Pig Farmers Once Graced Romance Novel Covers

By: Jaime McCutcheon Email
By: Jaime McCutcheon Email

We're told never to judge a book by its cover, but what if you're on the cover of that book? Three Nebraska pig farming brothers have quite the past, which for a time, brought them quite a bit of fame.

About an hour and a half outside of Omaha in Unadilla, Nebraska, the crickets and grasshoppers are louder than the traffic. Farming equipment outnumbers the buildings and life moves with peace.

Right now it's harvest time on the Bartling Brothers Farm and the corn is coming in.

Jim Bartling says, "our family has been in Nebraska our entire lives. My son will be fifth generation, we grew up on this farm."

On this farm two things rule - the crops and the pigs. " We have about two thousand sows. We produce about fifty thousand pigs a year," says Bartling.

But Jim Bartling and his brothers haven't always solely “slopped the pigs” for a living. A much faster-paced life once took them far from these Nebraska roots.

"Actually my first job was solar man on a comic strip, I was a comic book hero," says Jim Bartling.

After winning a national hunk contest in the 90's, Jim Bartling started getting modeling jobs, and his brothers Kurt and Kris soon followed.

Kurt Bartling says, "it kind of caught us off guard a little bit, but we were like if they want to see us we'll just go ahead and go on out. It's a free trip, what the heck."

Jim Bartling adds, "about the time we showed up in New York City, she said I need someone to replace Fabio. So we pretty much took over his position."

Romance novel cover shoots started taking the place of pig and crop farming. Then came the posters and the calendars and the fame.

"We were in the Macy's Day Parade behind Bob Hope, we had our own float,” describes Jim Bartling.

"People loved it. They just loved where we came from, they loved that we were down to earth," says Kurt Bartling.

Down to earth thanks to that farm planted firmly on Nebraska soil. And it's the farm that eventually called them home. All three brothers today work all three farms spread over 1,800 acres.

"It used to be when's the limo going to get here. Now it's when does the truck get here to haul the pigs."

A long way from photo shoots and the New York City lights, but the Bartling Brothers prefer the peace of Nebraska.

Farming is the brothers' mainstay now, but it was hit hard a few years ago by the Swine Flu. It still hasn't recovered.

Jim Bartling says the brothers are working on developing the farm’s meat line , and he would like to develop a hunting show one day. But if you’re wondering, modeling will stay in the past.

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