Going Viral With Ag

3/8/2014 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A simple idea, making a music video promoting farming, has helped young Kansas farmer Greg Peterson open doors and start a career in agriculture advocacy.

“It’s about taking the initiative. You are needed. If we are not telling that story someone else will,” Peterson told members of the Pennsylvania Holstein Association at their Feb. 28 banquet at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in State College.

Peterson spoke about he and his brothers’ meteoric rise to international fame last summer with their viral music video.

He and brothers Nathan and Kendall perform as the Peterson Bros. group.

Visit YouTube and the most-viewed genre of movies are music videos, according to Peterson. Before the Peterson Bros. video posting, the social media platform was bereft of farming-themed music videos.

Farm music videos merge two of Peterson’s passions — agriculture and music.

He is a graduate of Kansas State University with a degree in agriculture communications and music. When not traveling the country speaking about agricultural advocacy, he works for his father on their central Kansas beef and crop farm.

“What made three kids do a video like this? I was always challenging myself to advocate for agriculture,” he said.

The idea for the first video, “I’m Farming and I Grow It,” came from a conversation with college friends about making up lyrics for the song “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” by the music group LMFAO.

Once he came up with the tag line, he was challenged to run with it.

He said it took some persuading to get his brothers on board, but once they agreed and shot the first scene, the tone was set.

“We wanted to create an epic’ video on the farm” after shooting the scene of them walking through a wheat field before harvest, he said.

The brothers thought it would be great if they achieved 50,000 views of the video on YouTube. Today, that first video has racked up more than 9 million views.

Since then, they have had additional “hits” — parodies of other popular songs. As a rule of thumb, they do not parody country songs. Peterson said it’s so they can reach urban and suburban audiences.

“We have kept it homemade,” Peterson said, describing the video-making process, and he thinks that is part of the appeal.

The brothers also don’t glamorize farm life. They wear what they typically would wear to work around the farm, opting to show what a normal day there looks like.

And they film around their actual farm chores.

To record their videos, Peterson uses a simple digital video camera and some audio recording equipment. It takes five to six hours of editing using iMovie and Garage Band programs to refine the shoot into a music video.

The Petersons do not make money from their parody music videos, the original artist does.

“I have not heard of any artists looking at our videos” because of any money they might have generated, he said.

YouTube has an ad revenue sharing program for qualified video postings.

The brothers clearly point out that their videos are a parody of the original song. Parodies are considered fair use as long as they do not profit from the song, according to copyright law.

Peterson said June 25, 2012, was the day that changed everything for him and his brothers. It was the day they posted their video. Within a week, they were fielding national fame.

Media coverage began two days after the video was posted when their local newspaper called for an interview. The next day, all three television stations showed up in the farm lane to tape interviews.

“We started wondering what was going on here,” Peterson said.

The fourth day, they were off to Fox News in New York City for a morning interview. The fifth, they were back at the farm. Peterson was swathing or tedding hay when the Associated Press called his cellphone.

“It’s one thing to go viral on YouTube, it’s another to go viral in the media,” he said.

The experience, while a great chance to talk about farming, did get overwhelming at times, he said, but it has set the stage for the brothers to talk about their farm and how most farms, no matter the size, are family-run farms.

Overall, the reviews of the brothers’ videos have been positive. On average, 98 percent of the comments support their work.

But with millions of views, 1 percent still amounts to a significant number of people. When dealing with negative comments, Peterson said he focuses on remaining respectful through the discussion.

This past week on their Facebook page, the brothers have started putting up more “controversial” posts to educate their followers about farming. They also plan to start hosting farm tours this summer.

Holstein Breeders Honored

Top Holstein breeders and supporters were also recognized during the convention.

The award winners were Douglas and Jennifer Boop, Distinguished Young Breeder; John Foster Jr. and Rick Allen, Pennsylvania Holstein Hall of Fame; and Herb Steele, Distinguished Supporter Award.

Additional information about the winners will be in the March issue of Eastern Dairy Reporter.

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