St. CLOUD, Minn. – Larry, Curly and Moe move over. The Peterson Farm Bros. rival the Three Stooges with their clever music videos that get people laughing about happenings on the farm.
Many people have heard the Peterson Farm Bros. story. Brothers Greg (28), Nathan (25) and Kendal (22) six years ago sang and danced in their first parody with little sister Laura Peterson (18) videoing their farm antics.
With 5 million views the first week their first parody came out, the Peterson Farm Bros. had an instant and profitable YouTube hit. They’ve gone on to produce 15 parody videos as well as some videos of their own music.
Today, the Petersons are funding their ability to farm together through social media. Greg is fulltime on social media and speaking, while Nathan and Kendal are fulltime on the farm but also do social media and speak part-time.
Their goals quickly moved beyond providing entertainment to advocating for agriculture. They hope to encourage the non-farming consumer to develop an understanding of modern farming practices.
“So, we got started kind of accidentally,” said Greg Peterson during a presentation at the Central Minnesota Farm Show. “We just wanted to make a video to show our friends who were in the city, and even those who were from small towns around us but didn’t necessarily know what happened on just the average farm.”
With thousands of people quickly following them through YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, the Peterson Farm Bros. decided they had a responsibility to let people know what is involved in farming and to get discussions going about agriculture.
“Basically, what we do online is we have entertaining content,” he said. “Then, we have informational YouTube videos where we talk about what we do on our farm during each month of the year.”
Now, with 500,000 followers on a variety of social media platforms, the Petersons have found that the first step to teaching people about farming is just connecting with them in the first place.
“We use our music videos as a bridge,” he said. “The reason people want to learn about farming techniques and practices and the safety and health of food is because we’ve established the credibility. They watch our music videos. They see, ‘Oh wow, this is a real farm family.’”
Viewers first began asking Greg what he thought about things like GMOs. The Petersons decided they wanted to have conversations with people who were looking for a farmer they trusted.
Greg wanted to be as transparent as possible to help change public perception.
From the start, if the Petersons post a photo or video where they are spraying, they will post a comment about only spraying one pop can’s worth of actual pesticide over a whole acre. They talk about how the chemical is mixed with water. Viewers learn that farmers are not just driving over all of their crops and covering them with chemicals.
If they are working with livestock, they tell viewers why they give vaccines or why they may give antibiotics – whether it’s to save a life or make them healthy. They talk about the protocols for using vaccines or antibiotics or other medications.
“It’s just a transparent thing, and we encourage other farmers to do the same thing,” Greg said. “As long as you feel comfortable answering these questions, you can post. If you don't know the answer to the questions people have, there are plenty of ways to find it online.”
One of the things they learned early on was the importance of protecting their own time. As a 21-year-old college student, Greg initially tried to respond to every person who commented – especially when they asked about why the Petersons used certain practices.
He quickly realized he had to write down his thoughts in blogs. He now tries to blog once or twice a week, and the Petersons will copy and paste answers to many of the questions they receive.
“You get a lot of people who are literally just coming to your page to try to fight with you,” he said. “What you can do with those comments is instead of getting in a fight, you can copy and paste a link to your blog. We can say, ‘This is what I believe is the truth.’
“We’re farmers,” he continued. “This is our background.”
With 400,000 followers on Facebook – and many that will click onto their blogs – the Petersons have found they generally connect with people who are in the middle ground as far as their beliefs in food production and looking for more information. They further relate to their viewers by showing the family dynamics that go on back at the farm. Decisions are made in a similar fashion to most people – from bill paying, to planning family events, to staying busy.
In 2019, many people just want to be entertained by the Internet, to have a few minutes to when they can escape. The Petersons realize that many viewers want to focus on cute dogs and cats and animals doing silly things. While providing that entertainment, the Petersons are also providing information about modern day farming practices.
“You probably want more entertainment and lighthearted stuff than tougher subjects,” Greg said.
For farmers who want to reach out to consumers, a blog or a music video may seem like too much work. Greg encourages farmers to consider adding some comments online regarding a controversial subject as a way to advocate for agriculture.
“You don’t have to be a professional in social media to answer someone’s comments. You can join a comment section or reply to a tweet or comment on a Facebook post,” he said.
Learning to use social media involves trial and error, but as you learn you get better. It’s not necessary to have all of the answers. Being honest and transparent helps build a farmer’s credibility, Greg said.
“When people can tell that you’re not trying to push anything on them, you’re just trying to answer questions truthfully, that really resonates with people.”