LIGHTS, CAM­ERA, AC­TION!

VIDEO IS A POW­ER­FUL WAY FOR FARM­ERS TO SHARE THEIR STO­RIES BY JESSIE SCOTT

Successful Farming - - CONTENTS -

When Derek Klin­gen­berg – bet­ter known as Farmer Derek – started pro­duc­ing YouTube videos, that was his am­bi­tious goal. While he had no for­mal video training, he did have in­cred­i­ble cre­ative en­ergy to fun­nel into the en­deavor. This turned into a slew of quirky, com­i­cal videos of mu­sic par­o­dies, cow ser­e­nades, and cre­ations like his hay house.

To­day, the farmer from Pe­abody, Kansas, has crushed his orig­i­nal goal. Klin­gen­berg has gar­nered 33 mil­lion views on his YouTube chan­nel – with six videos sur­pass­ing 1 mil­lion views each.

Klin­gen­berg is among a new gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers us­ing video to show a fresh and per­sonal per­spec­tive on agri­cul­ture and farm­ing. This gen­er­a­tion isn’t de­fined by an age range but rather by a will­ing­ness to show­case their farms and step in front of a cam­era. Here are the sto­ries of how three farm­ers and one farm kid are us­ing video in new and dis­tinc­tive ways.

Farmer Derek

Derek Klin­gen­berg may be the lazi­est farmer in all of Kansas.

“I haven’t worked since I grad­u­ated from col­lege,” he jokes. For Klin­gen­berg, each day on the farm is an ad­ven­ture. It starts with the usual tasks that ac­com­pany man­ag­ing a row-crop and cat­tle op­er­a­tion, which he does with his fa­ther, Ver­non, and brother Grant. In be­tween feed­ing cat­tle, build­ing a barn, and har­vest­ing crops, Klin­gen­berg plays more whole­heart­edly than most 4-year-olds.

Last sum­mer, he built a hay house with 243 hay bales com­plete with four tram­po­lines and a zip line. In true Farmer Derek fash­ion, he wrote a song called, Hay House, to go along with the farmer-theme play­house. He fea­tured this in one of his YouTube videos.

Dur­ing the past nine years, Klin­gen­berg has pro­duced more than 130 YouTube videos. He turned to YouTube af­ter his blue­grass band, the Pos­sum Boys, broke up.

“I had to do some­thing cre­ativ­ity wise,” he says. Af­ter spend­ing years in high school and col­lege par­tic­i­pat­ing in band, choir, and mu­si­cals, Klin­gen­berg des­per­ately needed a cre­ative out­let. Luck­ily for YouTube view­ers ev­ery­where, he poured all of that en­ergy into creat­ing videos.

When Klin­gen­berg has an idea, he says he just runs with it, like the hay house. It’s also how he put to­gether a par­ody of The Fox (What Does the Fox Say).

“When I came up with What Does the Farmer Say, I thought, this is le­git,” he says. “It took me 16 days be­cause I was work­ing on a lot of other stuff at the same time. But I started ev­ery morn­ing at 4:30 a.m. When adren­a­line kicks in, you can do any­thing.”

This be­came his most­watched video at the time, and now it has al­most 7 mil­lion views. How­ever, it’s the video of Klin­gen­berg ser­e­nad­ing his cat­tle by play­ing Roy­als on his trom­bone that had the most in­sane re­ac­tion, he says.

“Ellen De­Generes tweeted out the video one evening, and the next day ev­ery ma­jor news sta­tion in the U.S. and all over the world emailed me about do­ing an in­ter­view,” says Klin­gen­berg. That video has been viewed 11 mil­lion times around the world.

That’s what Klin­gen­berg says he loves about YouTube. “I can share with the en­tire world with­out leav­ing the farm. I’ll never get used to it.”

While he never set out to be an agvo­cate, Klin­gen­berg says it’s been a side ef­fect of fea­tur­ing his farm. “I just roll with what­ever is in my head, but it comes out in my videos what I love,” he says.

Why it’s im­por­tant: “City peo­ple like the videos and are blown away by them,” says Klin­gen­berg. “The videos make farm­ers look bet­ter and make us more trans­par­ent. It shows we are just like ev­ery­body else.”

Ad­vice: “I al­ways think of the ba­sics and make sure the light­ing is right,” he says. “I don’t think peo­ple want to be ed­u­cated, so I try to ed­u­cate in a fun way.”

Where to watch: On his YouTube chan­nel, Farmer Derek Klin­gen­berg

Rice Farm­ing TV

n the mid­dle of a rice field in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia, farmer Matthew Sli­gar had an un­usual sen­sa­tion. De­spite the wide-open space with the Sierra Ne­vada moun­tains in the dis­tance, Sli­gar felt claus­tro­pho­bic. “Af­ter work­ing so many days in a row and such long hours, I felt I was miss­ing out on other ex­pe­ri­ences and what peo­ple were do­ing,” he says.

Un­like many farm­ers who go straight from high school or col­lege to the farm, Sli­gar took an ex­tended de­tour. Af­ter col­lege, he spent six years work­ing in Prague, Czech Repub­lic, where he started a tourism agency with two part­ners. He made the de­ci­sion to come home to Gri­d­ley, Cal­i­for­nia, to start a fam­ily with his wife, Clara, and to farm with his dad, Ge­orge. While the de­ci­sion was right for Sli­gar and his fam­ily, it did take some ad­just­ing.

“In this small town and be­ing out by my­self, I wanted some way to reach out to peo­ple,” says Sli­gar. This de­sire, along with a love of sto­ry­telling and a re­al­iza­tion that peo­ple are in­ter­ested in how rice is grown, led to the cre­ation of Rice Farm­ing TV.

Started in 2016, Rice Farm­ing TV is a YouTube chan­nel Sli­gar launched to show how medium-grain rice – the kind used in sushi – is grown. Each episode doc­u­ments one part of the process, from plant­ing to drain­ing fields to har­vest­ing. His most pop­u­lar episode (with more than 200,000 views) show­cases Sli­gar’s au­ton­o­mous drone.

Like fel­low farmer and YouTube star Derek Klin­gen­berg, Sli­gar had no ex­pe­ri­ence shoot­ing or edit­ing videos. He learned it all on-the-fly while in­cor­po­rat­ing cre­ative writ­ing skills he learned study­ing lit­er­a­ture.

To­day, he has more than 70 episodes and a grow­ing fan base that tunes in to watch the or­ange-bearded, green-hat-wear­ing farmer. Hard­core fans can also buy Rice Farm­ing TV mer­chan­dise and Sli­gar’s freshly milled rice at Rice­farm­ingtv.com.

“Rice Farm­ing TV at this point is a hobby, but I treat it as a busi­ness,” says Sli­gar. All of the money made off video ad­ver­tise­ments, spon­sor­ship, and sell­ing rice has gone back into the pro­duc­tion of videos or was used to spread the word about Rice Farm­ing TV, ex­plains Sli­gar. This in­cludes buy­ing fun gear like a 360° cam­era that can more ac­cu­rately show what it’s like to ride along in a com­bine. (See episode 49.)

Sli­gar es­ti­mates that it takes him about 10 hours to script, shoot, edit, and pub­lish a video, but he says the time spent is more than worth it. “I re­ally en­joy the cre­ative process,” he says. “I en­joy the en­gage­ment from the au­di­ence. The first day a video is live, I can get 50 com­ments on YouTube and an­other 20 en­gage­ments on Face­book or via email.”

Why it’s im­por­tant: “There’s a huge dis­con­nect be­tween peo­ple pro­duc­ing food and the peo­ple who eat it,” says

Matthew Sli­gar es­ti­mates that it takes him about 10 hours to pro­duce a video.

Elis­a­beth Watkins con­tin­ues to share her love of cook­ing through a 4-H con­test she started.

Sli­gar. “In be­tween are a lot of peo­ple who are try­ing to make money off of food, di­ets, etc. So if you don’t tell your story, some of those peo­ple prob­a­bly al­ready are. That can’t go unchecked.” Ad­vice: “The No. 1 hang-up of start­ing to share what you do is that you don’t have the right equip­ment, which isn’t a valid ex­cuse be­cause your phone has a per­fect cam­era to shoot photos or videos. You have the tools nec­es­sary to start creat­ing,” he says. Where to watch: On his YouTube chan­nel, Rice Farm­ing TV, or at Rice­farm­ingtv.com

Farm Girl Chef

n 2015, when 14-year-old Elis­a­beth Watkins signed up for Chopped Ju­nior, she de­clared she was go­ing to win, “be­cause I’m a farm girl, and farm girls don’t lose.”

She was right. She won the cook­ing con­test on the Food Net­work and took home a $10,000 prize.

The once-shy farm girl from Lin­den, Cal­i­for­nia, cred­its the win and a por­tion of that self-con­fi­dence to 4-H, where she learned cook­ing and pub­lic speak­ing skills. “I had com­peted and cooked in front of other peo­ple on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. As far as talk­ing while cook­ing or hav­ing mys­tery in­gre­di­ents and a time limit, I was com­fort­able,” she says about her ex­pe­ri­ence on Chopped. “I knew what I wanted to cook, so I kept my head down and went to work.”

Watkins joined 4-H in the fourth grade, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of her older brother and par­ents. She signed up for cook­ing pro­jects, en­tered com­pe­ti­tions, and com­pleted demon­stra­tions. “As my cook­ing skills grew, I wanted to do more, so I went to the Cal­i­for­nia state fair with some friends to com­pete in a 4-H cook­ing throw-down,” she says. “I ended up win­ning that for three years. I was ready for big­ger and bet­ter things.” That’s when she was watch­ing Chopped and de­cided she had what it took to win and put in an ap­pli­ca­tion.

To­day, the 17-year-old ju­nior at Cen­tral Catholic High School in Modesto con­tin­ues to cook for an au­di­ence, us­ing this op­por­tu­nity to talk to con­sumers about how their food is grown. Once a month, Watkins ap­pears on a lo­cal TV sta­tion.

“I’ve done seg­ments on wal­nuts, peaches, cher­ries, as­para­gus, and dairy prod­ucts,” she says, nam­ing sev­eral of the items grown on her fam­ily’s di­ver­si­fied farm. “Whether it’s a demon­stra­tion at a home and gar­den show, in a class­room, or on TV, my main goal is for con­sumers to know what sea­son the pro­duce is grown and any in­ter­est­ing facts.”

Watkins con­tin­ues to share her love of cook­ing through a 4-H con­test she started in her county and to im­prove her pub­lic speak­ing skills through FFA. While she loves cook­ing, she isn’t plan­ning on at­tend­ing culi­nary school af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

“I re­al­ized that agri­cul­ture is more im­por­tant to me.

If I lean in the di­rec­tion of an ag com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­gree, I can in­cor­po­rate the culi­nary as­pect of what I do now into my knowl­edge with com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing,” she says.

Why it’s im­por­tant: “The big­gest is­sue fac­ing the ag in­dus­try, in gen­eral, is con­sumers’ lack of knowl­edge about farm­ing and where food comes from,” says Watkins. “With­out their sup­port, we can’t con­tinue.” Where to watch: Far­m­girlchef.us/videos and In­sta­gram @the­far­m­girlchef

Dirt Sweat N Tears

Megz Reynolds is far overqual­i­fied as a farmer videog­ra­pher in Canada. Be­fore be­com­ing a farmer, Reynolds worked in the film in­dus­try for 11 years as a set dresser and special ef­fects tech­ni­cian on movies like The As­sas­si­na­tion of Jesse James and sev­eral of The Twi­light Saga films.

In 2012, she left be­hind that ca­reer to pur­sue a new re­la­tion­ship and a new line of work. “My hus­band is from Saskatchewan and is a

fourth-gen­er­a­tion farmer,” says Reynolds. “If the re­la­tion­ship was go­ing to work, I knew I would be the one re­lo­cat­ing.”

Reynolds moved from Cal­gary to “the mid­dle of nowhere” in Saskatchewan and de­cided to try her hand at farm­ing. While it was a big jump from film to farm, Reynolds said it ful­filled a child­hood dream.

“My grandpa and un­cle ranched, so I spent a lot of time on their cat­tle op­er­a­tion,” she says. “I knew I wanted to end up on a farm or ranch.”

Div­ing in head first, Reynolds got an ap­pren­tice­ship as a heavy-duty me­chanic at a lo­cal AGCO dealer. “It was a great learn­ing tool to un­der­stand the equip­ment. Now when some­thing does go wrong when I’m out in the field, I can hope­fully fix the prob­lem my­self,” she says, adding that her role on the farm has re­placed the need for a farm­hand.

Reynolds and her hus­band, Liam Gau­thier, grow lentils, du­ram, bar­ley, wheat, and canola. They’ve also started a farm egg busi­ness for their girls: Thea, 3, and Rynn, 2.

Reynolds doc­u­ments her jour­ney as a farmer and a mother on her blog, Dirt Sweat N Tears, on so­cial me­dia, and through videos. Her most pop­u­lar Twit­ter video is a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion of what a com­bine does, but it has al­most 60,000 views.

“I didn’t know any of this six years ago, so I talk about what I’m do­ing and de­scribe equip­ment in a way that would have made sense to me then,” ex­plains Reynolds. “I started blog­ging be­cause I wanted to share our farm story.”

Why it’s im­por­tant: “We are see­ing leg­is­la­tion cre­ated based on fear or con­cern. It’s no longer sci­ence based,” says Reynolds. “It may not af­fect you now, but it’s open­ing up the door for that to hap­pen in other places around the world.” Ad­vice: “I try to mix up my posts so I can bring in peo­ple who might fol­low me for other rea­sons be­sides agri­cul­ture,” shares Reynolds.

Where to watch: Fol­low her on Twit­ter @FarmerMegzz and check out her blog at Dirtsweat­ntears.com

“I started blog­ging be­cause I wanted to share our farm story.” – Megz Reynolds

Jessie Scott, Dig­i­tal Con­tent Direc­tor, co­or­di­nates news cov­er­age on Agri­cul­ture.com and cov­ers ma­chin­ery top­ics for Suc­cess­ful Farm­ing mag­a­zine, Agri­cul­ture.com, and theSuc­cess­ful Farm­ing TV Show. Email Jessie.Scott@mered­ith.com.

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