Sneaking education into agriculture

MYSTIC, Ct. — Fans of Peterson Farm Bros viral videos lined up to pay $5 each for an autographed poster and a photo with one of the video’s stars.

“The excitement and response is as strong as it’s ever been,” said Greg Peterson, a featured speaker at the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association meeting here Feb. 6.

It’s been five years and numerous parody videos since Greg, Nathan and Kendal Peterson’s viral YouTube video “I’m farming and I grow it” set to the song, “I’m Sexy and I Know it.”

He said their farm-based videos have received 43 million views and their Facebook page has 350,000 friends.

That’s a lot of exposure for the fifth generation mixed farm in Assaria, Kansas, whose population sits at 30.

Such public appearances and speaking engagements are a full-time and profitable job for Peterson, whose work has taken him to see farms around the world and thrust him into the realm of public speaking..

“I want to advocate for agriculture for the rest of my life,” he said.

Peterson cited the amount of misinformation spread through social media as seen in the recent U.S. election campaign.

The farm videos represent an opportunity for him to explain food production methods, dispel myths and show the diverse nature of agriculture.

“The videos are not just entertainment but a voice in that conversation,” said Peterson, who also uses other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“Social media is powerful and a huge part of today’s culture,” he said.

He hopes the videos instil a sense of pride in the farming community, an important message for the youth who represent the future.

Peterson said the videos walk a fine line between entertainment and education and noted the family is careful in selecting sponsorships for their video footage.

The videos were novel at the time they launched and represent finding something unique that no one else is doing and capitalizing on it, he said.

He advised delegates tackling such videos to concentrate on building relationships and trust with intended viewers.

“Connecting with people is what you should focus on first,” he said. “People have said ‘I know you guys are real, honest and I trust what you have to say’. ”

Ann Maury, who makes pastries and chocolates and conducts tours at her family business in Sal berry-de-Valleyfield, Que., agrees.

“You have to be authentic, honest with your products and customers and yourself,” she said.

Maury wants to improve her videos to show how everything is made “from scratch” and drawn from family recipes.

That, sprinkled with humour and enthusiasm, will help consumers digest the information more easily, she said.

Brothers Gaurav and Amir Maan of Maan Farms Country Experience in Abbotsford, B.C., also see videos in the future of their horticultural operation.

Their family’s farm includes an estate winery, farm market, U-pick operation and petting zoo.

They prefer to show the typical work done on the farm each day rather than strive for viral videos.

“Views are just numbers of people looking at your video,” Amir said. “Engagement is our return on investment, because we want our customers to interact with us and engage with us,” he said.

“When documenting rather than creating, it comes off as more personal,” said Gaurav.

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