CORRELL, Minn. – Chet Larson is a little shy – when he’s not talking to his camera.
If 200,000 people drove up to his farm site, he wouldn’t know what to say.
Yet somehow, he talks to that many people roughly every 2-3 days via Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Facebook.
The 26-year-old farmer in west central Minnesota has developed a huge following on social media. Chet and the farm gang at Larson Farms get at least 175,000-220,000 views for each 20-minute video they post on YouTube. Larson Farms has 333,000 subscribers on YouTube and is growing.
“It’s fun to be a role model for kids,” he said. “The fan base of the kids is unreal – from some who can barely walk to college kids that are taller than me.”
At various meet-and-greets, Chet, and his dad, Doug, plus employee Eric “The Big Swede” Weber, and Brody Bahr have met many people who follow Larson Farms online.
Fans often tell Chet they learn a lot about mechanics, farming, and friendship from him. Chet tells them that he appreciates all their good comments. They especially help him improve his camera work.
“The hardest thing to learn is how to film properly to tell the story correctly,” he said.
Chet is a fifth-generation farmer at Larson Farms, established in 1918. He farms with his grandpa, Merlyn; his uncle, Randy; and his dad, Doug; as well as their loyal farm employees. They grow corn and soybeans and are trying edible beans this year.
“Dad and Randy have taken it from a small, outdated farm to an extremely modern and updated farm,” he said.
Chet has been farming for 10 years, renting his first farm when he was 17. In 2019, a friend of Chet’s suggested he start posting on Instagram.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to do that. Instagram is for girls – why would I want to do that?’ But I started there and grew a huge following,” he said. “I had 25,000 followers in a year.”
Another young farmer on social media, Cole The Cornstar, reached out to Chet and recommended he try making videos for YouTube. The process is called vlogging (video logging about your day).
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“I didn’t know anything about that,” Chet said. “It is a very difficult platform because you must put a video together. It’s not just a 10-second clip, but I started it and that’s when we started to see a bigger following and interest. It was fun to make people laugh and show what we are doing.”
Something happened when they got on YouTube – many fans of the Larson Farms Instagram page followed them to the new platform. YouTube quickly increased their numbers to 100,000 in just a few months and the numbers kept increasing.
What makes Larson Farms unusual is their emphasis on daily maintenance and jobs that must be done. They don’t simplify their conversations for their audience, and their level of concentration is high.
Viewers are about 93 percent men and 7 percent women. Chet thinks most of the women watching are the moms of kids watching the videos.
He strives to present “family entertainment.”
There is also plenty of laughing and support for everyone on the crew. Never was that more apparent than when Nicole Larson, Chet’s wife, was diagnosed with a quick growing form of cancer in 2020. She fought hard but lived only 7 more months. Nicole passed away on May 27, 2021.
Nicole saw the value of social media, and had her own successful YouTube channel, Nicole’s Untold Gold. She starred in videos with Chet, too, and her work included editing hours of filming for Larson Farms’ videos. Larson Farms now hires a company to edit the videos.
When she passed so quickly, Chet’s best friend, The Big Swede, took on a larger role in the videos. Funny, interesting, and young, The Big Swede now has his own YouTube videos at Larson Farms and on Instagram.
“The more you put the camera on him, the more witty and smart-alecky and sarcastic he gets, and it just adds that element of humor,” Chet said.
His dad, who goes by “Dougo” in the videos, is warming up to the camera, too. Although still a young farmer himself, Dougo talks about the farm’s history and is always supportive.
The farm and the farmland are also “characters” within the videos. Farming near Lake Artichoke, the soil north of the farm site is gumbo. When it gets wet, the soil becomes sticky and heavy, and that can lead to equipment breakdowns – a common theme in Larson Farms’ videos. Farmland in the other directions tend to be easier to farm, but the fields come in various shapes. It all depends on the locations of ditches and wetlands. The Larsons over-size some of their equipment for the smaller fields to compensate for the extra time it takes to work them. The larger equipment is needed for the square and big fields in the Red River Valley.
The Larsons have done well, but two storms in May damaged trees, bins, and buildings. Damage to trees across the miles indicate at least one tornado touched down along with straight line winds.
As the summer continues, the videos show how a new 200,000-bushel grain bin is being built. They ordered the bin last year hoping for more storage. Instead, the new bin is mostly replacing grain storage lost to the wind.
It all makes for good YouTube watching.
“I like to show the good and the bad,” Chet said. “I generally don’t hide any of the bad – the breakdowns, my personal screwups, breaking stuff, the employees. They know the camera is coming if they are stuck or broke something. That’s part of the farming aspect we show.”
Larson Farms will hold a meet-and-greet at the Kibble Equipment booths (531 and 534) during Farmfest. Please stop by on Wednesday, Aug. 3, from 10 a.m.-noon to say hello! Limited edition Larson Farms’ hats will be available to purchase with all proceeds going to Farm Rescue.