(A version of this article first appeared in The Farmer’s Pride, February 14 issue)
FRANKFORT, Ky. — In 2012, Greg Peterson was finishing up a degree in Agriculture Communications at Kansas State University. While entertaining some friends with agriculture-related parody lyrics to popular songs, Peterson decided to employ his knack for video editing and appreciation of pop culture to make a music video with his then high school-aged brothers. The rest, as they say, is viral internet history.
The Peterson Farm Brothers have, to date, racked up over 10 million views on their initial offering “I’m Farming and I Grow It” and have produced eight other music videos as well as a number of informational videos about life on their fifth-generation family farm, located near Assaria, KS.
Greg PetersonThe 27-year-old internet sensation recently spoke in Louisville at the American Forage and Grassland Council annual meeting, encouraging his fellow farmers to engage a waiting audience and tell their story.
“Growing up in rural Kansas, you would think that all our friends would have known what it means to be a farm kid,” Peterson reflected. “Most of our friends in public school didn’t know much about farming and would almost look down on us for being farm kids.”
Rather than be embarrassed about who they were and where they came from, Peterson says he and his brothers, and one sister began advocating for agriculture in elementary school, trying to convince their classmates that farming was “cool.”
The young Petersons’ efforts continued through high school and on into college.
While in class at Kansas State one day, Peterson’s instructor showed a professionally-produced ag advocacy video.
“I remember thinking the video was really well done and communicated a great message, but I don’t know if my friends from Kansas City would sit down and watch it,” said Peterson. “I thought, surely there’s a much more entertaining way to get this message across.”
Peterson was also working on a minor in Music Performance, which he admits is a rather odd pairing but one that would soon reap substantial dividends. The talented young agri-artist enjoys singing and playing the piano, guitar, and trumpet.
“Growing up as a musician as well as a farmer, I always knew the power that music had to get people to pay attention to something they might otherwise ignore,” Peterson notes. “I thought, why not use music to advocate for agriculture.”
The next step was to find a tune that might grab the attention of an urban audience, similar to his former classmates, that might have some incorrect information about agriculture and use it to counter those misperceptions.
“One evening I was sitting in a restaurant with some of my friends and the song ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’ was playing,” Peterson recalls. “Ironically, I didn’t like that song, so I started changing the lyrics to make my friends laugh, and that’s when the light came on that I could make a parody music video about farming.”
Many of the videos the Peterson Farm Brothers produce are based on popular contemporary tunes that an urban audience might quickly recognize.
When Greg pitched the concept to brothers Nathan and Kendall, they weren’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea.
“They looked at me like I was crazy,” he mused. “They didn’t want to create something and put it online that might get made fun of.”
“When we made this video, we were aiming it at our friends,” he continues. “We never thought it would go viral and attract millions of views.”
The brothers shot the video while they were working and produced it when they could find some downtime from their farming responsibilities. The production of the three-and-a-half-minute video took about a month.
“We talked about how many views we thought this video would get, and the highest number we threw out there was maybe 50-thousand views in a couple of years if it was really successful,” Peterson said.
Within four days of posting the YouTube video, it had been viewed over half a million times and the brothers were receiving national media attention. By the end on that week, the video had been watched more than five million times.
The success of “I’m Farming and I Grow It” spawned more efforts by the brothers, also featuring younger sister Laura.
“If you want to advocate for agriculture, the first step is to take the initiative,” Peterson says. “Maybe it’s making a video or making a Facebook post or maybe just talking to someone, you have to take the initiative. It’s not going to happen by itself.”
You can see the Peterson Farm Brothers’ videos on their YouTube channel and follow their advocacy efforts on Facebook.
— Ray Bowman, The Farmer Feeds Us All
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