Minnwest Bank recently sat down with Zach Johnson, a west-central Minnesota producer who has amassed a big following on his YouTube channel, Millennial Farmer. He shared insights and advice to young producers for our video series. In the final episode, he talks about sharing videos about life and work on the farm, and how they help people to be better informed about agricultural practices.
Everyone eats. Because there’s a hunger to know where their food really comes from, when a farmer starts a YouTube channel, people click and view.
Since Zach Johnson debuted his Millennial Farmer channel back in 2016, many other producers have followed his example. Like him, they chronicle the work, the problems, the light-hearted moments occurring on farms across the U.S., and stream them on the social platform.
“It's become this huge movement within agriculture, actually,” Johnson says. “If you’re good at telling your story, and you want to do that, there’s a massive opportunity. Because people are listening.”
How Millennial Farmer started
Johnson started Millennial Farmer because he saw the importance of helping people understand what farmers do and why.
As family members and friends discussed farming practices, in person and on social media, he noticed some of the things they were saying “just didn’t make sense.”
That surprised him. They came from rural areas, they knew him well, so they’re not far removed from ag life. Yet, the things they were saying had grains of truth, but they didn’t always get it right.
As he began carrying around a cell phone camera, filming and narrating as he worked, he was able to beam these farming up-close scenes out into the world, to anyone willing to watch, listen and understand.
As an example, one of the hot topics he covered was drain tiling. This practice is widely discussed because when it’s not used correctly, it can have negative effects on water quality and wetlands. But Johnson set out to present a different perspective: It can have positive effects when you use these management practices correctly. As a farmer, he has every incentive to use best practices.
“I think it’s important that people understand we’re out here, we’re the farmers, we’re the ones that live in these communities,” Johnson says. “If I don’t take care of my soil and my water, that affects me and my family first before it affects anybody else.”
In 2018, he did a blind, comparison test of water runoff from his field with bottled water. (No spoilers here, check out the video!)
How is Millennial Farmer going?
Millennial Farmer has netted more than 100 million views, and he makes new connections every week, from people he never imagined himself meeting or talking to.
One segment of his viewership is farmers. Channels like Millennial Farmer have become part of an information exchange, letting farmers share practices with others who want to learn. They can see for themselves how it works and what to expect, so they can decide if it’s right for their practice. If you’re a farmer with expertise or doing trial runs of a new practice, YouTube is a great way to share your experiences.
But 40% of his viewers are non-farmers, and it’s clear this metric is what makes him proud. Because that tells him he’s succeeding at what he set out to do: Shine a light of truth on farming practices.
“I get comments every day from people who live in major cities, from people who don’t have any kind of agricultural background,” Johnson says. “(They) stumble across a farmer on YouTube and they’re interested in learning what goes on behind the scenes.”
Click here for previous episodes of our Young Producers Series with the MN Millennial Farmer to hear more from Zach. At Minnwest Bank, our ag lenders are members of your community, and we're committed to helping your farm thrive. Schedule an appointment today.