LONDON, Ont. — Presenting a genuine image of today’s modern agriculture is of paramount importance to Andrew Campbell and Greg Peterson.
Campbell has been posting daily cellphone photographs on FaceBook from his dairy farm near London, Ont., while Peterson, together with siblings Nathan, Kendall and Laura, have been releasing parody musical videos on YouTube from their family’s beef and cash crop farm north of Wichita, Kansas.
Most people viewing the posts have been supportive, but there has also been criticism and occasionally online attacks.
“You have to be completely polite and respectful with those people.… If you just fire back, you just create a rift,” Peterson said, citing the example of a vegan who asked how he could kill and eat animals.
“If they just want to place their views onto you, you just have to let it go.”
Campbell said he doesn’t respond to off-the-wall accusations, such as the assertion that he and other dairy farmers routinely rape cows, which is a reference to artificial insemination. However, he does believe there’s value in providing factual information for those willing to listen and learn.
“If we’re not part of the conversation, then our side of the story will not exist,” Campbell told the Southwest Agricultural Conference in Ridgetown Jan. 5.
“We could easily put our heads down and farm, but if we do that, what kind of industry are we going to pass on to the next generation?”
Peterson told the Beef Industry Convention in London Jan. 15 that he recruited his brothers three years ago to perform “I’m a farmer and I know it,” a spoof of the popular I’m Sexy and I Know It music video by performers LMFAO.
Several other parodies followed, and millions have watched them.
“To me, this shows the power of social media,” Peterson said.
“If farmers are not out there telling their stories, others will be who do not know anything about it.”
Peterson wanted to deliver a genuine, straightforward voice for today’s farm families. He addresses issues such as antibiotics, genetic modification and animal welfare.
Peterson now travels the world for paid appearances.
Campbell encouraged farmers to start similar initiatives, and is part of the www.dinnerstartshere.ca website with other young Ontario farmers.
He said interested farmers don’t have to delve into complex or controversial issues to get their voices heard.
Some of the more homey photos he has posted, such as picturesque sunsets, new born calves and his boots and his children’s little boots lined up on a mat, tend to generate considerable positive response by opening a window to the daily experience of farmers.
It’s a similar story for Peterson and his siblings, who sing about their everyday farming activities.