During a break for our performers, Cargill will make a presentation to Trego Hospital Endowment, Inc. for the “TCLMH Renovation & Expansion Project”.
Promoting agriculture through their music
“I’m 100 percent using my major and everything I learned in college,” Peterson said. “When I was in college, I did not think that was going to be the case. I’m literally using everything I learned in college in my current professional life.”
Peterson, who graduated from Kansas State University in 2013, earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications and journalism, with a minor in music performance. While a junior at K-State, Peterson presented a project idea to his brothers, Nathan and Kendal, who were still in school at Southeast of Saline High School.
“I came up with the Farming and I Grow It parody when I was at a Sonic drive-in with a couple of friends and I’m Sexy and I Know It came on the radio,” Peterson said. “I took that idea home and shared it with Nathan and Kendal when they were still in high school.”
Peterson had made a few other videos prior to the music video parody, featuring activity on the farm and music videos he had recorded.
“I had a few other videos before,” Peterson said. “Just a few simple things. That’s where I learned to edit and make music videos. I’m kind of the one who does all the behind the scene work producing, editing and communicating.”
During ag communication classes at K-State, the content was often focused on brainstorming ways to communicate about the agriculture industry. Peterson’s experience creating simple videos provided the foundation for the idea to use music and make a music video to communicate about agriculture.
“I grew up attending Southeast of Saline, and people always knew we were farm kids, and we were always talking about farming,” Peterson said. “We tried to break some of the stereotypes, maybe that farming was boring or stereotypical things of what farmers would wear or how they would look.”
Creating a parody, and developing new lyrics to an already popular tune, dates back to Southeast of Saline days, also.
“I wrote a parody for English 11 to She’s My Cherry Pie about Henry David Thoreau,” Peterson said. “I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. It is something that just comes naturally.”
By June of 2012, Peterson had taken his idea from the Sonic Drive-In, and developed the lyrics to the parody I’m Farming and I Grow It, a music video promoting agriculture, that was released on June 25, 2012. The video featured Peterson and his brothers, with their little sister, Laura, behind the camera.
“It got five million views in a week,” Peterson said. “That was the first time we tried to communicate anything about agriculture beyond our friends, and it definitely surpassed our wildest dreams.”
The day the video was released, Peterson went to work in the field, taking his lunch with him. Nathan and Kendal were eating lunch at home, watching the computer tally the views on YouTube, where the music video was released.
“They called and said, ‘Dude, you need to get in here. This video is blowing up,’” Peterson said. “It got up to 20,000 views that next day. We had talked about how many views we would get. We said maybe we will hit 50,000 in the next few years, that was our benchmark. We hit 50,000 in 48 hours.”
According to Peterson, farming came to a standstill that week, as media requests kept coming in. Peterson estimates that he did over 20 interviews in one day, with KSN, KWCH and KAKE in their barn yard all at once, interviewing one brother at a time in different locations on the property.
“Videos go viral all the time now,” Peterson said. “In 2012, there just wasn’t much video content out there, and that was kind of what created the media drive. I have no idea how they got my phone number, because it wasn’t posted anywhere.”
In addition to local, regional and state media, the Peterson Farm Bros were approached by the national media when I’m Farming and I Grow It went viral.
“We got called by Good Morning America first, and they wanted us to dance on their show with the original artists,” Peterson said. “We were uncomfortable with that, so we said no. Looking back, that was a crazy thing to say no.”
Then, Fox and Friends called, and requested a talk show interview.
“They flew us out to New York City and put us up for the night,” Peterson said. “That was an exciting opportunity.”
As the summer of 2012 wound down, Peterson prepared to return back to K-State to complete his senior year, while brother, Nathan, anticipated his first year at K-State as a freshman.
“I made a few random videos in the fall, and we made Farmer Style in December over Christmas break,” Peterson said. “We filmed it in two days, and it wasn’t as finely tuned. We were just trying to get on the Gangnum Style trend. That trend was to create a parody, or dance the Gangnum Style dance. Everybody was talking about Gangnum Style for, like, two months.”
According to Peterson, the Peterson Farm Bros parody video to Gangnum Style, titled Farmer Style, was one of the top five parodies of Gangnum Style.
“Farmer Style has over 18 million views,” Peterson said. “I’m Farming and I Grow It went viral because it was the first of its kind, a parody rap song about farming. I lot of people shared it that are in agriculture. Farmer Style went twice as fast as I’m Farming and I Grow It. It wasn’t circulated as much in the ag community, so it really bridged the gap into urban audiences.”
Since its release, the I’m Farming and I Grow It parody music video, created by the Peterson Farm Bros, has received more than 12 million views. The Farmer Style parody video has more than 18 million views.
“We had so many comments on Farmer Style, where you could tell that people had never seen information about farming in their life,” Peterson said. “It exposed us to the idea that there are a lot of people who really don’t know anything about agriculture. We realized there needs to be some education, beyond just entertainment.”
According to Peterson, the Peterson Farm Bros did not set out to make a bunch of parody videos and educational videos until Farmer Style went viral.
“When both of them went viral, we saw this was a platform,” Peterson said. “I was still in school, so I don’t think we really got started posting content until I graduated and I was home full-time working on the farm. Then, I started making videos a little more consistently.”
According to Peterson, Facebook became the main platform for the Peterson Farm Bros to share videos, with their Facebook page jumping to 100,000 followers pretty quickly.
“For probably five years, we posted videos to YouTube and shared to Facebook,” Peterson said. “Then, they quit getting along. Once Facebook got video, we started uploading to both.”
Videos posted on Facebook would go viral, and Peterson would often post pictures of what he was doing on the farm that day with a caption. Followers would often post comments in the discussion threads, and Peterson would answer questions about agriculture.
“Ever since, that has been just as much what we are doing as the entertainment – the education and answering people’s questions,” Peterson said. “A lot of people had questions just about our farming operation and how it worked, what crops we raised and how we took care of our cattle. There were a lot of misconceptions too … like ‘I’ve heard farmers do this’ or ‘Our food isn’t healthy because of this.’ We spend a lot of time dedicated to answering people’s questions.”
To leverage time, Peterson came up with a blog system, involving answers to some of the more frequently asked questions the Peterson Farm Bros received.
“When the questions would come up, I would refer them to the blog,” Peterson said. “That way we weren’t typing out long comments, multiple times that said the same thing.”
10 years of innovative ag communications
“About every four to six months we do a new parody, because they are such a huge undertaking,” Peterson said. “Sometimes we want to do a parody to a song, but I can’t come up with lyrics to the whole thing. That’s where some medleys come in.”
In April of 2013, the Peterson Farm Bros partnered with the Kansas Department of Agriculture to promote the new From the Land of Kansas trademark program, publishing a YMCA parody titled From the Land of Kansas. This video was followed by a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air parody, titled A Fresh Breath of Farm Air, published in June of 2013. The 10 year collection of videos on the Peterson Farm Bros YouTube channel includes 24 parody music videos, some original songs produced by Peterson and Thomas Cook out of Wichita, Christmas carols family sing alongs and many educational videos focused on work completed on the farm.
“I will write lyrics in a matter of hours or days,” Peterson said. “I wait for the inspiration to hit, and then it comes together. I write a lot of parody lyrics sitting in the tractor seat, or sometimes I will kind of woodshed the lyrics sitting at my desk at home if I really need to get it done.”
Before any filming is done, ideally the Peterson Farm Bros record the audio in Peterson’s recording studio set up in his home.
“When we are filming, we have that audio playing, and we lips sync to our own voices,” Peterson said. “You can’t really record outside in the Kansas wind live. That doesn’t really work.”
Sometimes, when time is limited, the Peterson Farm Bros just memorize the lyrics, and film without audio.
“We’ve gone and filmed scenes multiple times where Nathan and Kendal didn’t even know their audio yet, and I would just tell them the words, and we would film them saying the words,”Peterson said.
The next step Peterson accomplishes in the process of producing a video for the Peterson Farm Bros is story boarding, marking out the scenes he expects to include in each video.
“In our early videos, we wouldn’t really story board,” Peterson said. “We would just mess around until we had filled the video. In our first few videos, our sister was 11 or 12-years-old, and she would sit behind the tripod and she was the one who filmed our videos.”
The video filming is mainly done on an iPhone, with the I’m Farming and I Grow It video filmed on an iPod touch.
“That really dates that first video,” Peterson said. “I think I got an iPhone that start of my senior year of college. Once our sister, Laura, got into high school, we would put the phone on a tripod and let it go.”
Once the audio is recorded and video is filmed, Peterson uses Garage Band to edit audio and iMovie to edit video.
“I’d bought a MacBook Pro my freshman year of college,” Peterson said. “I learned by trial and error, just messing around. By my junior year, I knew pretty much everything I wanted to do on that software.”
The finished product is then uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. Peterson has dabbled with TikTok, posting Farm Life videos to TikTok. The posts have received over three million views, and the Peterson Farm Bros have over 100,000 followers on TikTok.
“TikTok is a totally different language for me,” Peterson said. “That is a young person’s social media game. I’m doing my best to learn it, but we’ve maybe been a little slow to move over to TikTok. If you want to be successful at TikTok, you need to be posting everyday and keep that content relevant. We have enough social media responsibility, we can’t justify that.”
Plus, for the Peterson Farm Bros, YouTube and Facebook are paying the bills.
“We have ads on our videos,” Peterson said. “We get a deal from YouTube and Facebook every month, split three ways. It’s not like we can quit farming. It is worth the time to create all those videos. We don’t make money off the parodies, because they are copyrighted, but the vlogs of what we are doing on the farm, that don’t have music. We make money on those.”
Ten years after I’m Farming and I Grow It, all three Peterson Farm Bros have graduated from high school and Kansas State University, as has their little sister, Laura. Nathan majored in ag technology management, and manages anything on the farm that is technology including GPS and monitors in the equipment helping with precision agriculture practices. Kendal majored in animal science, focusing on the livestock portion of the diversified farming operation located outside of Assaria, where the Peterson Farm Bros videos are shot. In addition to farming, Peterson has coordinated speaking engagements and performances.
“I would say for the last nine years, I’ve been a speaker,” Peterson said. “It’s definitely a hybrid of speaking and performing. It’s almost always half speaking and half entertaining, with speaking in between the songs on a certain subject. It’s advocating on agriculture.”
Peterson speaks at between 50-60 events each year, with the most speaking gigs in one year being 80. Nathan and Kendal average between 30-40 speaking gigs in a year, alternating who comes so that one brother continues working on the farm.
In addition to earning degrees and finding their role in the family farming operation with their parents, David and Marla Peterson, all three Peterson Farm Bros have gotten married, and each have at least one daughter… Kendal has two. Little sister Laura got married, and moved to Nebraska.
“All of our kids are young,” Peterson said. “Things have changed more in the last two years than at any other time since we started doing videos. We are trying to find a new balance between farming time, family time, video time and performing time. It’s still trying to work itself out.” Visit their website at: petersonfarmbrothers.com.
Great Sponsors to acknowledge (and a BIG Thank You): Cargill, American Family Insurance, Deines Construction, 24/7, BTI, Nutrien, Farm Bureau Insurance, Coffeyville Resources, and Medline.