good ole boy stuff like shooting groundhogs with rifles and hauling heavy wooden crates laden with produce.

But there's also enough shirtlessness to satisfy the gawkers. When some of the brothers take their wares to a farmers market, a young female patron notes, "We come to Freedom Farms on Fridays after work just in the hope that Pete will take his shirt off."

Pete King, who wears his long blond hair in dreadlocks, is indeed fond of removing his T-shirt in the name of comfort on a hot day, but also admits "it helps with sales."

With such a large cast/family, the producers figure it would be best to label everyone out of the gate. Pete is not only the hot brother, but also "the Human Harvester," which, thankfully, means he is human and harvests crops quickly -- not that he harvests humans.

Eldest brother Joe is the "Boss Man." He runs the show. Next is Tim, "the Farmer." Tim is shown nurturing thousands of seedlings so they'll be ready for planting in the spring. He's also the one who apparently decides what will be grown; we're told the farm dabbles in almost 90 different varieties of produce.

There's also Dan, the "Utility Man." Lisa, the "Mama Bear," toils in the fields and in the bakery with lone daughter Elizabeth. Other siblings all pitch in to work and are introduced briefly in the pilot, including the youngest, Ben, who has Down syndrome.

The pilot is 30 minutes long, not enough time to properly establish a who's who with a family this large. Look for more plot and character development in future episodes. And as the series continued shooting over the unusually hot, dry summer here, there was an ominous foreboding when Tim said, in a segment filmed last spring, "Mother Nature does call the shots."

In fact, Mother Nature already has gotten a word in. A viewing party of the show that had been scheduled for Saturday at the Middlesex Township Volunteer Fire Department has been postponed due to storm damage from several weeks ago.

From beautiful shots of the family working late in the fields to Lisa assembling tomato-and-basil pies for the shop, the Kings make it clear that farming is in their blood.

"We don't expect to get rich," Tim says. "We do it because we love it."


Maria Sciullo: msciullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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