Based on the novel Farmer by Jim Harrison, this drama concerns Joseph Svenden (Dennis Hopper), a one-time farmer in his late forties who took up teaching when he permanently injured his leg in an accident. Joseph's life is orderly, precise, and rather dull.
He teaches with as much enthusiasm as he can muster, lives in the farmhouse where he grew up, and has been engaged for the last six years to Rosealee Henson (Amy Irving). Rosealee is the widow of his best friend, and, for a variety of reasons, both she and Joseph are reluctant to set a date (she devotes much of her time to caring for her ailing mother).
One day Joseph is met in his barn by Catherine Wheeler (Amy Locane), a new student in his senior class. Catherine attempts to seduce Joseph, who dutifully refuses, only to request a second chance a few moments later, which Catherine eagerly grants him.
This unexpected event brings out a newly adventurous side in Joseph, though he suddenly has a new set of complications to go along with it; he discovers that his school is closing, and Catherine's parents are predictably angry when they find out about their daughter's liaison.