An e-mail seeking a goat farmer to appear on television resulted in the Warren family of Stone and Thistle Farm in East Meredith starring on Friday’s episode of “Wife Swap” on the ABC Television Network at 8 p.m. ABC is on channels 7 and 13 locally on Time Warner Cable.
The “Funderburgh/Warren” episode is billed as “A family who gave up a sophisticated city lifestyle for the simple life on an organic goat farm swaps lives with a divalicious mom who shops ’til she drops.”
The premise of the show is that two diametrically opposed families from across the country participate in a two-week challenge. The wives move in with the other family to explore daily life in another woman’s shoes.
Denise Warren said when she got the e-mail in February 2009 she thought it was her brother playing a joke on her, but when she got a phone call from the casting director she decided it was real.
Denise Warren said the email arrived during the slow season on the farm, making the offer, which included ample financial compensation, more attractive.
Sylvia Do, ABC coordinator of entertainment communications, said Wednesday that she doesn’t normally make any comments about “Wife Swap.” She added that the only constraint on the Warrens is that they can’t reveal how much compensation they received for participating on the show.
The Warrens don’t have a television, so they didn’t have any knowledge of the show, Denise Warren said Wednesday.
“We looked it up on the Internet, filled out an application, held a family conference and decided we wanted to see some DVDs of the show before we made up our minds.”
The Warren children — Katie, 16, and Shane, 11 — were also part of the decision, she said.
Denise Warren said DVDs they received showed families having interesting, fun experiences while the wives had an opportunity to experience someone else’s lifestyle for two weeks.
“I thought, ‘How fun is that?’” she said. “The shows we saw didn’t have any of the sensationalism and confrontation that I have since found out is part of the plot.”
A film crew was at Stone and Thistle Farm in March 2009 to meet with the Warrens before the family was accepted for an episode.
“I think they were searching for a backwoods goat farmer who lived in a trailer and didn’t have all their teeth,” Denise Warren said. “When they found out who we really were they had to revise their story line.”
Denise Warren switched places with Angie Funderburgh of Oklahoma City, Ok., but when she left East Meredith she didn’t know where she was headed.
“It was the first time in my life I have been in an airport with no idea where I was going,” she said. “I was accompanied by the director and a film crew guy. They took away my wallet and my cell phone.
“I had no control, but it was kind of invigorating knowing that after 30 years of taking care of other people somebody was taking care of me. It was awesome.”
Denise Warren said when she got to her temporary home it was an assault on her beliefs.
“The house was in a development on the outskirts of Oklahoma City with cookie-cutter homes on farmland that had been raped by the developer,” Denise Warren said. “I have just spent three years helping develop Farm Catskills and working to preserve farms and farmland. I realized they had chosen very carefully and found a place that was just the opposite of the things I really care about.”
The show is set up so that for the first week, the visiting wife must live by a book of rules left by the real wife, and the second week the visiting wife gets to institute her own rules.
Denise Warren found that she had to replace Angie Funderburgh at her job as the manager of customer support at a large telephone company.
She also was forced to get manicures, go shopping and spend two hours getting dressed each morning.
She said the Funderburghs have three children — Trevan, 11; Kylie, 9; and Tiana, 18 months — but the baby disappeared when the producers realized that no one had time to keep an eye on her, and she was sent to spend the time with her grandmother.
Denise Warren said during the second week of her stay she made the Funderburgh family give up television, in front of which they spent hours and ate meals. She made them take off their headphones, help cook dinner, do chores and eat meals together.
“At the end of it I was so glad to be home and be surrounded by people who work together,” Denise Warren said. “It reinforced my belief that the way we are bringing up our children is the best for us.”
Back home in East Meredith, Tom Warren, 53, said things were tense between him and Angie, 32, who was young enough to be his daughter.
“Our lifestyles and values were so different. It was like oil and water,” Tom Warren said.
Tom Warren said one of the constraints of filming on the farm and in the house was that no logos for any company could be visible, so one of the first things the film crew did was come in with multiple colors of tape and carefully obscure every logo on everything.
“Months later we were still peeling tape off books and spice cans,” he said.
Tom Warren said Angie Funderburgh was “a high-maintenance gal who really wanted to be on television. She was an enormous fan of the show who had seen every episode, and she had actively applied to be on the show.”
Tom Warren said he didn’t think he would ever agree to take part in another show of this type.
“The farther I get from it the more I enjoy it,” Tom Warren said. “It was an interesting experience, but I am not sure I would do it again unless they increased the money by a fair amount.
“We got a decent chunk of change, and at the time we thought it was easy money, but we had to work hard for it.”
Tom Warren said the filming process was long and tiring.
“They filmed on 10 consecutive days from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he said. “They had about 84 hours of film that they will condense down to 22 minutes. It will be interesting to see what they end up using.”
The Warrens said they have not seen the show and will gather with friends at the Oneonta Tennis Club to watch with people who will understand if family members are not portrayed the way they are known to their Delaware County neighbors.