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Sask. ‘Farm TV’ YouTubers attract millions of views just acting naturally

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Reality TV material may indicate a desire by urban consumers to reconnect with the sources of their food.

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Mike Mitchell shoots first and speaks in third person later.

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The third-person narration of the Saskatchewan farmer behind a phone’s camera has garnered millions of views online for his YouTube channel.

β€œI’m talking about the pros and cons, and that’s exactly how Mike always made videos,” Mitchell said.

Call it Farm TV, but aside from entertainment it can dispel myths about modern farming, he added.

His approximately 10- to 30-minute videos documenting daily life on a Saskatchewan farm are part of a growing trend of farmers reaching out to consumers with slice-of-life videos.

YouTube farm reality TV elements may also indicate the desire of urban consumers, who have broken away from rural lifestyles, to reconnect with their food sources.

This approach has drawn viewers ranging from other farmers comparing notes to city dwellers intrigued by authentic farm life.

Either way, it’s popular. Mitchell has accumulated around 162,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Mitchell, a movie buff, aims for a realistic yet entertaining portrayal of farm life, with all the drudgery and frustrations that come with it.

He sows seeds, repairs machines and patiently explains every detail so that every spectator can understand what happens next.

Some entries have gained millions of views. Michell said the most popular tend to include plans for stuck and broken farm equipment.

His page on Patreon, an app where users subscribe and pay content creators a monthly fee to be more personally connected, has around 900 subscribers.

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This post won’t share where he grows because some uninvited fans have even tracked him down.

Last spring, three spontaneous viewers showed up in his yard looking for autographs and photos. Mitchell asks viewers at least to contact him first.

He doesn’t do it for the money either. However, for other producers, Farm TV is a secondary income that relies on connecting with an audience through a notoriously unreliable rural internet.

An online survey in 2020 of approximately 500 farmers self-selected by the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan found that 75% of participants were dissatisfied with their internet connections.

Rural internet problems even create roadblocks for Mitchell.

β€œIt’s not uncommon for Mike to travel to Swift Current, which takes about four hours round trip at 200 miles, just to download two videos, then come back and start over within two days,” Mitchell said.

Internet problems aside, he’s not the only one with a large following.

Jan Kielstra, better known by his YouTube nickname SaskDutch Kid, has 158,000 subscribers who watch the expanding chronicles of life on a dairy farm.

When he had around 70,000 subscribers, he surveyed them and was surprised to learn that half were other farmers. They like to see how their peers do business, but maybe there is something else, Kielstra said.

β€œPeople love agriculture. I think there are a lot of people out there who are no longer connected to a family farm, and they are still interested in seeing how their food is produced.

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β€œYou see a lot of people on social media saying, ‘I bought a new house or I bought a new Lamborghini.’ It’s just a matter of going and milking cows.

The milking of cows resonates enough for SaskDutch Kid to market a clothing line. Kielstra sells shirts, hoodies and caps on their website.

The earnings from his YouTube exploits are solid, but it also doesn’t have a huge impact on his dairy farm, he said.

He’s a farmer first and he sees the YouTube channel as a way to counter some of the negative reviews that dairy farms can have.

β€œOpen the doors to our farm, give people a glimpse inside our operations and they may like it or not depending on the video,” he said.

Nicholas Moreau, also known as South Sask. Farmer, has also expanded into merchandise with a similar set of merchandise sporting its YouTube logo.

He also attributes the success of his channel to a sense of authenticity. Moreau swears, drives a combine with his kids munching in the backseat, and runs into periods of bad weather and luck, like this summer’s drought.

β€œI hate filming it, but that’s part of it. People have to see, ”he said.

He doesn’t really like other out-of-province channels, which have sanitized their image after gaining popularity on YouTube, he said. For him, it’s more important to be honest on the channel.

You also won’t find Mike Mitchell begging viewers to hit the “Like” and “Subscribe” buttons.

He refuses all offers of sponsorship, for the simple reason that he does not want anything that limits his freedom. He also refuses anyone who offers to film for him – as part of an ongoing joke where Mitchell calls himself a human GoPro.

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His philosophy behind the camera is simple: you just have to act naturally.

β€œI’m the same person on YouTube as I am in real life,” he said. “In fact, I probably tone it down.”

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