Peterson Farm Brothers use social media to reach urban audienceWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Deadwood, S.D. – Sitting at a Sonic drive-thru with a bunch of college friends, Greg Peterson of Kansas started making up words to a song on the radio.
“The idea started spur of the moment, trying to make my friends laugh,” he explained at the Joint Wyoming and South Dakota Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference on Jan. 22 in Deadwood, S.D. “It gave me the idea for a parody, and I was really excited about it, so I wrote out the words.”
When he got back home to the family farm that summer, Greg pitched his idea to his brothers Nathan and Kendal. He wanted to make a video for YouTube, singing his parody, “I’m Farming and I Grow It,” a play on “I’m Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO.
Although they were skeptical, Greg’s brothers agreed, and they recorded the lyrics in their basement.
“Then we started filming. While we were working, we would ask Dad for 15 minutes before the sun went down to film the video. He had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, so he said, ‘Sure, go ahead,’” Nathan shared.
With the help of their sister Laura, the Peterson Farm Brothers completed their video and uploaded it to YouTube, hoping that maybe one day, they could get as many as 50,000 views.
“After we posted it, our friends, their friends and their friends started posting it immediately, and we ended up getting over 50,000 views in the first couple of days,” Nathan continued.
Within three days, all of the local TV networks had arrived on the farm, and by the end of the week, the brothers were on a flight to New York City, N.Y. for a TV interview with FOX News.
“When we posted that video, we had no idea this was going to happen. That Sunday, we were just finishing up filming, being a normal farm family, and by the end of that week, we were YouTube celebrities. Everywhere we went, people would recognize us for our videos. That was really weird for us,” stated Greg.
A new video
The brothers expected their 15 minutes of fame to pass as they went back to their normal lives, but in 2012, a song called “Gangnam Style,” by PSY, inspired them again, and work on a new parody began.
“We didn’t know why anyone was watching ‘Gangnam Style,’ but it has a pretty catchy beat. We thought, if we did another parody video, all the people who watched ‘I’m Farming and I Grow It’ would watch ‘Farmer Style,’” he said. “What we didn’t realize was that ‘Gangnam Style’ would become so popular. Our parody ended up becoming one of its most popular parodies.”
“Farmer Style” received 10 million views within one week of being posted on YouTube.
The video was shared around the world, and Kendal remarked, “It was really cool to see that these people are getting a glimpse of agriculture here in the United States where so much food and fiber is produced, and we could see it in the comments.”
Advocating for Ag
Although the brothers weren’t sure how serious some of the comments were, it became clear than many viewers didn’t have a good concept of how a farm operates or how food is produced.
“We were really happy to see, especially after these first two videos, we had a platform to get this information out to a more urban public. We really started focusing on filling our lyrics with information, as well as keeping them fun, to reach the urban public,” Kendal continued.
Expanding their social media platform, the Peterson Farm Brothers added a Facebook page, Twitter account and a blog, where they could address some of the more controversial issues, like genetically modified organisms, animal welfare and the use of chemicals on the farm.
“We have been very successful in terms of how we can draw people in with our entertaining videos but then send them to the blog to go more in-depth with some of their questions,” Greg noted.
Three and a half years after they posted their first video on YouTube, the Peterson Farm Brothers have upwards of 38 million YouTube views and a Facebook audience of over 300,000 people.
“For anyone who wants to advocate for what they want to do as a farmer or rancher, it basically boils down to taking the initiative to go out and do it,” Greg commented. “If all we do is talk about it, we’re not going to make any impact. We would really like to encourage people to take the initiative and see what happens. Even if we only reach one person or five people, those people have been impacted because we took that initiative.”
The brothers have also started inviting people to visit their farm and have had great success with their farm tours.
“People watch our videos and think they’re funny, but if they go out to the farm and spend the day on the farm, they will remember that for the rest of their lives,” he added.
The Petersons live on a farm in Kansas, where they background cattle and raise corn, wheat, soybeans, sorghum and alfalfa.
“We grew up working as brothers on the farm, just like we still do. We just put a camera in front of it. We always enjoy telling our friends about what we are doing on the farm, and a lot of times, they don’t really understand so we have to explain what we were doing. We never knew what this would turn into,” he said.
The brothers encouraged other producers to share their stories, explaining that many people have an image of a farmer with a pitchfork or a big industrial system but very little idea about the middle ground.
“Sharing can go a long way, even if it’s just a simple conversation. I had a conversation at the lunch table in college the other day, about how important soil is. I was talking with engineering majors and biology majors, and they connected to agriculture realized farmers are being stewards of the land as well,” Kendal explained.
Greg also reiterated, “The message doesn’t have to reach 100 people at a time. It can be one friend who’s never been on a farm before. We never know how many people will be impacted by the people we impact.”