Internet ag advocate says combat negativity
FARGO, N.D. -- If agriculture presents a new face to consumers, it might look a lot like Greg Peterson's. Peterson, 23, is the eldest of a trio of brothers from central Kansas and the leader in creating a series of agricultural advocacy videos th...
FARGO, N.D. -- If agriculture presents a new face to consumers, it might look a lot like Greg Peterson's.
Peterson, 23, is the eldest of a trio of brothers from central Kansas and the leader in creating a series of agricultural advocacy videos that have gone viral since June 2012.
On April 22, Peterson was in Fargo, N.D., and spoke to the North Dakota State University collegiate Farm Bureau organization. Kimberly Klein, a junior animal science major from Hazen, N.D., and outgoing president for the host group, said the group tries to annually bring in someone to advocate for agriculture.
Peterson offered a brief history of his family's unexpected and sudden rise to fame. He said it was "dumb luck" that allowed his first video -- envisioned as a "fun home video to show to family and friends" -- to go viral and catapult his family into national fame.
He urged the NDSU students to "simply try" to do the same to help "combat all the negativity" surrounding agriculture. He said it is important to give consumers "some faces to relate to."
All together, the family's videos have hit about 30 million views. Under the name Peterson Farm Bros, he and his brothers have five parodies starting with "I'm Farming and I Grow it," (original, "I'm Sexy and I Know it"), which got 6 million views in the first 10 days and has hit 9 million views. Six months later, they did "Farmer Style" ("Gangnam Style") now at 15.2 million views. Later, "A Fresh Breath of Farm Air" ("The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"), 900,000 views; and then "Bale" ("Sail") 500,000. About four months ago, they came out with Peterson's favorite -- "A Katy Perry-dy" called "Chore" ("Roar"), which is climbing at nearly 1 million hits.
The music videos feature Greg and his brothers, Nathan, 20, and Kendal, 17, and range from parody take-offs to educational, to simply entertaining video snippets.
Despite all the attention, Peterson said he and his brothers are fifth-generation farmers and are not so unusual.
The family operates with family labor, including a cousin. The Petersons have a 1,000-head feedlot where they background-feed cattle to about 800 or 900 pounds, and they raise wheat and corn for silage. He told students he'd spent 12 hours on April 21 planting corn back home and spends about a third of his time farming.
Several NDSU students asked Peterson how ordinary farmers and ranchers can combat negative impressions of agriculture, citing misinformation about genetically modified food, or impressions that livestock are mistreated.
Peterson said his interactions with the public on Facebook and elsewhere have convinced him that it's best to be diplomatic, treat critics with respect and truly listen to their concerns.
Peterson said some of his most gratifying feedback from the videos involves grade school children, who are often shown the videos in school.
The lesson is that "what we're doing is needed, not only to inform people, but to re-inform them," he said.
On the other hand, farmers need to think about criticisms and look for practical, sustainable ways to improve.
Peterson noted that his younger brother, Nathan, was famously photographed as a stunned Wildcats fan when the NDSU Bison football team beat the Kansas State University in an upset victory in August 2013.
"That stuff always happens to him, and he hates the attention," Greg said, smiling, as his Bison audience laughed.