Whether in the field or behind the camera, corn has played a part in what Kansas-based cropper rockers The Peterson Farm Brothers are all about.
The trio, which will headline at Thursday’s Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce Farmers and Ranchers Appreciation Barbecue, has combined silly ag-based humor with serious ag-based messages to create a crop of seriously well-received Youtube videos.
How successful? Following their debut video, “I’m Farming and I Grow It,” a parody of “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” released in 2012, which received more than 5 million views in its first week alone, the brothers have raised more than 62 million hits by setting the written words of oldest brother Greg Peterson to some of pop music’s most famous songs.
Their posted parodies include “Farm Rock Anthem” (“Party Rock Anthem” parody), “Takin’ Care of Livestock” (“Takin’ Care of Business” parody), and “Pasture Road” (“Old Town Road” parody). A rural re-make of “Crazy Train” is in the works.
Their surprising success has spanned all 50 states and led to blogs, informational ag videos, pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and appearances around the world, including concerts and/or speaking engagements in Canada, Australia, Germany, South Africa and New Zealand.
In addition to running the family farm — which includes caring for cattle, wheat, corn, soybeans, forage sorghum, sunflowers and alfalfa — they average 50-60 shows per year. Brother Greg, 28, covers some of the performance dates by himself while Nathan, 26, and Kendal, 23, mind the 2,000-plus acre family farm located south of Salina with their parents, David and Marla, and sister, Laura.
Having minored in music at Kansas State University, Greg, who plays piano, guitar, and trumpet, is the most serious musician of the bunch, bringing his younger brothers along for the ride as part of the act. Their performances are sung to tracks, while their live shows include antics dreamed up for the videos on the fly while venturing out in the fields.
“All three of us just brainstorm and think of funny things to film,” Greg said. “We don’t plan ahead. We just go out and do it.
“I’ve got my phone, and I keep notes on it and just jot down ideas I have. A lot of times it comes from tractor time. Spending 10 hours in the field, you have plenty of time to be creative.”
Their success, though surprising, has come from filling a niche that Greg said was unserved on YouTube, an American video-sharing platform created in 2005.
“When we started, we looked on YouTube for the kind of content we produce and there weren’t any farm music parody videos,” Greg said. “There were videos about the country lifestyle, but we thought there was definitely room for something new here.
“The ultimate goal behind what we’re doing is to educate and inspire people to be involved in agriculture. We have a lot of kids who watch our videos, so we take that seriously. We’re role models for these kids, and, hopefully, they’ll want to grow up to be farmers someday.”
Despite their celebrity success, Greg says the brothers — who all are married — hope to remain together and operate the family farm until the cows come home. Neither their parents, David and Marla, nor the local community, have allowed their popularity to go to their heads. Their Christian faith keeps them centered on what Greg said matters most in their lives: Faith, family and farming. In that order.
“Our parents have always been really supportive and big fans of what we’re doing, but at the same time, they try to keep us level-headed and making the right decisions,” he said. “We’re still normal and just try to be who we are. Most everyone around here knows our names at least, but at the same time, our friends and people who know us don’t treat us any differently because we’ve had a lot of YouTube views.”
Those hits have allowed Greg and his brothers the opportunity to farm and travel extensively — something he said has been a real juggling act in their sometimes chaotic lives. Meeting and experiencing how fellow farmers around the world make ends meet has been one of the highlights Greg said he values above all else, even when it means sacrificing what free time he used to have before success came knocking on the barn door.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how hard it is to farm and travel,” he said. “It’s hard work, but at the same time it’s pretty rewarding to raise an animal, grow a crop, and work outside. Because it’s hard doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy it. All of us want to stay farmers.”
That said, Greg admits that he and his wife, BrookeAnna, expect to dabble in contemporary gospel and/or country music going forward. The pair leads worship at Covenant Church in Lindsborg, Kansas.
“My wife and I definitely want to sing and perform together in some capacity,” he said. “We might do some recording and writing songs together.
“I don’t think we’d want to ever not have this outlet, especially me. Even though it can be a lot of work to do what we do, it’s still enjoyable. It’s kind of like farming: I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Serving at Thursday’s barbecue begins 6 p.m. on the Adams County Fairgrounds, 947 S. Baltimore Ave. The program follows at 7 p.m. and will include the presentation of this year’s Aggie Award to the Mads Anderson family.
The event is coordinated by the chamber Agribusiness Council.
Tickets are available from the chamber at 402-461-8400 or from sponsoring chamber members.