KEARNEY, Neb. — An idea for a farm-based music video sparked by a song playing at a drive-in restaurant quickly made three fifth-generation Kansas farmer brothers YouTube sensations.
It also laid the foundation for an agriculture education-farm advocacy venture that has spread across social media platforms.
At Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic FFA Day on Wednesday, 25-year-old Greg Peterson said he was eating out with friends at a Manhattan, Kan., Sonic when the LMFAO song “I’m Sexy and I Know It” was played.
He wasn’t crazy about the song, but it didn’t take long for the Kansas State graduate with a degree in ag communications and minor in music to write lyrics for a parody, “I’m Farming and I Grow It.” The next step was to persuade his younger brothers Nathan and Kendal, now KSU students, to participate.
“We were skeptical at first,” Nathan said.
“We thought he was crazy,” Kendal added, especially about posting something on YouTube for the whole world to see.
The video was filmed over three weeks and required permission from their dad to get off early some days from their work on the family’s 1,000-acre crop farm and beef backgrounding feedlot near Assaria, Kan., south of Salina. Greg said his dad had no idea what they were doing but said to go ahead as long as they didn’t break anything.
The goal for the video was maybe 50,000 YouTube views after a few years.
It took off immediately, starting with shares by friends, FFA advisers and others in the ag community. The video had 50,000 views in just a couple of days.
Local media coverage followed and then someone from Fox News called to ask the brothers to come to New York City. Kendal said they left the farm at 11 a.m., were in NYC by 11 that night and were interviewed the next morning. “Nathan and I had never been on a plane before,” he added.
Eight days after “I’m Farming and I Grow It” was posted, it had been viewed 5 million times. Soon, the Petersons were getting invitations to make presentations across the United States and in Germany, Australia, South Africa and Canada.
“We definitely weren’t in Kansas anymore,” Kendal joked during the Petersons’ public appearance Wednesday afternoon at which the brothers sang along with four of their videos projected on the NCC sale ring screens. That included “Chore” a take on Katy Perry’s hit “Roar” and “Farming Style,” a parody of the strange, but popular “Gangnam Style” by Psy.
Only nine of their 75 online videos are parodies. The others focus on life on the farm and ag issues.
Greg said they originally didn’t intend to do more than one parody, but were convinced by social media comments about the first one to do more and to expand their work as ag advocates.
Nathan said some of the outrageous comments may have been made up, but at least they could tell that kids far removed from production agriculture were watching.
“One asked, ‘When did Kansas get Internet?’” he said with a laugh, and another wondered why the boys worked so hard to grow their food when they could buy it at the grocery store.
“That told us the videos and other information was something that needed to be done,” Greg said, and the sense of urgency grows each time modern agriculture is misrepresented.
The brothers’ venture now includes having a Facebook page, writing blogs and hosting farm tours, which are ways to say more than is possible in the videos. Nathan said the videos remain an important way to “grab” people who may decide they want to know more about the people who grow their food.
“If everyone (consumers) could visit a farm, I think it would really change their perspective,” Greg said.
During a special presentation for the more than 300 FFA members at the Classic, he said: “Something like that could happen to any of you. You don’t know where life will take you. ... If you would have told us five years ago we would be doing this, we wouldn’t have believed it.”
Nathan said it’s most important to “just tell your story,” starting with different circles of friends.
“Just be available to answer questions. ... It might lead to another question or to your friend sharing the answer with someone else. You don’t have to get millions of views on YouTube. You can start small with your story,” he said.
The Petersons answered questions from FFA members that ranged from whether they are single — yes — to how their farm work gets done when they are traveling.
They also were asked if they listen to their own music.
“Not if we can help it,” Nathan said. “Our dad will sit on the couch and watch our videos over and over, and we ask him to stop.”