When Laura Nielson, a dairy farmer from Crooks, SD, searched "farm girl" on YouTube, she was shocked to discover a girl dressed in bib overalls, with braided pig-tails and freckles painted on her face. The sarcastic girl on her computer screen pretended to be a farmer and ridiculed the American agriculture tradition.
This prompted Nielson to start her own YouTube channel, appropriately titled, "The Real Farm Girl," which has quickly grown in popularity. With more than 1,700 subscribers and 700,000 views,
Nielson is leaving her mark online, creating a video documentary of her farm. She averages 3,000 views per week, with a record-high of 78,000 views for one video.
"Anybody can have YouTube channel, and everyone should work to share their story through it," Nielson said. "We all need to do something. You would be shocked that your friends and family members might not even know what you do on the farm. I'm a visual person, and I want to see things. I want consumers to see me and get to know me as an individual. I want them to think of me when they read something negative in the news."
Opportunities have been abundant for the newly-established YouTube star. She has had the opportunity to travel far and wide because of the exposure on YouTube. She has been from St. Louis, MO, to San Antonio, TX, speaking to groups about what she does on her family farm and attending conferences to learn more about it.
"We live in an age where people want to know where their food comes from," Nielson explained. "I think they need to know, and that's why I share my stories. If you don't think you have the time to create your own blog or YouTube video, then share the good ones from ranchers who do. I have made wonderful connections with people around the world because of my videos."
She also credits her video documentaries as a boost to her career in agriculture production.
"I never thought YouTube would make me want to be a better farmer, but it has," Miller said. "It really keeps me in check as far as my career in agriculture goes. It makes me want to do a better job at home, so I can share it with others. I think more about what I do and how our consumers would view it. Society is over three generations removed fro the farm, and farmers are only 1 percent of the population. It's our responsibility to educate our consumers."
"Everyone can do something, whether it's connecting on Facebook or Twitter, creating videos on YouTube or starting a blog," said Miller. "We are all passionate about agriculture, there's no doubt about it. But, our consumers, the people who buy are food, don't necessarily know it. They hold a lot of power, whether to support us or not. We need them to get to know our stories."
Nielson said she is a visual learner and believes consumers will soak in more information from being able to actually view photos and videos of ranch life.
"I think photos are a great way to document your life on the ranch; this can be valuable for you and your family, and it's a great way to share the agriculture story," said Nielson. "Someday, I hope my grandkids can look back and see what life on the farm was like for me when I was younger."
"If you start posting online, you can expect negative comments," Miller warned. "When people comment on something in a bad way, don't worry about it. There are a lot of people out there who genuinely have questions about what you do. The rest, who have an agenda, aren't worth your time. You'll never change their mind; just brush them off and keep doing what you're doing."
Agriculture advocacy, otherwise known as "agvocacy," and is a growing trend among young producers.
Check out Nielson's YouTube channel, "The Real Farm Girl," and get inspired to create your own educational messages to introduce the masses to the farming and ranching way of life. The effort will help bridge the gap, correct misconceptions and show people the great tradition.