Every day on the farm is a new adventure for Cole Sonne. While many 20-somethings contemplate leaving their family homesteads in search of a more urbane and sophisticated lifestyle, Sonne has no intention of giving up the farming life.
His enthusiasm for agriculture is in his blood and in his soul. But it’s also all over the internet.
There is perhaps no more effective web-based advocate for South Dakota agriculture than Sonne, as evidenced by his audience of more than 145,000 YouTube subscribers. Sonne’s 250 video posts have received over 26 million views since he created his YouTube channel two years ago.
After earning a degree in agronomy from South Dakota State University, Sonne returned to the family farm near Mount Vernon and it wasn’t long before he had a notion to let the world see how fun and adventurous farming can be.
He saw that some ag-based channels created by young farmers such as Minnesota Millennial Farmer and Farm Life SD were growing in popularity, so he figured he’d take a shot at posting videos of all the wild and sometimes wacky situations that can emerge during a typical day.
“It’s really informational and entertaining at the same time,” said Sonne, a fourth generation farmer. “I think it’s important to teach people who have never done this what farm life is really like.
The genesis of the channel came after he bought a drone and started taking aerial shots of raking hay and feeding cattle, but he didn’t know what to do with the footage. He started posting his videos and then thought about capturing some of the dialogue that takes place between him and his father, Brian, and other family members. The animals, machinery, chores and weather conditions never fail to create intriguing scenarios that keep fans tuned in.
Sonne was surprised when the viewer count started to skyrocket. “It just took off right away,” he said. “I call it ag advocacy. We just show people what we do from day to day and try to make it as fun as possible.”
Much of the witty repartee is exchanged between Sonne and his often exasperated father. As Sonne had his camera rolling and capturing a farm task that wasn’t going well recently, Brian grumbled, “To me this is embarrassing. To you it’s good footage.”
The conversation in that episode ran the gamut from Halle Berry to woodpeckers to classic Saturday Night Live skits as the duo went from gathering hay to scraping manure. Sonne says the near constant laughing, joking and friendly sniping keep things light-hearted as they take care of their business.
Asked which of his videos has received the greatest amount of attention, Sonne is quick with his response.
“A video we did last April got more than one million hits,” he said. “There was an approach to a field that was holding back water and we had to dig it out and release the water and put in a culvert. When we pulled the last grab of dirt that was holding a year’s worth of water, the water just came gushing through. People seemed to really like seeing that large volume of water. A lot of what’s going to get the attention is the thumbnail picture. If you can get the perfect thumbnail, people will click on it.”
Apparently, the video titles also help to attract eyeballs. Some recent titles include: “Cole got splattered with poo,” “Watch out – angry calf hits Brian and Jeff,” “We saved him - moments from the end.”
As for the time and dedication it takes to keep content fresh for thousands of eager viewers, Sonne said he considers it just another item on a lengthy list of tasks that every farmer has.
“It usually takes a couple of hours to get the videos done,” he said. “I’ll farm all day, come home and start editing and work til late at night. That’s what most farmers do anyway. You have to balance things out.”