Images by Jeff Sampson Photography.
Dairy farmer Laura Nielson was “dinking” around on YouTube one afternoon when she typed in “Farm Girl” out of boredom to see what she could find.
What she found left her appalled.
“I was mortified,” said Nielson.
The videos featured a girl making a mockery of farmers, “slaughtering” every term in agriculture, all while dressed like a “hillbilly” with cliché pigtails. Not only was Nielson in shock to see that people who commented mostly believed she was an actual farm girl, but each video had around 80,000 hits.
That’s when she knew she had to do something.
At first Nielson decided to document daily activities – whether it was her chores to her nursing a sick cow – to use as a journal of sorts. “I thought, well, someday it will be really cool to look back in 20 years and see what our farm used to be,” she recalled.
Little did she know the impact her YouTube channel would make (cleverly dubbed “therealfarmgirl”). So far she has uploaded around 50 videos with thousands of hits, and they have not gone unnoticed by the agricultural world. Nielson has spoken at several Ag United For South Dakota events and has been sent to St. Louis and Minneapolis to speak about her use of social media in agriculture (or “ag”).
According to Kelly Nelson from Ag United, “Laura has become a leader in the ag industry at sharing her passion for agriculture and her stories with others.”
Along with her ever-growing YouTube channel, Nielson does what she can to help spread the word about farming. The 3rd-generation farmer speaks in classrooms across the state, including Adopt a Farmer (a program that allows a classroom to get monthly updates from her on what she is currently doing on the farm). She also is part of the national movement CommonGround, which is a group of farm women whose main objective is to open communication with suburban and city women to help with the disconnect of modern farming and to also “dispel myths” of the process.
Her exemplified passion for farming might very well have been hereditary. Nielson is part of the 98 percentile of farms that are family-owned and operated. Her father and uncle took over the corporation, Nielson Farms, from her grandfather. The 3,000-acre crop and dairy farm currently cultivates corn, soybeans, hay and milk. The dairy, which Nielson is in charge of, produces 1.5 million gallons of milk a year. The milk primarily goes to their biggest client, Kraft Foods.
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