LONDON, Ohio — They’re just typical farm kids.
They’d rather run the combine than the truck during wheat harvest, and they love to run their six-row Kemper chopper they call the Beast Machine. Their first chore was throwing flakes of hay bales to the cattle on their feedlot, and they remember when their dad let them drive the tractor in first gear, inching down the feedbunk while he tossed feed to the cows — “I know it was before I was even in school!”. Their idea of dressing up is something other than an old T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. They hate going out in freezing weather to break up the ice on the waterers for the cows, or cleaning up the outdoor feed bunk after it rains. They post pictures of newly cut alfalfa or eartags on Facebook.
Yup, Greg, Nathan and Kendal Peterson are just typical farm kids — except that they’ve received videotaped marriage proposals via YouTube, are mobbed for autographs and photographs wherever they go, and received a paid invitation to attend this year’s Agritechnica international machinery and equipment exhibition in Hanover, Germany.
These typical Kansas farm kids — Greg, 22; Nathan, 19; and Kendal, 17 — rocketed to farm world stardom last summer when their parody music video, I’m Farming and I Grow It, went viral on the Internet.
Within days, Fox News flew them to New York City to appear on TV (the first time Kendal and Nathan had ever flown); an Associated Press reporter called while Greg was mowing a prairie hayfield (“I realized I should probably stop swathing while I was talking to the AP.”); and by fall, they were being saluted on the football field during a Kansas State-Texas football game while their video played on the huge Jumbotron screen and the cheerleaders did a routine as the music played.
These are not your typical farm kids.
It started when Greg — then a student at K-State (he’s since graduated with a degree in agricultural communications/journalism — heard the pop hit song, “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” and couldn’t get the tune out of his head. He revamped the words to “I’m Farming and I Grow It,” quickly riffed more lyrics, and went back home and pitched the music video parody to his brothers.
Scroll down to watch a video of the brothers re-enacting their video during the 2013 Farm Science Review.
With their younger sister Laura, now 13, running a handheld Kodak camcorder, they shot the scenes. A couple of times, they had to ask their dad if they could knock off farm work a little early (meaning, while it was still daylight), and answered, “Oh, nothing. Don’t worry about it,” when he asked what they were filming.
They posted the video on YouTube June 25, 2012. Nathan’s goal was to get 50,000 views.
In three days, however, the clip had received more than 1 million views, and since then, has been viewed more than 8.6 million times.
The Peterson Farm Brothers followed up with Farmer Style, a parody of Gangnam Style, another song/video that was sweeping the nation. It’s had 14 million views since it was uploaded nine months ago. And earlier this summer, they uploaded A Fresh Breath of Farm Air, a Fresh Prince parody.
But the videos are more than a humorous remake, they show a real world farm story through the lyrics and video scenes. And that was the goal all along, said Greg Peterson.
Greg and Nathan shared their story and presented a live version of the music videos Sept. 17 during the Farm Science Review, hosted by Morton Buildings.
“I love to advocate for agriculture,” Greg said. “The purpose is to show what farming really is.”
“It’s very important to the future of our industry.”
And if you visit their Facebook page, or YouTube channel, in addition to the parody music videos, you’ll find monthly “Life of a Farmer” videos that showcase the farm’s forage harvest or sorghum planting, a quick video on auto steering in action, or even a seven-second “how to climb a large round bale” video uploaded two weeks ago (2,700 views, thank you very much).
Their parents, David and Marla Peterson, operate the family farm in Assaria, Kan., Peterson Farm and Livestock, which includes about 1,000 acres in crop production, and a cattle feedlot of around 1,300 head during the winter.
The Petersons’ goal is also to encourage others to speak out for agriculture, too.
“If we can do it, you guys can do it,” Nathan Peterson told the Farm Science Review crowd. “Have a little fun out there, and put a little information in it.”
Both brothers are serious about the message, and pushed others to take the initiative to share their own stories.
“Anyone can promote agriculture,” Greg said. “Anything you do, you can promote agriculture.”
“If we all have daily conversations, and you add those all together, we can make a big impact.”
“Agriculture is a great story and these young folks tell it in a way that resonates with their generation,” said Ohio Director of Agriculture David Daniels.
“I think what they do for our industry is just fantastic,” said Daniels, who’s a fan of the videos, and made sure he was at the brothers’ Farm Science Review presentation early to chat with them and grab a quick photo.
Included in the brothers’ comments was a call to “do the right thing,” no matter what the situation, and they said their newfound fame has created several situations when it could’ve been easy to make a wrong choice.
“We’ve definitely been faced with some hard choices with some different things that have happened,” Greg said. “The experience with all the fame and recognition, it’s hard not to let it go to your head, but our family, our parents especially, have been good in trying to keep us grounded.”
“We just try to make the right decisions and do the best we can with what’s been given to us.”
They also don’t hide their Christian faith, listing Psalm 115:1 at the top of their Facebook page and filming scenes reading the Bible in their parody videos. Greg has created a CD of his original Christian songs called I’m Not Perfect, and performed his first concert Sept. 14 at the Fusion Christian Youth Center in Stockton, Kan.
“I always wanted to return to the farm and to that community,” said Nathan, who’s now in his second year at K-State, majoring in agricultural technology management. “This has just put us in a bigger community.”
The parody video-making may not last, he added, but “we want to keep growing in our advocacy for agriculture.”
“We try not to forget where we came from,” said Greg Peterson. “We’re just Kansas farm kids.”