The Peterson Farm Brothers – ‘I’m farming & I grow it’

If anyone needs proof of the large numbers of rural people, worldwide, who have taken to social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging – then the run-away viral success of this online video is it.

Greg Peterson and his younger brothers Nathan and Kendal feature in their YouTube video they’ve called I’m farming and I grow it. Their home-made film has turned into an absolute smash hit, being uploaded onto YouTube on June 25th and by three days later, clocking up more than 1 million views (and growing exponentially).  Their farm promotional video is so cleverly thought up and so well executed, it’s no wonder it is such a success.

The Peterson boys grew up on a fourth generation family farm near Assaria, Kansas (USA).  The eldest son Greg is keen on music and studying agricultural journalism at Kansas Sate University.  He got the idea for the video clip after listening to LMFAO’s ‘I’m sexy and I know it’ on the radio and getting ideas to change the words. Their 11-year-old sister Laura did most of the camera work, and the whole family appears in the video.  Filming was squeezed in amidst wheat harvesting, which as every farmer knows, is the most important, tiring, busiest and often the most stressful time of year.

Why is grain harvesting stressful? Rain can ruin bumper crops and at least in Australia, bushfires are often a very real threat. Harvesters, trucks and other machinery have a habit of breaking down the instant rain clouds appear on the horizon.  The Peterson brothers have produced several other documentary-style video clips featuring typical work on their Kansas farm and rain gets a mention in the wheat harvesting video, with an ominous cloud on the horizon that dumped 5″ of rain on a nearby town.  I grew up on a typical Australian wheat/sheep farm and it’s interesting to see the harvesting similarities (same headaches & same good things).  Greg Peterson mentions harvesting can continue into the night – and this  depends on whether or not there’s any dew or not; harvesting has to stop when there’s moisture on the grain.  Dew can also signify rising humidity, which in turn may indicate an increasing chance of rain – which is of course the last thing you want when trying to strip a ripe crop. So at least in Australia, while increasing dew raises the concern of rain, decreasing dew raises the worry regarding bushfires!).  In southern Australia, where grain crops are last to ripen, farmers are always hoping to finish harvesting before Christmas so they are able to have a relaxing family day.  Because if harvesting hasn’t been finished, they’ll be out driving the header on December 25th rather than sitting around eating a special dinner and admiring Christmas presents.

21-year-old Greg Peterson drives a header and so does his 18-year-old brother Nathan, while 15-year-old Kendal drives a round baler.  Being given the responsibility of driving such impressively large (and expensive, complex and noisy) machinery would be absolute heaven for many young blokes, despite the long hours.  Another video clip features ‘don’t try this at home folks’ activity – the self-drive tractor (hang out the door and it keeps right on going).  These days tractors come with airconditioning, radios, comfortable seats and power steering – helping operators put a good job in over very long hours (when it comes to sowing a crop, around the clock – as long as they don’t get bogged).  As shown in this video, modern tractors and airseeders also have impressive crop planting-related technology which helps maximise returns.  Watching the Peterson’s hay baling video, I suddenly remembered the long-remembered smell of wheat stubble baking in the hot summer sun.

The “I’m farming and I grow it’ video clip features cattle feeding, hay bales, crop growing and harvesting.  More than 2 hours of filming has been edited down to a three and a half minute video. Viewers are left in no doubt about a few things – these blokes love the land and farming, they’re fit, healthy and hard working, they have a great sense of humour, and they’re creative thinkers.  While this was produced by an American farming family, it is a sign of what is to come, world-wide.  We now have an up-and-coming generation of young farmers who are proud of what they do and who are well educated and technologically savvy enough to get a direct message about food production straight to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.

As one person commented – one creative, talented and passionate family farming bloke has, with the help of his family, far surpassed the efforts of all the massive farming organisations who have poured countless quantities of money into advertising campaigns to educate the public about farming and draw attention to the many positive aspects. Greg Peterson has achieved what they could not.  For want of a better way of putting it, the latest Peterson Farming Family video has made farming ‘sexy’.  And not just in America, but in Australia and all the other countries where people are viewing ‘I’m farming & I grow it’.  The efforts of the Petersons will inspire countless people to try a farming career, who otherwise may have listened to those who think food producing is not a worthy career.

Given the quality of the video and numbers of people seeing it, it will also inspire a lot more people who are already involved in agriculture to produce their own videos, photos, blog messages, forum comments and other web content and to not underestimate the power of a determined individual.  That’s an incredibly good thing, because agriculture needs a lot more people to participate, to spread the workload and to maximise the diversity of personal rural messages being made available to the public.  The time it takes to produce good web content (even if it’s just tweeting; doing a good job of distilling worthwhile messages into 140 characters takes time & skill) should not be underestimated.  For example, the Petersons had already uploaded several other farming videos onto YouTube, prior to putting time and effort into creating the  ‘I’m farming & I grow it’ video.  Then there’s the follow up – which in this case could end up being far more time than the actual video production time.  “I’m farming and I grow it’ has received more than 2,000 public comments in the first few days.  Ideally, there’s an ongoing investment of time spent regularly checking the new comments, removing spam, and ensuring anti-farming messages posted by animal rights extremists are either countered or ignored (when that’s the smartest option).  At least the last job will usually be dealt with by enthusiastic viewers (again – very beneficial, because a variety of people will come up with a variety of supporting points of view).

As Australian farmers discovered last year during the live export ban fiasco, Voiceless, PETA and other animal rights extremist organisations have been working busily all over the internet, promoting their beliefs.  Not just in obvious ways, via their own websites, but by participating in innumerable website forum discussions and in social media. For example, one animal rights fanatic in South Australia contributes to every diet and agriculture-related forum on the good quality academic discussion website The Conversation. This bloke never misses a chance to push the barrow for veganism no matter how irrelevant and one-eyed his argument is, all the while ‘forgetting’ to mention his animal rights activist role, instead just using his white-collar day-job title in his profile.  And on Twitter – a search for ‘farming Australia’ yesterday brought ‘Animals Australia’ up as the number one result, with Voiceless also appearing in the top 20 results.  (Along with our Labor PM and a host of other Labor pollies – a very odd result given the Labor party doesn’t have a good track record for supporting farmers, or any other types of small business, for that matter.)

The success of this YouTube video is also a great illustration of the fact that the general public now want to see ‘real’ stuff. Increasingly, the general public want real and personal stories by passionate individuals – not models, scripted stories, digital trickery or technical perfection.

I see this agvocate video as a very significant milestone in the field of farmers sending first-hand messages direct to the general public.  Well done Greg and family!

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