Candid Conversation | Peterson Farm BrothersPosted on Aug 26, 2021
KFB Candid Conversation presents a discussion about the topical issues related to KFB priorities, the agricultural industry, and rural communities, in a question and answer format. In this column, Greg and Nathan Peterson, two of the three Peterson Farm Brothers, talk about their highly popular way of advocating for agriculture.
Editor’s note: The Peterson Farm Brothers are noted social media presenters who have gained international attention showcasing the work done on their Kansas family farm by way of popular song parodies. In addition to Greg and Nathan, Kendall is the third brother. Normally when the brothers travel only two of the three make a trip; the third staying behind to work on the farm. Greg and Nathan recently appeared at Devine’s Corn Maze farm in Mercer County for an event.
KFB: First, would you mind sharing a little bit about your farming operation in Kansas?
PFB: There are three of us brothers who represent the fifth generation on our family farm. We raise beef cattle, mostly backgrounding feeder cattle, as well as some cow/calf. We also raise wheat, corn, milo, or grain sorghum, as more people know it, and soybeans, and lots of different forages for the cattle. So, we’re kind of your typical Kansas family farm.
KFB: Having seen many of your videos, how did this whole song parody idea begin, and did you ever think it would grow, to the point it has, in popularity?
PFB: Nine years ago, we decided to make a parody music video, just something to show our friends at school, as a way to answer their questions about farming. But we wanted the video to be good enough, that we didn't get made fun of, so we really went all out, and then we posted it. Little did we dream it would get five million views in a week. All of a sudden, everybody was watching it, and we decided to keep making videos. Over the last nine years, we've made over 20 music videos, as well as hundreds and hundreds, of other videos. And our view count is up to about 150 million. The reactions definitely blew us away and were totally unexpected.
KFB: Why do you think these videos are so popular?
PFB: Well, I think that the farming community is a big community of people, and while there's country music that talks about the rural lifestyle, there's just not a whole lot of music that's specifically farming. And I think that really connected with people, but not just people in agriculture, even people outside of agriculture. But we think there are a lot of factors that go into it such as seeing a family working together, seeing a modern day farm in-action with all the big equipment and some of the scenery, and of course the animals, and the three brothers working together, and of course there is the music aspect of it.
When all this began, did you think about how important the message that you were sending out might be?
PFB: With the first video, we would say, not really. Greg, just kind of made up the lyrics for what fit with the original song. But after that, we heard from a lot of people who said this could really be something that would teach people about agriculture. So with later videos, I think we thought a lot more about it. And, we met with people from different organizations like Farm Bureau who said this was more educational than we realized.
KFB: How big of a role has social media played in getting your messages out, as well as the message about agriculture?
PFB: We’ve always loved social media, and our intent with the first video, was to reach as many people as possible, but we had no idea of the capability that social media had. Now, after our second video went viral, our eyes really opened. And so, from that point on we’ve had more of a plan. Before social media, a farmer in a rural area, wasn't able to get their message out, and show what they were doing to millions of people, without a television crew. Now, any farmer with a cell phone that has internet can film what they're doing, post it, and people can see it. So that's really cool, and farmers can join in conversations on social media. But there are also a lot of negatives to social media, and a lot of people posting things that aren't true. We're trying to use social media for the good things, and we're trying to use it to educate, and be positive about farming, to combat some of the negative things that are being posted.
KFB: COVID-19 has really taken a toll on the country especially when we were all isolated. How important do you think it is that we are seeing some kind of normalcy appearing, especially in rural areas?
PFB: I think even without COVID, farmers, and rural areas can be isolated sometimes. In the last couple of years, there's a lot more awareness of mental health among farmers and rural communities, and I think it’s important being able to get together with other people, and not being afraid to share problems, and not being afraid to help other people through things. Being able to interact and fellowship with people, and that's something that should never ever be lost. Whether it is through church or other organizations out there that invite people in, it's important for anyone not to be isolated.
KFB: Since you guys are young farmers yourselves, how do we get the next generation involved in agriculture?
PFB: We're just big believers in off-farm income, especially, when you're getting started in this day and age. It’s not like it was 20, 30, 40 years ago, to where you could just farm, in many cases. Now, it takes a little bit to get started, and you don't want to get buried in debt. So, to have other sources of income, maybe something through the farm such as custom work, or just something that's steady, because, your farming income is going to be up and down, and it can get you in trouble. We definitely preach that. But at the same time, you don't want to just work so much you don't have any time for family. I think that's a temptation for young people too, is to just work to the bone, and not enjoy family. You have to find that balance.
KFB: Many of the people who are seeing your videos probably aren't on the farm or familiar with agriculture. What's your message to those folks?
PFB: We hope they put some thought into where food from the grocery store comes from, and all the different steps it goes through. It wasn't just farmers, it was people that process it, package it, transport it, and distribute it. We understand that farmers wouldn't be anything without consumers either. So, we're all working together. We eat the food that we raise, so we're trying to do it in a safe way with the information we're given. That’s not to say that improvements can't be made, but we just hope consumers realize that, farmers put a lot of thought and care into how they treat their land and animals, and how they raise crops, and that we're doing our best. Even though it's hard. And with its challenges. There was a morning this past winter when is was minus 20 degrees in Kansas, but we were still farming.
KFB: Speaking of minus 20 degrees, we're getting a lot of talk about climate change, and our cows seem to be getting a lot of negativity. So, what do you tell people when they say, “Do you know your cows are polluting the world?”
PFB: Cattle are doing more good than harm. I mean, the benefits of raising cattle provide, not just on the food side of things, but how grasslands are managed, the organic material that goes back into the soil, and how it helps diversify a farming operation. The list goes on and on including all the products cattle provide outside of food. When you can look at it objectively, you can't really blame cattle when they're responsible for a very small percentage of greenhouse gas.
KFB: What does the future hold for the Peterson Farm Brothers?
PFB: We're working on more videos as always. But as far as the traveling goes, we've probably passed the peak of our ability to travel. We’re married, now, and going to be fathers. So I think we may slow down a little bit from a travel perspective, but we do hope to keep making videos, and hope to keep growing our farm to where it can support us all, and hope for the best.