Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
By Nancy Allen
Ag takes center stage
Parody songwriter headlines inaugural event in Celina
CELINA - Parody songster Greg Peterson and his two brothers are using their talents to teach the world about the importance of agriculture.
Peterson, of Assaria, Kan., was the featured speaker at the first Mercer County Ag Day event held Tuesday at the Junior Fair building in Celina.
Peterson, 22, was a junior at Kansas State University when the idea to create ag-related parody videos came to him.
"I thought 'how can we better communicate what we do as farmers outside the ag community and connect the consumer to the producer?' " he said. "I was browsing YouTube one day and I wondered why there were no farming videos."
He talked his two reluctant, younger brothers into creating their first parody, "I'm Farming and I Grow it," a spinoff off "I'm Sexy and I Know it." Released on YouTube in June 2012, the video started a chain-reaction.
The day after the video aired, their local newspaper interviewed the brothers. This was followed with story segments by three local TV stations, a trip to New York for a television spot on Fox News and an Associated Press story that was picked up by newspapers around the U.S. - all within nine days.
The brothers thought they would be happy if their song got 50,000 YouTube views. By the second day it had already received 100,000 views; today the video has garnered more than 9 million.
"It really blew up," Peterson said. "We knew we had something special, but we didn't know this would happen."
Their second parody, "Farmer Style," a spoof of "Gangnam Style," was released in December 2012 and also went viral with 15 million views to date. A third song, "Chore," a parody of Katy Perry's "Roar," has received more than 98,000 views since its release in December.
The popularity of the original songs allowed the brothers to reach many young, urban people who previously knew little about farm life, Peterson said.
He showed a few videos and sang along for the crowd Tuesday in Celina.
"I think a lot of times we do a lot of preaching to the choir, so this was a way to connect with people who don't come from a farm background," he said.
The Peterson family raises about 1,000 beef cattle and grows wheat, corn, sorghum and soybeans. He encouraged those in the audience to talk to others about agriculture and farming.
"We need to do a better job of reaching out to those outside our agriculture circle," he said. "No matter who you are, you can advocate for agriculture by having an individual conversation."
Telling agriculture's story has become increasingly important, Peterson said, because groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States are dispensing unflattering information about the business. Both organizations are animal rights groups that promote a vegetarian lifestyle.
Since graduating from college (he has a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications and a minor in music performance), Peterson said he has kept busy with speaking engagements. The brothers also have created various informational videos on ag life and short entertaining videos, which can be accessed at Youtube.com/user/thepetersonfarmbros.
In a separate presentation, OSU Extension educator David Marrison urged people to start talking early about passing on the family farm to the next generation. Some people find it difficult because they're uncomfortable talking about death, feel a loss of business control or are too busy, he said.
Another reason for putting off such discussions is fear of how family members will react. The dynamics in a family almost always complicate business matters, he said.
"I think the bigger picture is, 'Can we all get along?' " he said. "I can count on one hand farms where brothers are still farming together."
A good way to start discussions is by holding regular, family business meetings at a neutral location. Have an agenda and keep notes, he suggested.
"Don't wait to have these conversations," he said. "Start today."
For a copy of Marrison's presentation, go to go.osu.edu/ne-handouts and click on Mercer County Ag Breakfast Passing on the Farm handouts.
It was also announced Tuesday that Midwest Logistics, Celina, is donating $100,000 toward the horse therapy program area at the proposed Progressive Agriculture Convention and Education Center at the fairgrounds.
The state budget this year allocated $1.5 million for the estimated $4 million center. Local officials are raising matching funds to pay the remainder.
Tuesday's event also included informational booths by various agribusinesses. About 280 local FFA students were treated to a free lunch, Peterson's speech and an opportunity to visit the booths.
Fair manager Cara Muhlenkamp said she intends to make Mercer County Ag Day an annual event.
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